The series: We look at decision makers among Canada’s mid-sized companies who took successful action in a competitive global digital economy.
“The job search is hard,” says Angela Payne, general manager at Monster Canada. “It’s difficult and nobody really loves the process. It can be very lonely, so it’s imperative that organizations like us can help make it as seamless as possible.”
For the past couple of years, at Monster Canada’s headquarters in Montreal, the company has been preparing for a massive technological change in the recruitment industry. As a result, artificial intelligence and algorithms now allow job seekers to apply for positions with a swipe of a finger.
With 7,900 jobs searched for and 2,900 positions viewed every minute on its worldwide network, Monster looked at where candidates go, how they search, and how social media is involved in the job-seeking process to help engineer its new technology.
When the global online job recruitment company was acquired two years ago by Randstad, a Dutch human resources firm, it signalled the start of a “new path” for the company, Ms. Payne says.
That involved boosting its search algorithms by harnessing semantic search capability, which looks not only at keywords but also at the contextual use of those words to hone in on more suitable openings. The company also utilized AI to build résumé assessment tools to help candidates understand the strength of their applications, as well as launching its smartphone application.
“Those things are all either enabled by AI or they’re things that as a tech organization we’ve had to pivot — just based on the rate of change in the market,” Ms. Payne says.
As a result of the new technology and mobile app, the company has seen a 20-per-cent increase in applications worldwide.
The launch of Google for Jobs in Canada last April hinted at an overhaul of the entire recruitment industry, using artificial intelligence and algorithms in conjunction with Google’s comprehensive search engine to present job seekers with a more tailored range of job postings.
While that rise will help companies fill job vacancies with the right kind of talent, for the candidates themselves, presenting their talents and skill sets in the best possible light is another vital part of the process. And that process is becoming ever more difficult with the increased use of applicant tracking systems to screen résumés and parse relevant keywords and alignment of skill sets with the job descriptions.
To help counter that, Monster’s résumé assessment tool relies on machine learning to give feedback on the content of the résumé .
As Ms. Payne says, it’s very hard to look at your own résumé and put yourself in the best light, adding it’s easier when another set of eyes can do that for you, even virtual ones.
“It’s really challenging to get through applicant tracking systems to get to the recruiter’s desk and ultimately get to the hiring manager amongst hundreds of candidates,” she says.
As 30,000 downloads a month of its smartphone app illustrates, recruitment companies these days have to be in the mobile space to be relevant. Monster embraced this reality when it released the app last year, allowing candidates the ability to upload a résumé from a virtual storage app such as Dropbox and apply to relevant positions in seconds.
“The reality is if you’re looking for a job and you’re currently employed, or you’re on the road, you’re probably not sitting in front of your desktop,” Ms. Payne says. “You’re using mobile and that has enabled people to search much easier and much faster and also apply.”
Those in the recruitment industry recognize that the use of AI is here to stay, but while it has its uses, it also has its limitations.
“AI is in recruitment, period,” says Mary Barroll, president of Toronto-based recruitment firm TalentEgg. “It’s really improved leaps and bounds.”
Ms. Barroll says that the use of AI can help manage the candidate experience, both from the company’s perspective and that of the applicant. For instance, young candidates just looking to get on the job ladder are seeking face-to-face contact with employers to understand where they fit in in terms of their skill set and experience. So the use of things such as chatbots to keep candidates updated as to where they are in the recruitment process are valuable to prevent candidates from feeling their applications were launched into a “black hole.”
However, she adds that employers need to realize that young people today are technology savvy, so employers should avoid trying to pass off AI for a real person.
“It has its good and bad parts, because on the one hand [candidates] do really want to have a personal experience,” she says. “On the other hand, it at least keeps them feeling like they’re being updated as to the process.”
The use of algorithms to process a large slew of résumés, looking for certain keywords corresponding to the job description, can have its benefits. For one thing, it prevents time-wasting, for both sides in the job-search process.
“That’s really terrific in terms of saving time and money from the employer’s perspective,” Ms. Baroll says. “It’s also not a terrible thing if you’re an applicant and they tell you you’re not qualified for this role, try again next time.”
In addition, with companies increasingly trying to improve the diversity of their work forces, the use of AI and algorithms can help achieve those goals as well, by feeding in instructions to ignore variables such as gender, age, or a person’s name, for example. In that way, it counters natural human biases, conscious or otherwise.
However, Ms. Baroll adds that in this way the system is open to being “gamed” somewhat, particularly by people who recognize what variables the system is looking for and use that to push themselves higher up a shortlist. Consequently, many of these AI systems are only as good as the keywords they are looking for, or the soft skills they are trying to measure.
“I think it’s actually pretty crucial going forward,” she says. “There’s no doubt that AI is an important tool, I would just say that it’s not a complete panacea.”