An Algorithm Couldn’t Have Hired Steve Jobs

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Here’s the plan: Buy the newest, greatest HR software that’s part of the new wave of hot technology attracting lots of eager investment, make the big announcement, reassure all the hiring managers it’s an easy interface, and then what? Just see what happens when real people use it? Hmmm.

I’m thrilled that HR technology is rising to the fore, with innovative companies like Workable, recently infused to the tune of $34 million. But it is important that you understand how to connect that technology with the people with whom it will interface.

What Workable aims to do is give smaller firms the same bells and whistles, big-as-the-cloud-allows hiring software that the big ones have. It’s a way to even the playing field in terms of the hiring process, and with customization make sure that it’s not that dreaded LCD, one-size-fits-all tech none of us want.

We may still be at the stage where we know more about what we don’t want than what we do.

I’ll give you a leg up with that one: We do want software that can run on mobile platforms and understands how to work with social media. Apropos of that, Workable’s mobile-friendly and social literate. There’s also the reality of the cost factor: Hiring is expensive, technology is expensive, the global workplace makes managing talent expensive. If we could save a bit of cash, that’d be great. (And we will further discuss hiring needs, costs, and processes in next week’s live podcast and #TChat with Nikos Moraitakis, CEO of Workable.)

But — and you know there’s a but, or there would not be a column — for all the efficiency that technology creates, it can’t replace a real human handshake. It can’t replace that human element. And part of the mythology surrounding mega talents like Steve Jobs or Danielle Fong (the co-founder of energy storage innovator LightSail) are the many people involved in those particular individual career paths. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure an HR search application would be able to locate Steve Jobs now, though it would certainly locate the networking maven Fong.

Ambidextrous hiring

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple Special event to unveil the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Apple unveiled the iPad 2 as the successor to its popular tablet, the iPad. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hiring isn’t an algorithm. It’s still about people and talent and culture fit. Nor is it a grab for the file in the middle of the stack. So the ideal hiring manager needs to be able to straddle both sides of the equation. The hiring managers need to be facile at the new technology — which is designed specifically to reduce the amount of time doing all that busywork, from search and recruiting and on through the hiring funnel. But they also need to be able to do the face to face. This is a two-handed drive: you’ve got to speak both languages in order to keep up.

But there’s another reason to make sure human stays in HR and you are really good at the software. Given that your hiring team is the first face of your employer brand, you’ll want them to be fluent with your selected HR technology, whatever it is. If they’re not, it will have an enormously negative impact on your employer brand. Nothing is a more damaging sign to a company, particularly a small business, than a clumsy and inept hiring and onboarding process. It says: This is a company chasing numbers, not talent. So much for transparency; you’re just transmitting that your apparent transparency is actually see-through.

Inefficient as a mindset

Sure, Las Vegas was muy tasty: So much HR technology, so many new rollouts, there are bound to be pleas for caution after we’ve finally emerged from the buffet. As a field, however, we’ve seemed wedded to a kind of balky inefficiency.

There are the “approval up the channels” steps and pauses, and the “can’t find the references” glitches, and countless ghosts in the machine. Then there are the machines. We are haunted by the very process we’re trying to leave behind. Why? There’s still an interface with seams that need erasing. Now it’s from the amazing HR technology to the human hiring teams. Let’s make sure those key dots are connected. Go for it, and please keep me posted.

Want more on HR tech? See Recruiting Analytics: Reducing Your Hiring Timeline.

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