What’s Steak and What’s Sizzle in Recruiting Tech Right Now

Article main image
Oct 11, 2022
This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Fall 2022.

After every HR Technology Conference, I always take a look at my notes and see if there are any trends from the various vendor and practitioner conversations I had. Toward the tail end of the event, I told one CEO that I felt like I had been on the wrong side of a firehose. 

At the ERE Recruiting Conference, coming up in Atlanta on Nov. 7-9, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion, “Identifying Technology Solutions That Will Have the Most Impact on Recruiting.” I’ll be speaking with TA pros about where and how tech is benefitting them most (and least), as well as ways to optimize your tech stack — and keep it from making problems worse.

But back to the HR Tech Conference for now. I heard a lot of pitches over three days there, and like any good pitch, they sold the sizzle, not the steak. But anyone can repeat back the puffery they heard during the event. Instead, I’ll share what I thought was the most substantial (steak) and what seemed to be more marketing polish (sizzle). 

Steak: Applicant Tracking Systems

I know, how boring. But after a few years of hearing that no one was touching their ATS, both vendors and recruiting leaders told me they were looking at the core system in their recruiting stack. Their reason is a combination of updating core functionality and being able to easily plug into the latest recruiting tools. The beneficiaries of this interest seem to be mostly established players like iCIMS, Greenhouse, Lever, and SmartRecruiters with Breezy HR and JazzHR getting lots of SMB attention. 

Sizzle: New AI-Driven Assessments

There were a lot of assessment providers, and a few of them should’ve read Dr. Charles Handler’s article on ERE about how to talk about the use of AI in assessments. The way a few companies described the AI behind the scenes made me worried for their customers. One vendor almost described what Amazon was doing a few years ago with their gender-biased, AI hiring tool. Especially for organizations looking at improving the diversity of their workforce, it’s worth noting that using historical or existing employment data as a way to determine what good looks like will always be problematic. 

While this space is crowded, the stakes are high enough that experienced companies, like Criteria, that are focused on delivering sound assessments actually stand out more than the AI shiny object.

Steak: Practical Talent Intelligence

While Eightfold has spent a lot of effort and money to define this category, plenty of vendors have tried to capture attention, and some are actually offering quite pragmatic solutions. Reejig and both stood out for their practical attempts at bringing validated skills to the forefront of the hiring process. Searchlight brings in reference checks, assessments, and post-hire information to inform better quality of hire. Meanwhile, Gloat has an offering on the internal-mobility side of things that is better than more established solutions.

Sizzle: Magical Talent Intelligence

One of the problems with this loosely defined category is that any vendor that inserts data into the hiring process can call itself talent intelligence. The worst offenders are the ones who seemingly make it impossible to figure out exactly what they do and how they do it. 

There’s a reason why ethical AI was such a huge topic at the show and why vendors like and Searchlight have spent so much time ensuring that their solutions meet that high bar. With new laws popping up to regulate the use of AI in talent decisions, having a clear, easily explainable, and transparent view of what AI is doing and what it isn’t is critical.

It’s also important to note that employers, not the vendors, are ultimately responsible for using AI within the laws. 

Steak: Little Guys Fixing Tough Hiring Problems

Maybe it’s just my tendency to root for the underdog, but I saw a lot of really great solutions from some lesser-known names. For better, faster employee referrals, ERIN is an employee-centric platform that also helps employers manage the logistics of bonuses and payouts. TalVista embeds inclusion into job descriptions, resume reviews, and structured interviews to increase diversity in practical, measurable ways. Then there’s the all-in-one TA communications hub PivotCX, which is optimized for the deskless workforce that employers are struggling to reach. And Greenwich.HR has labor market data that could keep a TA data analyst busy for months.

Sizzle: Where Were the Remote and Hybrid Solutions?

No, seriously. Where were they? Recruiting via only video still isn’t great in all instances. Onboarding is a hot mess virtually — new hires aren’t showing up for work, and if they do, they aren’t ready to go. 

It’s not just talent acquisition, either. Other than a scattering of masks, you could’ve told me I landed at the HR Technology Conference in 2018 or 2019 and I would’ve been none the wiser. There seems to be scant evidence that the pandemic has changed the way millions of people have worked permanently. 

The ‘Year of Grace’ Is Over

As Stacey Harris, chief research officer for Sapient Insights, shared, the patience and understanding that work-technology buyers gave their partners through the pandemic is long gone. Recruiting is on the frontline of this challenge as organizations try to figure out how to do more with the same amount of budget. 

Vendors will need to deliver steak and sizzle if they hope to stay in the good graces of recruiting leaders. If they don’t, there are a variety of partners waiting to bring the services and technology they need to improve their talent acquisition performance in this tough hiring environment.

I hope you’ll join me at the ERE Recruiting Conference for an in-depth discussion of how technology can make a real impact on recruiting. (Again, code JOINLANCELIVEATERE2022 gets you 10% off.) I hope to see you there!

This article is part of a series called ERE Recruiting Conference Fall 2022.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!