Quiet and Effective: Value in HR Technology

apollo 11 launchThe hot stuff in HR technology these days is all to do with social networking. Recruiters are flocking to social media with the energy of a bull let loose in a pasture full of lonely cows during mating season. All that effort does produce some results — candidates (or calves; depending on what you’re thinking right now) — but they’re inconsistent (in both cases). And there are plenty of skeptics that question the value of social networking as a scalable recruiting solution. Social media has its place in the recruiting universe, but the buzz around it is overshadowing other interesting technologies. Two in particular that I’d like to highlight may not be as exciting, but address fundamental needs for recruiters.

Effective Matching

The first is QuietAgent. It has developed a new approach to matching candidates and jobs. Matching technology is nothing new. Other products have been available for at least a decade. But most matching products are a black box. Using them requires having total faith in the methodology and algorithms developed by the vendors. They do work, but frequently it’s not all clear why candidates get ranked in a particular way. There’s also no way for a recruiter to influence the matching. The vendors are not inclined to let anyone do so because the technology is the result of a big investment in research. Recruiters find this “father-knows-best” approach frustrating when the matching doesn’t produce the kind of results they expect.

QuietAgent has moved beyond these limitations. The technology uses the ONet database as the basis for classifying and matching jobs with resumes. ONet is the largest occupational classification system in the world, and it’s in the public domain, making the basis for matches better understood. More importantly, QuietAgent’s technology can be adapted. Users can adjust how the matching works. A user can specify different combinations of criteria on which to match candidates with jobs. For example, five years of experience and certain skills, or three years and a different set. This is a big deal, as all recruiters know. Hiring criteria are rarely rigid, and search tools, such as the ones on job boards and ATS, allow for little flexibility.

QuietAgent is the technology behind AllianceQ and UnitedWeWork. The former is an association of larger employers that are willing to share resumes of candidates with others. The latter is a free job board. QuietAgent’s association with AllianceQ makes for a powerful combination, because it also provides a supply of candidates. This may not seem like much today, when candidates are in abundance, but the day will come when candidates are again in short supply; then, this makes for a great combination in one package.

Reliable Resumes

I recently heard an interview with a NASA veteran who was hired at the start of the Apollo program. What was most interesting was that he and most other engineers were hired at NASA purely on the basis of their resumes. They sent in a resume and subsequently received an offer letter. This wasn’t unusual, up until the 1960s. Bringing candidates in from out of town was rarely done because of the expense. And no one did phone interviews; long distance calls cost a lot, and the sound quality wasn’t all that great. If a candidate looked good on paper then they were often hired.

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How things change. A resume isn’t worth a whole lot today. We use it as the starting point of a long process. That is the way it needs to be. By some estimates a third or more contain significant exaggerations or outright lies.

One company solving this problem is Resumefit. Candidates who complete the company’s assessments get a “certified resume” locked with a digital key. The value here is that any recruiter receiving the resume can be assured that the claimed skills are true. Other vendors have attempted to create equivalent products before, but they’ve focused more on verifying employment, references, and criminal history. That has limited value before a hiring decision is made. Knowing that the skills and abilities described meet a certain level is much more useful to employers using skills-based hiring. This makes the recruiting process much more efficient because recruiters don’t have to waste time trying to read between the lines and can be reasonably assured that decisions they make are based on reliable information.

QuietAgent and Resumefit may not generate the buzz created by Twitter but they are solutions to well-known problems and serve very fundamental needs in recruiting. These needs will still be around when the ardor for social networking cools, as it will. Recruiters use of social media will balance out once its usefulness is better understood, settling into a niche supporting referrals and talent communities. But we’ll still be looking for effective and efficient ways to match candidates with jobs and find resumes with reliable information.

Raghav Singh, director of product management at Salesforce, where his role is to build commercial products for HR, particularly recruiting. Prior, he was director of product management at Korn Ferry, where he developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. Raghav's career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.