There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the potential for artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning to reshape business. Certainly it could reshape hiring, by casting a machine eye over the mountains of resumes sent to fill open positions.
But when it comes to hiring the right tech pros for various positions, A.I. can only go so far. In the end, it’s a hiring manager who interviews job prospects—raising the risk that a human could screw up. The solution may not involve more technology, but in making sure HR interacts with other parts of the business, including marketing and tech.
Balance of Power
“The balance of power is shifting from the employer to the employee,” said Mike Brenner, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Job seekers are getting picky, and for good reason: for many, the workplace is more than just a place to earn a paycheck. “We always look for purpose and progress at work.”
That means HR really needs to sell the company to prospective employees as a great place to work. And therein lies an issue: companies usually focus their marketing efforts on the customer side of the business, with marketing executives rarely participating in HR strategy or brainstorming sessions. At many firms, HR and marketing operate in completely independent silos, despite lots of opportunities to have the two collaborate effectively.
In other words, branding can (and should) extend to the hiring relationship. Effective marketing can help a company win the war for talent. Imagine what could happen to your prospective talent pool if your firm has a widespread reputation as a “great place to work.”
“HR can learn a lot from marketing.” said Tom Haak, Director at the HR Trend Institute. “Many organizations know their customers better than their employees. HR often still works with very rough segments (‘High potentials,’ ‘The older employee’).” With the techniques of today, he added, “you can detect preferences and needs on an individual level. “
In order for marketing to fully help HR sell the company to prospective employees, HR executives need to understand the business and its ultimate objectives. “The number one thing that companies need to do in order to attract and retain top talent is to ensure that their recruiting systems and processes align with that goal.” said Deb Wheatman, President of Careers Done Write, Inc.
HR can also learn a lot from data. As every hiring manager knows, a typical company sits on a mound of employee-related info—all of which is valuable, provided it’s analyzed correctly.
“Managers and HR generally rely too much on their gut feel, and do not use clever analytics to [make their] work more data driven,” Haak noted. “This is a big opportunity. If you formulate the right questions, if you use modern data analysis techniques, and if you are able to interpret the results, you are able to increase the impact of your HR programs.”
For example, a company may issue specifications for a particular role, but fail to analyze what kinds of professionals perform best in those roles, based on previous hiring and employee history. “If you do the analysis, you will find surprising results, and you are able to better source and select suitable candidates. People analytics is key for HR today.“ Haak said.
In lieu of data, hiring managers may fall back on interviewing as the primary method for determining which candidates will perform best in a particular role. However, there’s a need for consistency when it comes to interview metrics; using subjective or cursory interview criteria may not yield the best results.
Determining what sort of criteria to use—and ultimately optimizing the hiring process—comes down to HR understanding the broader functions and goals of the business. When HR executives sit down with developers, designers, marketing heads, and others from different divisions, they receive the information necessary to make interview questions and screening criteria more specific.
The more information that HR absorbs, the more it can recognize and respond to the unique challenges of each business unit. It also increases the speed at which HR can make hiring decisions, which is vital when specialized tech talent is snatched off the market in a matter of weeks or even days. “If your company’s hiring process is excessively protracted, you need to take a look at that and figure out why that is,” Wheatman said. “Top candidates are not going to sit around and wait for you to make up your mind.”
Speed is also important when it comes to the length of the interviewing process—the sit-downs, the whiteboarding sessions, and so on. “Be respectful of the candidates’ time,” Wheatman added. “Don’t make them come back for eight rounds of interviews.” In the end, candidates are vetting the company just as much as the company is vetting them.
Another good reason for HR to interact with other divisions and market itself more effectively: employee referrals. If employees understand what HR needs, and they feel positive about HR’s efforts to bring in top candidates, they’re more likely to refer talented friends. “Activated employees share what they know and love,” Brenner said.
As the tech industry’s low unemployment rate makes it more challenging for firms to lock down the specialized talent they need, the pressure increases on HR to deliver the right candidates at the right moment. By breaking out of its silo and adopting some marketing tips and tools, HR can better sell the company to outsiders as a wonderful place to work. And by understanding the firm’s ultimate goals, HR can do a more effective job of searching and interviewing. Everybody wins.