Man Versus Machine

Mar 13, 2009

HarQen, a leading web telephony company based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has utilized their patented, web audio technology platform to create an application allowing Hiring Managers, Recruiters, Sourcers, and Researchers the ability to create and easily distribute customized, pre-recorded phone interviews.

The aptly named technology, called VoiceScreener, is simple to use, essentially as easy as setting up a voicemail. Distributing the interview is seamless, as one only needs to input an email address and the interview is sent out to the candidates. Candidates can take the interview any time and any place that is convenient to them, which eliminates the all-to-often scheduling difficulties that come with setting up interviews. When an interview is completed, the Hiring Manager, Recruiter, Sourcer, or Researcher can listen to the interview via the web application at a time and place of their choosing.

Since we are always looking to improve our process in order to provide better candidates to our clients, our firm, Quovis, Inc., decided to test this technology in early 2009. At first glance, we thought the technology could add significant value to the recruiting process — we’re now confident that over time this technology will prove to be a “game-changer,” just the type of technology that innovative companies capitalizing on a slowdown will embrace.

Initially, we saw a tremendous opportunity for this technology to add value to:

  • High-volume recruiting projects, such as with call-centers, production lines, or companies with a constant need for sales representatives
  • Technical Recruiters that use consultants to conduct live technical interviews could automate all their phone screens allowing all candidates to get the same .Net interview, for example
  • Research groups that are doing initial qualifying phone screens with hundreds of potential candidates

The question for us was whether or not our firm could use it effectively. Considering that Quovis is an executive search firm, and that we are typically recruiting at the Manager to Vice President level for our clients, it is very important for us to establish rapport quickly and build relationships with our candidates. We wondered if this technology would impede our ability to have a personal touch with our candidates. Would executive candidates even be receptive to taking an automated voice interview, or would they be too frustrated and turned off by the technology?

What we found is that savvy candidates adapt very quickly to the new process that we’ve implemented. Secondly, it has allowed us to dig deeper during the follow-up, live phone interviews, allowing us to present candidates that have been more thoroughly vetted. In addition, the candidates have often complimented us on how well we know their backgrounds when we do talk with them in the personal, live phone interview.

As we’ve shared this technology with our peers, reaction to the technology, not surprisingly, has been mixed — recruiting is, after all, a “people-sport.”  What would happen to the reputation and value of recruiters if technology were to take their place?  The concern about technology replacing humans predates the industrial revolution; the reality of machines replacing humans, however, hasn’t come to fruition.

There are natural reactions to new technology, not only excitement, but also frustration and fear.  Usually, with time and experience, people come around to technology, finding that it’s freed them up to focus on new tasks, perhaps more valuable than the tasks that are now attended to by technology.  Used properly, technology doesn’t replace humans; rather, humans utilize technology to improve their own efficiencies and increase their own productivity.

A recent comment from a Senior Technical Recruiter about VoiceScreener technology: “I think if this were sent to me as a professional level candidate, I would delete it.  I can’t imagine working with something so ‘automated.’ Recruiting to me is about relationships…”

Addressing “automation” versus “personal touch,” we initially shared the same concern; however, what we’ve found, through using the tool and soliciting feedback from candidates, was that when the tool was used in addition to the personal phone interview, there was an added assurance of consistency and increased preparedness on the parts of both the candidate as well as the recruiter.

Initially, 90% of the candidates that had completed the VoiceScreener interview through Quovis had gone on to a personal phone interview with a recruiter; however, as we revised our interview questions to require a more in-depth answer, only about 70% of candidates have gone on to a personal phone interview. VoiceScreener technology is providing us more time to spend with our most qualified candidates as well as more time to further our relationships with our existing and prospective clients.

In addition to being able to review the candidate comments prior to the personal phone interview, we’ll soon be able to present the automated portion of the interview to our client hiring managers, in conjunction with the resume, interview notes, and our firm’s overall recommendation.  Our clients have already told us that they’ve noticed a difference in the quality of candidates that make it to the client interview.

Like the early days of e-mail, job boards, and networking sites, such as ERE, LinkedIn, and Facebook, this technology is now in its early-stages, but we’ve found that with the ability to spend more time, digging deeper into the backgrounds and experiences of the most qualified candidates, our success rates, in terms of finding a client/candidate match, has already improved.

In addition, most successful companies today are successful and will remain successful not because of their history of keeping with what they’ve always known, but rather because of their desire to identify and their ability to embrace change.  No question, this technology awakens all of us to yet another change, but for recruiters, our clients, and our candidates to see the positives in the new technology says a whole lot about our individual abilities to thrive in a constantly changing environment.

If you are interested in exploring the technology further, you can set up a trial account by visiting VoiceScreener and using the required Promo and Referral Codes.

  • Promo Code (in all CAPS): QUOVIS
  • Referral Code (in all CAPS): QUOVIS

We would be happy to walk you through the system and share our experiences with you. If you have any questions, please contact us directly to discuss.

briancallahanBrian Callahan is experienced in Professional Search, Temporary Staffing, Human Resources Management, and Training & Development. In addition to working with Fortune 100 companies in successfully implementing Talent Acquisition Programs to achieve their hiring goals, Brian has also worked closely with many start-up organizations, giving him the ability to recognize the unique challenges of small businesses and implement recruiting functions that will drive their growth.

danmcginleyDan McGinley is experienced in Professional and Technical Search, Human Resources, Temporary Staffing, Recruiting Process Improvement, Training, and Account Management. Throughout his career, he’s had the opportunity to build and manage many recruiting teams. His experience includes working for a Fortune 500 company, consulting for a Big 4 accounting firm, and being a successful small business owner.

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