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29 (124) 2017
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HR & Professional Qualifications

RoboHunter – is human-resource management possible without humans?

by Karolina Korzeniewska, account executive Europe, Antal
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Today, everything can be researched and measured. Psychometric tests and tools, cookies and social media profiles can all provide nearly all kinds of information on a given person, including data that may be used to determine whether they’re a good fit for a specific position.

We’ll soon be able to take full advantage of those possibilities. Currently, we don’t have access to everything and not all data, even that which is readily available, is suitable for processing and creating a consistent candidate profile. Integrating and processing information into a consistent image of a person is expensive. Additionally, such total use of resources runs contrary to the current idea of recruitment standards and may be considered too revolutionary for some. 

It’s only a matter of time before appropriate tools are made available that will make it possible for recruiters or employers to analyse social media profiles of selected individuals and generate a wealth of additional information that will describe their personality and soft skills and provide an analysis of their behaviour and professional aptitude. The ethical problems of such a solution will be solved by having users accept the terms and conditions of use.

Let’s imagine that a positive result of such an analysis will result in a message being automatically sent asking the person whether they would be willing to consider a job change. If they click YES, they will be redirected to take a qualifications test. The results will be collected and a computer programme, using predefined criteria, will select the best candidate for the position of product manager, stock broker or babysitter. If they click YES, they accept the offer, if they click NO, they will decline the offer and be redirected to an automated negotiations panel...

At present we believe that humans are necessary to optimise the results and mutual satisfaction of the employer and candidate, with recruitment. However, will the ongoing automation of processes bring us to a point at which HR management will do mostly without human interaction? Should we embrace this development?

Based on my own experience and the observations of Antal’s headhunters, gathered over the last 21 years, I feel qualified to describe the current situation in detail, if not provide answers to the above questions.

Recruitment companies are seldom given easy tasks, as these are usually handled by the clients, usually medium and large companies, themselves. Such corporations have countless internal recruiters, therefore they only decide to collaborate with headhunting agencies when faced with challenging processes or ones that require confidentiality (e.g. when building a new branch of the company or entering a new market). Another example would be mass recruitments which, when carried out in a short timeframe and in a limited area, may prove difficult due to sheer number of candidates and the time needed to process them.

One of the most interesting types of people that you meet in our line of work are passive candidates – employees that do nothing to change their current job. According to Antal's Job-Seeking Activity Among Professionals and Managers survey, passive candidates constitute 70% of the Polish labour market, but only 6% of them consistently ignore all invitations to interviews about the challenges that could await them. The remaining 64% require a skilful approach – they are passive, but nevertheless willing to take part in interviews (we may therefore assume that they will be ready to take part in a recruitment processes provided that a number of conditions are met). Establishing contact requires finesse (sales pitches get cut short remorselessly), knowledge about the employer that you’re representing and being able to present arguments that may be attractive to the candidate. Automated processes could suffer defeat from the outset of this process. It’s very likely that a generic invitation sent over the Internet will not grab the attention of a passive candidate.

We must also consider what makes the ‘perfect candidate’. What’s more important – what’s the desired competence set or the human factor? Antal's standard involves presenting a shortlist that includes five candidates for a given position. Usually all of them have the required competences, experience and skills, but clients often have little difficulty choosing the one they wish to hire. They’re forced to choose between two candidates at most, and that is because the human factor becomes involved and questions arise whether the superior and the team will get along with the candidate. They will have to spend eight hours every day in his or her company so they must understand each other... and simply feel good in each other's company.

Recruitment companies have very different organisational structures and, contrary to popular opinion, provide diverse services due to their differing goals and missions. Our motto, ‘Power of specialised talents’, forms the foundation for our model of operations, focused on acquiring expert knowledge of the markets in individual sectors. That’s why we call ourselves ‘consultants’ rather than ‘recruiters’. Knowledge about the market, candidate and client allows us to place each process into a business context and approach each task in a way that will be strategic for the business.

I believe that this aspect is very difficult to automate. Depriving it of the human factor makes the organisation vulnerable to enormous errors in management. This can be illustrated by a certain recruitment project during which the CV was accepted and the meeting with the candidate went perfectly – we were sure that a work contract was about to be signed. It was only when I started to investigate and talk to the people that the candidate worked with in the past that it turned out that the person was completely unfit for the culture of the organisation. If he were to be hired, his tenure would not last long nor bring satisfaction to any of the parties, and such mistakes are always costly.

I must admit that I’m strongly in favour of simplification. Technological developments are a privilege that allows us to perform better in our work. I’m aware that humans will become less and less involved in recruitment processes, but they will nevertheless be necessary as long as we ourselves are people and can become involved in our work on many levels. ‘Understanding’ cannot yet be automated.

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