The Art vs Science of Sourcing and AI

In my previous SourceCon article, I wrote on parts of the recruiting process needed a “human touch” and which were fully automatable (or able to be handled by an admin of some type). Let’s delve a little deeper into each of those steps now.

The first human stage of the recruitment process is sourcing. I know you’re thinking “No! They make AI tools that handle this for you!” And my response, “you show me an AI tool that I can blindly trust and message everyone that the tool/platform returns to me, and I’ll not only retract this statement, but I will give ALL the monies necessary to that company so I can use the tool.”

The bottom line is that AI, computers, and machines are not able to engage in judgment, creativity, or empathy.

So where is our line in the sand for outsourcing vs. insourcing?

Let’s look at what we’re doing through a lens of repeatability without increased efficacy from iteration. Meaning, that any task that could return more accurate results by changing inconsistent pieces/approaches along the way, should also be done by a human. Not only done by a human but also done by a human. Use the outsourcing for scale, use the insourcing for quality and creativity.

For example, Boolean search strings. AI is getting better and better at comparing the people/profiles you’re interested in vs. the ones you aren’t and adjusting accordingly. But, without knowledge of the client, whether that be culture, or even specific industry or occupational lingo, it limits the number of changes that can be made.

I’ve spent quite a bit of my recruiting life searching for software engineers, and while you have tools like Hiretual, or SeekOut that specialize in the tech space, using other more conventional AI sourcing tools (or outsourcing) won’t be able to decipher between proper lingo. If I’m looking for functional programmers, it may not realize that Java8 is a functional programming language, or that Haskell, or Wolfram or also functional programming languages, and many of those engineers don’t write the words “functional programming” in their profile or resume, it’s implied by the technology. This is a matter of judgment.

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Next, is dealing with the creativity of searching for candidates. Outsourcing is good for traditional search approaches like LinkedIn, GitHub, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But what about getting deeper into the search, going through Meetup group profiles, or the professional certification bodies, or the publishers of papers? These are approaches to searching (not to mention the searches themselves) that require more finesse and creative thinking. They can’t be solved with simple web-scraping or boolean commands; they need out-of-the-box thinking.

Last, dealing with empathy. We all know it’s important to think about things like diversity and inclusion when searching for candidates. If we’re only looking for the buzzwords and appropriate history, we might miss folks like Veterans, mothers coming back after maternity leave, or people who’ve taken a hiatus for any other reason (death in the family, sabbatical, etc.).

It’s having empathy and being able to understand that we’re all humans and we travel different paths, and offer different solutions to similar business problems. We have to come from that place of empathy to make decisions to reach out to candidates that might not seem perfect on paper, but could line up very well with a company culture, an organization’s vision, or a teams collaboration. If you’re a company that hires for potential and/or culture, you need to source with empathy.

We need to analyze how we’re approaching sourcing. Are we sacrificing quality/inclusion for scale or efficiency? If so, let’s try to diversify (see what I did there?) our approach and while we should continue to use the efficient methods AI/outsourcing can offer us, let’s not forget the three human elements that will increase the efficacy of our searches: judgment, creativity, and empathy.

Mike (Batman) Cohen has been in the talent acquisition space for over 10 years with a focus on the agency-side of the house. For the past several years he's spent his time consulting for organizations in the area of T.A. Training, Process creation & improvement, Change Management, and Tooling.  Batman has been on several recruiting panels, spoke at Scala Up North in Montreal, in France, and ERE 2018 in San Diego.