Human and Machine: Better Together

Applications for Talent Acquisition

For years, computers posed a minimal competitive threat to the world’s elite chess players. In a 1985 event, grandmaster Garry Kasparov put up a 32-0 record against his computer challengers simultaneously. Twelve years later came his 1997 defeat to IBM’s Deep Blue, which represented a symbolic inflection point in computing power. Not only can computers more quickly calculate the various iterations of a chess game than humans, but they are also less likely to suffer from human shortcomings, such as fear of retreat. We are living in a world in which a $50 computer game can easily defeat the best players in the world.

Fortunately for humankind, and for the recruiting industry, that’s not the end of the story. Something fascinating happens when humans and technology operate together. We’ll let Kasparov explain what happens when brains and machines function as complements in chess tournaments:

The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.

The implications of this insight are significant for talent acquisition on two levels. First, I argue that technology companies could benefit from deeper human involvement to complement technology and engender customer success. Second, I argue that talent acquisition efforts today are woefully bifurcated into pure-play technology matchmakers and low-tech mom-and-pop recruiters. On both levels, there are opportunities to blend “human and machine” in ways that can make organizations more efficient.

Bringing the human element to technology companies

Technology leaders can become so enamored with the potential for their technology to disrupt industries that they can forget to test whether there is product-market fit, to begin with honestly. The Wall St. Journal recently published an article on the coming of age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From facial recognition to driverless cars, AI will clearly be an increasingly meaningful part of our lives. But the article also offers a warning.

Organizations like EnerNOC gambled on AI’s potential for disruption, but didn’t heed warning signs from customers that they were not nearly ready to cede control over mission-critical functions to the “machine.” Irrespective of how scalable a technology may be, tech leaders must ensure that engineering and product strategy work holistically together in service of validated customer needs.

I suppose we will all learn at SourceCon in March how well emerging sourcing technology vendors have heeded this guidance. The smart ones will be doing more listening than pitching.

Bringing technology to talent acquisition

While high-growth technology firms are disrupting every industry imaginable, technology’s role in talent acquisition is still in its infancy, at least in my opinion. The clear majority of recruiters use generic, third-party platforms to track applicants and LinkedIn’s nascent search tools to source candidates. On the other hand, tech startups trying to disrupt talent acquisition operate as glorified job boards, lacking the human component necessary to understand client needs and align talent against those needs actually.

There are many ways the best technology platforms can enhance a high-touch recruiting process. For example, machine learning should be a valuable tool to hone in on the talent featuring the right DNA, experience, and motivation for a role. Most “machine learning” sourcing tools today are not machine learning at all but rather rebranded statistical modeling. Vendors should be challenged to build technology that truly learns from user activity.

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Technology will never, and should never, displace human judgment and strategic guidance in making ultimate hiring decisions. But there is an opportunity to leverage technology to make better, more efficient talent decisions. tec

Find me at SourceCon to keep the conversation going!

Chris Richardson

Chris is currently CEO of Talent Response, which works to reinvent consultative talent. Since founding Talent Response in 2014, Chris has grown the firm’s client base to over 30 elite consulting and technology firms its network to over 20,000 consultative professionals.

Prior to founding Talent Response, Chris helped build EnerNOC's (NASDAQ: ENOC) product marketing function from the ground up. In addition to evaluating the customer and competitive landscape to inform the product roadmap, Chris also packaged, priced, and positioned EnerNOC’s suite of energy intelligence and machine learning applications.

Chris’ consulting roots were with the boutique firm Norbridge. Clients included many of the world’s leading private equity firms as well as leading energy and transportation companies. Client objectives included go-to-market strategy, commercial due diligence, and litigation support.

As a musician for much of his early career, Chris’ entrepreneurial background was forged as much out of necessity as by design. He founded Choice Music Chicago, which connected Chicagoland orchestral musicians with hundreds of professional performance opportunities. During his Chicago trumpet career, he regularly performed with orchestras such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Milwaukee Symphony.

Chris graduated with honors from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business (MBA) and has a Bachelors and Masters of Music from Northwestern University.

Chris currently serves on the Board of Overseers for Big Brother Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay.