Empowering the Freelance Economy

Is SEO and aI dumbing down Contractor recruitment?

Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels
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If you use a recruitment agency or consultant for your future workflow, you may develop a grudge against Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) bias, which bears the question, who or what has all the power in agency and in-house recruitment these days: humans or algorithms?

Management experts such as the Wharton School’s Professor Peter Cappelli, are not handing out gold stars for modern-day recruitment practices.

“Businesses have never done as much hiring as they do today. They’ve never spent as much money doing it. And they’ve never done a worse job of it,” wrote Cappelli in Harvard Business Review piece, titled Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong: Outsourcing and algorithms won’t get you the people you need.

In his article, he highlights that for those companies that still do their own recruitment and hiring, managers will be trying to fill open positions based on what a job requires. However, after that, the robots start to take over, at possibly the most crucial step in the recruitment process, when applications come in —”always electronically”.

What happens when your CV enters the Wild West algorithms?

Cappelli highlights that applicant-tracking software sifts through the applications via keywords that the hiring managers want to see.

“Then the process moves into the Wild West, where a new industry of vendors offers an astonishing array of smart-sounding tools that claim to predict who will be a good hire. They use voice recognition, body language, clues on social media, and especially machine learning algorithms—everything but tea leaves,” writes Cappelli.

This effect is possibly a new phenomenon felt by seasoned candidates that have opted to go back to traditional or off-payroll employment after running their own business following IR35-related worker and tax regulations that came into effect in April of this year.

If their CV or profile does not include certain keywords for the recruiter’s SEO target phrases, a recruitment consultant or outsourced firm could easily dismiss a candidate that has skills that could seriously benefit a client’s project or international expansion. Younger recruitment specialists with less face-to-face candidate experience under their belt could see the use of technology as a means to just make their lives easier without questioning anything.

There is an argument that artificial intelligence takes out biases, such as race, gender and age. However, it also takes out the soft human skills that only knowledgeable humans can provide.

“Skill sets are interchangeable and AI doesn’t recognise that,” a sales director, who has voiced disappointment over how the human element of online recruitment has been eroded over the pandemic.

Being ignored: the new norm of the online job hunt?

Unless you have a very proactive headhunter or recruiter, much of the hard work is now placed on candidates, which is just one of the reasons why looking for a job “still sucks.” Waiting for a reply to an application or a follow-up on an interview is probably the one area where the human element of recruitment has taken a turn for the worse.

Inventor and business startup owner, Thomas Wiegele, sums this up in his LinkedIn article, Recruitment: A process losing its human touch.

“The most frustrating part of job hunting is not being rejected, it’s being ignored. And it seems people got used to it,” he writes.

He reflects in his article when a friend of his received a reply to one of her applications saying that she didn’t make it. Wiegel immediately responded:

“Although they rejected you, it’s already nice from them to give a reply.”

In hindsight, after he said that he realised how low the bar is when you are satisfied with receiving a rejection email.

He writes: “Based on our personal job-hunting experiences, we estimated the response rate to be between 15 to 30%.

“Now let’s be honest, whether the answers are positive or negative they are largely based on a template taking at most 30 seconds to send. Without mentioning that recruitment software can also take care of this task.

“In light of that, shouldn’t it be the norm to receive an answer email to an application? Or has human society advanced so much that such request is considered utopian?”

The Freelance Informer would love to hear about your recruitment experiences. Feel free to leave them in the comments section or reach out direct on editor@freelanceinformer.com.

How could recruiters and job platforms improve their services to candidates and make the recruitment process much more pleasant and human?

1 Comment
  1. Paul says

    Recruitment companies exist to make maximum returns on minimum effort. They exist like most companies to make a profit, however most companies theses days consider loyalty as stupidity whilst recruitment companies don’t even consider you post contract completion. They have one objective and that is bums on seats as quickly as possible so they can collect their fees. If your a contractor then you are nothing but a means to an end, so MrMrs Contractor grow a thick skin, get used to being ignored and treat others as they treat you. If we all said no to working inside IR35 then perhaps that stupid legislation would be scrapped but we all know that won’t happen because we need the work… ok rant over

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