Hiring techniques for the 21st century

If you’ve applied for a job with a large company, you’ll already be well aware of elements that are being phased in to the hiring process. They make greater use of technology, and AI, to get through the initial stages of sifting and free up recruiters, human resources professionals and department managers for other aspects of their jobs. We go through a few of the common ones here, and how you can prepare for them.

The CV reader

Applicant Tracking Systems, the type of real-time database software used by recruiters, are getting more sophisticated. Where previously, a recruiter might have glanced through a series of CVs in .doc format to find matching skills and experience, these systems now do the searching on behalf of a human, so you could be rejected before anyone at the company is even aware you’ve applied. What this means in reality is that you need to be very careful that the exact wording in your previous experience descriptions matches what the ATS will be looking for; your start-up’s idiosyncratic job titles might sound cool, but will get you exactly nowhere in the face of a rules-based system. So read the job advert thoroughly, and use their own terminology back at them: ‘marketing’ instead of ‘branding’, ‘hiring decisions’ instead of ‘people management’, the right spacing and punctuation in software skills, or whatever crops up. If there’s nothing in the job advert that indicates what you want to say, first of all, question whether you need it in your CV for this role at all, and secondly, check out the rest of the company’s website and search for similar terms (use Ctrl+F if it’s content heavy).

The games

In the first or second sift, you might be asked to play a seemingly-irrelevant game for a while. This is an idea that has gathered speed over the past few years, and relies on psychological research to provide employers with insights into natural behaviour as wide-ranging as risk-taking, teamwork and motivations. There are a few games companies, such as Knack, Stockfuse, and Arctic Shores, who develop processes for larger organisations (baccarat-game.org).

This gamification of the system can feel fun, but might get a little frustrating if all you are presented with at the end is a decision, rather than in-depth analysis; it’s obviously not the most personal of assessments. There also isn’t really a way to ‘game’ (sorry) the system, as each version will be testing for slightly different things, depending on what the company wants from the person in the role you’re going for. The best thing to do is just to be aware of why it exists, to consider each action you take, and to not overthink it.

The psychometric tests

These aren’t really a new idea, having been around since the latter half of the 19th century. However, as more and more people apply to fewer jobs, and recruiters need an efficient way to sift through applicants, they are being brought in earlier in the application process and it’s not a bad idea to get used to them. They measure many different aspects of a person’s psychology, so could take a variety of forms; numerical or spatial reasoning, situational judgement, critical thinking, personality types. One of the benefits is that they have the ability to remove bias, as they shouldn’t take into account your gender, race, age or anything else that a human may instinctively, unconsciously react to. (There is another argument to say that any AI system will indeed have biases – those of the programmer – but removing those critical aspects can attempt to level the playing field a little). There are many practice tests available to take, if you know in advance that you’ll be given one as part of your interview. A free trial on Stay Nimble gives you access to a range of tests. Sign up here.

The video interview

This is a slightly newer application of technology, and works as a one-way interview that a computer will analyse before presenting the ‘best’ candidates to the hiring team. This means, again, that you could go through the whole process without seeing another human. But preparation is key here. You’ll be presented with questions, and given a time limit to film yourself giving the answer and submit. What the computer will scan your video for is things like eye contact, facial microexpressions, and emotions. When you’re talking to a tiny webcam in your computer, it can be easy to forget to express yourself as you normally do; there isn’t another human to bounce off, so practice will help, as well as imagining you are talking to a person. Imagine a specific person, if that helps. Check your posture, practice speaking with confidence, and make sure you’re keeping your face focused on that webcam.

And finally… If you do get through all of the interview stages and are offered a role ‘subject to references’, do make sure that your references are real, and represent accurate parts of your job history. It’s often assumed that employers don’t have time to check every reference, but technology is catching up with that aspect of applications too, with companies like Xref automating the process.

Author: Katherine Stephen

Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.

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