Notes to Self From Digital TA Conversations

Last week, TAtech and DirectEmployers conducted a two-day digital conference that featured strategic conversations rather than presentations.

Sixteen thought leaders – half drawn from employers and half from industry – tackled eight topics that will shape talent acquisition in 2021 and beyond. As unusual as that was, they went even further and invited the audience to join them up on the virtual stage for an open discussion. The result was a free-wheeling dialogue that was thought-provoking, enlightening and unbelievably engaging.

They don’t do the conversations justice, but here are my notes on what I took away from each of the sessions:

From “Is there such a thing as candidate empathy in an era of recruitment automation?” discussed by Louis Naviasky, CEO of Bayard Advertising, and Marie Artim, VP Talent Acquisition at Enterprise Holdings.

It is not only possible but imperative to put a human face on even the most automated of recruitment systems. Technology, at least at its current state-of-the-art, is good at creating efficiencies, not so good at establishing empathy. Therefore, any automation built into a system should lead to an interaction with a human recruiter … even in high volume hiring.

From “How can technology help an employer advance its D&I efforts?” discussed by Thad Price, CEO of Talroo, and Julie Sowash, Executive Director of Disability Solutions.

Intelligent technology can help to eliminate bias as long as it is taught with unbiased data (and that, in itself, is often a challenge) and uses algorithms that have been developed and/or purged of prejudice. However, technology can also be mispositioned as THE solution to an organization’s talent acquisition and management practices. Those practices, however, are fundamentally shaped by its culture and that culture begins at the top and then percolates down through all levels of management. If the culture is flawed, no machine will fix it.

From “What steps should recruiters take to ensure they maximize their ROI in technology?” discussed by Sarah Brennan, Founder of Accelir Insights, and Paul White, Director of Recruiting Operations at Kindred At Home.

The successful acquisition of recruiting technology is as much about an employer-solution provider partnership as it is about the technology itself. Each organization has its own responsibilities – the employer, for example, must be very clear about what exactly it is trying to accomplish with a product and the vendor must be transparent about what its product can and cannot do – but both share responsibilities as well. The most important of these is the development of a partnership committed to effective installation and to continuous, open and candid dialogue with the ultimate goal of achieving outcomes that serve the organization.

From “What’s the appropriate role for technology in a company that practices values-based recruitment?” discussed by Fred Goff, CEO of Jobcase, and Charles Lily, Manager HR Digital Transformation at KPMG.

Technology can be used to promote an organization’s values and even to demonstrate them during the candidate journey, but it cannot create or implement them. We’re in the early stages of a journey from companies focusing exclusively on shareholder value to a broader perspective that takes the values that benefit employees and other stakeholders as well as shareholders into account. Unfortunately, it’s still uncertain what the final outcome of this journey will be – some employers are saying the right things, but most have done little to transform themselves – but, wherever they are in the process, technology can only play a support role. We humans have to get it right first.

From “How should sourcing strategies change as top talent becomes more risk averse and passive?” discussed by Chris Forman, CEO of, and Shelia Gray, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Quadient.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic and resulting recession are changing both the mix of talent being sought by employers and company talent acquisition processes and practices. On the one hand, while there continues to be a need for highly educated candidates, there is now also significant demand for warehousing professionals and truck drivers, a reality that is pushing employers to search for alternative sources and implement higher offers to stay competitive. On the other hand, companies are experimenting with making their initial application form more candidate-friendly (in one test, an application that could be submitted in less than 5 minutes generated a 400% increase in completions) and with promoting their employment brand by sharing unselected applicants with other organizations.

From “How should recruitment marketing change to respond to today’s social and economic dynamics?” discussed by Tony Lee, VP-Editorial at SHRM, and Justin Clem Sr. Director Talent Acquisition & Management at Frontdoor.

The social justice movement and pandemic are forcing companies to rethink their position requirements (e.g., with the increased use of remote working, people can be hired from anywhere; educational requirements are being reassessed and, where possible, revised to broaden the applicant field) and to demand changes from their vendors (sending “US remote” jobs to all candidates with the relevant skills and not just to those within a certain geographical range). In addition, they are moving beyond simple training to the establishment of safe zones where ongoing conversations about DE&I can be held and appropriate values reinforced within their culture.

From “What can recruiters do to ensure their AI-based recruiting tools aren’t promoting bias?” discussed by Jeanette Maister, MD & Head of Americas at Oleeo, and Gerri Allamby, Associate Compliance & Diversity Manager at Unilever.

There is no generally accepted set of rules for the development of “unbiased AI tools” as there is, for example, in the development of security protocols. Therefore, employers must undertake a thorough and timely due diligence when evaluating AI-based recruiting tools and the vendors that are offering them. Questions probing the diversity of the vendor’s development team and its procedures for auditing the data used to teach a system should be asked early in the process when determining the field of “qualified vendors.” In addition, reasonable and appropriate expectations should be set. AI cannot solve a problem with bias in a company’s culture, only its leaders and employees can. And, no system will be perfect right out of the gate, so its performance should be carefully monitored and improvements made on a regular basis.

From “How do you deal with today’s application tidal wave and still provide a great candidate experience?” discussed by Terry Baker, CEO of PandoLogic, and Shaunda Zilich, Global Talent Brand Manager at Qualtrics.

Automation is, of course, an important strategy in dealing with large volumes of openings and candidates. It can dramatically improve job distribution and decisioning around where and for how long to invest in advertising to meet an employer’s requirements. It’s also helpful to have candidates, themselves, do some of the screening. Storytelling, for example, can depict the work experience and values of employees and thus help job seekers determine if an organization is a good fit for them. In addition, personalization of the application process can help ensure that messaging is targeted and, as a result, improve the perception of its usefulness by job seekers and reduce the incidence of inappropriate applications.

As you can tell, it was a jam-packed two days offering plenty of …

Food for Thought,

P.S. Recordings of the sessions will be posted at shortly.

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search