The recruitment industry is broken and no longer fit for purpose. I’ll talk specifically in relation to tech, as that’s what I’m familiar with, but anecdotally I hear reports across other sectors of horror stories. It’s up to us hiring managers help it change or even remove it completely.
Let me explain why.
Last year I interviewed a software engineer in Sydney. He explained how he had spent collectively two weeks out in Silicon Valley interviewing and going through a series of tests at four major tech giants. It left him exhausted as he had to fit them all into a short period of time. No one could be expected to be in top form after the fourth personal grilling of the morning.
Coincidentally the developer was interviewing with us to work on a new platform we were building to improve the hiring of developers. (If you’re familiar with Laddr, then let me preface the rest of this post by saying that while Laddr aims to solve some of these issues, there are better solutions.)
To give you an idea of the size of the problem, there will be an estimated 26 million software developers globally by 2022. But that’s not enough. The World Economic Forum highlighted our profession as one that will continue to be in-demand, as forecasts estimate that 1 million programming jobs will be unfilled by next year in the US alone. In Washington DC we represent over 6% of the workforce. Yet despite our growing number, the approach for how we’re hired hasn’t changed in a decade, back before mobile optimization was standard.
It takes on average 40.8 days to hire a software development engineer. For us that’s the length of time for most projects. So it’s safe to assume opportunities are being missed.
Collectively, we need to remove some barriers. Here are a few ideas how:
1. Remove bias
You vastly increase your possible talent pool (not to mention, strengthen your team) when you remove bias from your hiring system. Whether it’s gender bias that’s been baked into your job description unknowingly, or subconscious bias during the selection phase, we already have the tools to remove this. And before you think, “Oh, we don’t need that; we’re not prejudiced,” please read this and other research on the topic.
Chrome extensions like Unbias Me can help hide names and profile pics when looking at LinkedIn or GitHub. And to write that unbiased job role, try online platform Gender Decoder by Kat Matfield. Atlassian also recently announced a tool to help HR teams with diversity, arguing that demographically homogeneous teams lack effectiveness.
There have been headlines in recent years where even algorithms are being accused of bias, where coding has favoured male candidates. It’s helped startups like Pymetrics gain funding with platforms that combine AI and neuroscience to increase diversity in hiring at companies including Unilever and Accenture.
2. Know what to offload
Do you need to control every element, or can you introduce time saving automation? Rhetorical questions aside, the use of chatbots to answer simple questions has already shown it frees up time for customer service teams. Yet in recruitment it also means candidates looking outside work hours, i.e. most people, can get the answers they want, when they need them. Which should hopefully increase applications.
However more people applying doesn’t help if they’re not filtered appropriately, as up to 60 percent of applicants will be unsuited to the position on offer. Machine learning platforms can do the necessary filtering (Canadian outfit Ideal is one such platform, but there are others). However, the algorithms need to be designed carefully so that they don’t filter out promising candidates who happen to have non-traditional backgrounds. One approach, which will ensure outliers aren’t ruled out based on the lack of a college degree, for instance, is to focus on tech tests that replicate real life scenarios. By making these contextual problems rather than theoretical ones, you can get a better sense of someone’s transferable skills. Bots can also then schedule interviews, another time sapping part of interviewing.
3. Give more power to applicants
Reversing the hiring model, so that companies can find pre-vetted technology professionals directly, are platforms like talent.io in Europe. It offers users the chance to describe their ideal role. Companies are then invited to make approaches based on the blurb. Personal information like name, location, age, can remain anonymous through platforms including Nottx — proof that the current model can be inverted while protecting users from discrimination.
This may just be from my engineer’s perspective, but having to complete a separate tech test for each role I’m applying for feels unnecessary. And making applicants sit in your office isn’t optimizing either party’s time. HackerRank allows individual skills and proficiencies to be tested remotely. In fact, there are other platforms that are baking these tests into the profile users create, similar to an online portfolio for a creative. One contextual test to rule them all. Congratulations, your future staff will thank you.
I expect we may soon see users getting paid for doing custom tech tests, as this info could be used to provide information on the industry as a whole.
4. Be transparent
One feature I haven’t seen yet, but would like to, is the ability for an employer to see all other competitors a candidate is interviewing with. This should provide the catalyst to ensure great candidates don’t get away. Almost 70 percent of job seekers across the board believe response times during interviewing can be improved. No wonder. Most are waiting 40+ days for an answer. Some people could have completed four project assignments in that time.
As the workforce of the future moves towards one increasingly reliant on contingent workers, speed is the potential differentiator for hiring teams and employees alike.
5. Abandon your recruiters
Without wanting to be the harbinger of doom for the recruitment industry, there are ways in which the role is already changing. And I haven’t even discussed the use of video in the discovery, interview, and in-role phases.
Direct conversations between employers and candidates will lubricate the process and result in happier campers on both sides of this equation. So, recruiters, the question is, how do you still add value? Over to you.
Vaibhav Namburi is founder of emerging tech agency Five2One.