Predictive Recruitment: Should you go for it ?


By: Alexandra Marcoin-Karacsonyi

Digitalization and data mining are imperative in a number of sectors, and HR is no exception to the rule. However, there seems to be particularly strong resistance in this area. Indeed, the old fear that machines will one day replace people has suddenly resurfaced. Furthermore, using an algorithm as a tool to aid in decision making means questioning yourself as a professional (or admitting that you’re fallible) and could even be perceived as giving up some of your power. However, professionals in the sector should instead look at it as an opportunity to work more calmly and effectively and to achieve better short-, medium- and long-term results.

What exactly is predictive recruitment ?

Predictive recruitment doesn’t rely on a crystal ball—far from it. The algorithms it uses are the result of years of research and development and have been validated on millions of profiles. Two types of data are used:

  • Data that, because of its quantity, cannot be analyzed by a single human being (for example, the soft skills needed for success in a given environment or position)
  • Data that, because of its type, is only partially visible to a recruiter (for example, the natural talents, personality traits and motivators of a candidate or employee)

What are the advantages of predictive recruitment ?

The algorithm makes it possible to accomplish the work of thousands of HR professionals all working together with no bias whatsoever. Now, this bias is omnipresent when the selection relies only on a human being: we all act and react according to our own filters, and the natural tendency is to “copy and paste,” whether by recruiting someone who’s similar to us or by recruiting someone with the same type of profile as the person who just left. An article in the May 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review, titled How to Take the Bias out of Interviews, effectively highlights the problems of bias in traditional interview practices.

The algorithm makes it possible to accomplish the work of thousands of HR professionals all working together

The other major advantage of predictive recruitment is that it permits a much more complete overview of an employee or potential employee, especially when it comes to characteristics that don’t appear on a résumé, like soft skills. American psychologist Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, demonstrated that a mismatch between the candidate’s soft skills and the position or manager was to blame in nearly 9 out of 10 cases of failed recruitment.

Predictive recruitment is a tool for recruiters and managers

From predictive recruitment to predictive talent management

In May of 2014, an article titled In Hiring, Algorithms Beat Instinct ran in the Harvard Business Review. The good news is that this is just as true when it comes to managing and developing talent, whether through vertical or horizontal mobility. And certain predictive solutions even make it possible to form teams that are more complementary and better-performing. Two specific examples:

  • You have three excellent candidates for a position and you’re not sure which one to hire. Predictive techniques will enable you to determine the potential of each candidate to evolve in the future beyond the position for which you’re recruiting, as well as the affinity of each candidate with the manager and the existing team.
  • Paul has been employed with your organization for 14 years. He performs his work competently, but his motivation seems to have petered out over the years. He isn’t management material, and you’re not sure how you can develop him. Predictive techniques will give you specific routes to explore with him so that he can remain in your company, in a position that will allow him to flourish.

Correct use of predictive techniques

It’s important to bear in mind that predictive recruitment isn’t a science and isn’t 100 percent reliable. Decisions should always be made by a human being, and by using this tool for recruiters and managers, that human being will have the necessary information to make an even better decision. The argument I hear most often is that, since managers change so often, anyway, there’s really no point in determining affinities. However, this easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! Employees who aren’t comfortable in their position, with their team or in their relationship with their manager tend to underperform and may even quit or get fired. Considering that a departure costs about the same as one year of salary for the position in question, isn’t it time to be proactive—especially when the necessary tools are already out there ? ■

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