HR Goes Digital: Recruiting of the Future

March 11, 2020

The latest trends in recruiting

Companies all around the world have made digitization their number one priority these past years. Also HR management, and particularly recruiting, have been transformed by the digital revolution. But what exactly are the digital opportunities to be gained by human resources departments? And what are the benefits? Are algorithms the best choice in recruiting? On the occasion of the new short program “Recruiting Campus” – jointly developed by the WU Executive Academy and HR specialists ePunkt – digitization expert Martin Giesswein and Claudia Hoffmann, HR business partner at Boehringer Ingelheim, discuss and analyze the latest trends in recruiting, pinpointing the helpful potential of modern technologies as well as steps in the hiring processes that still and always will require human input.

digital/analogue recruiting handshake
In which areas of recruiting does digitization make sense, and what are the advantages?

Candidate Journey

A survey conducted by Stepstone found that, starting with their first impression of the company, applicants have up to 40 touchpoints with future employers before their first day at the job. These touchpoints include job announcements, career platforms, social media channels, the application process itself, and onboarding. These are all interfaces that digital tools can turn into positive experiences: “There can be no effective touchpoint management without digital technologies,” Martin Giesswein says. However, an intuitive interface and flawless operation are key. An online application tool that keeps crashing will surely cause frustration among applicants. There is another point that is often overlooked: “Most employers fail to make their values and corporate culture transparent and visible to applicants. Also with regard to these aspects, there should be a match between the applicant and the future employer,” Giesswein explains.

“Employers need to be supported in boosting transparency,” Martin Giesswein says. Digital tools can be used to this end in application management: “Often, candidates are informed about the outcome of their applications by mail or, even worse, do not receive a response at all. A better option would be to install an instant feed,” the expert suggests.

Employee Experience

Just as much as a positive candidate journey, employers should strive to offer a good employee experience, which encompasses factors such as working conditions, corporate culture, incentives for increased productivity, and leadership qualities. The LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report, which is based on interviews with 7,000 HR professionals from 35 countries on the topics of recruiting and headhunting, reveals that 96% of respondents are redoubling their efforts to create a beneficial employee experience. Among the perks envisaged as a result are improved staff retention rates, a boost in the employer’s image among generation Z applicants, and a rise in productivity. At the same time, many enterprises lack resources and staff to adequately implement a positive employee experience.

Active Sourcing

The times in which high potentials applied to companies on their own account are long gone in many sectors. Today, businesses actively vie for the best of the best. This is accomplished through traditional headhunting just as much as social recruiting via social media platforms. Austria alone counts 4.7 million social media users. User profiles on these platforms provide valuable information about potential candidates for a vacancy.

Pic of a smartphone of a recruiting agent
Social media has long arrived in executive search - for active communication and as a source of information. Photo © CC0 Licence

“High potentials leave numerous traces online, both with regard to successes and setbacks, lending them a competitive edge if they want to be found by a suitable employer,” Martin Giesswein explains. More and more recruiters actively look for well-suited candidates on what is sometimes referred to as the hidden labor market – i.e. people working at other organizations. Recruiters use methods such as a Boolean search, which uses certain commands in Google searches to find candidates that match their requirements more quickly. Also Boehringer Ingelheim posts vacancies on its own career platform while simultaneously engaging in an active search for candidates using career platforms such as Xing and LinkedIn: “We conduct a targeted search for the ‘right fit,’ and a match with our values is a key criterion of our hiring policy: diversity – a healthy mix regarding gender, age, and ethnicity in the team – is particularly important to us,” Claudia Hoffmann says about her organization’s priorities. At the moment, the Vienna location of the pharmaceutical company employs about 2,400 people in research, development, production, and sales. Moreover, as the enterprise’s CEE business is managed from Vienna, the HR team frequently also has to fill key leadership and expert positions. This has an impact on the active sourcing of personnel conducted by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Portrait Claudia Hoffmann

Claudia Hoffmann

  • HR Businesspartner at Boehringer Ingelheim

Especially when suitable candidates are directly contacted – as opposed to using other channels – HR staff must be quick, professional, and attempt at building long-term relationships with candidates. Talent pooling and talent relationship management for future hiring or recommendations are just as important as filling current vacancies.

It’s a Match!

Various platforms increasingly use smart algorithms to compare applicants against job profiles, which significantly shortens the time span needed for an initial screening. This is a good example of how digital tools greatly facilitate recruiting. “Recruiting is a highly sensitive field, which is why we have to choose carefully where we want to employ digital technologies for support,” Martin Giesswein says. “From my point of view, such technologies should not make human interaction redundant but open up new spaces for it.” He calls for a kind of digital humanism in Europe: “Digitization should be an aid to people, and I believe Europe could be an important pioneer in this endeavor.” He explains that many Asian countries use digital means for so-called social monitoring, punishing people and keeping them under surveillance, and in the USA, “it is all about the ‘survival of the fittest,’ in which the applicant most skillful in using algorithms to his or her advantage wins.” What’s important in this context: “Algorithms are sometimes based on an unconscious bias that is programmed into the software by human beings.”

Boehringer Ingelheim is aware of this issue and consciously addresses the topic of bias in recruiting: “We train all of our HR business partners and recruiting managers as well as executives to be mindful of any unconscious bias,” Claudia Hoffmann explains. “We use algorithms in, for instance, digital campaigns to directly contact applicants based on their jobs or professions who might be a good match for our company. We do not yet use automatic filtering in the selection of applicants. Of course, we have an eye on AI trends and are, in general, open to considering the use of matching software. However, at the moment we regard current technologies, particularly in the German-speaking area, as not yet mature enough to live up to our quality standards. At the end of the day, it is our goal as a company to guarantee that we find the most suitable candidate within a reasonable amount of time. The tools available on the market today still harbor the risk of producing false negatives, meaning that somebody is automatically sorted out because certain keywords are missing from his or her CV. With regard to these aspects, I expect to see a lot of development in the field of recruiting in the next two to three years.”

Martin Giesswein shares his outlook: “It is certainly true that many people, particularly among the younger generation, are extremely digitally savvy. But let’s not forget that people are still living an analog life as well.” That is especially true for people in blue-collar jobs. Concentrating solely on digital tools to staff positions in this field would rule out a large group of people. “It is important to have your target group in mind and address suitable applicants on various channels, both online and offline,” Martin Giesswein concludes.

pic of a recruiting interview
100% digital recruiting will not always lead to the desired results in the future either. Photo © CC0 Licence

In-House Talent Search

More and more organizations select in-house high potentials and talents when staffing positions. Boehringer Ingelheim is set on creating career advancement opportunities within its group and has had good results promoting employees to executive and expert positions. Once a year, a team development discussion takes place at Boehringer Ingelheim: managers and HR business partners engage in a local and global exchange about the ideal set-up of teams, key positions, and promising talents. “If employees are willing to move for a job, wonderful matching opportunities between staff members and vacancies abroad open up. We know our people and usually have a good grasp of which next step would further their professional and personal growth,” Claudia Hoffman says. Additionally, Boehringer Ingelheim also uses a system of internal recommendations: employees receive a bonus if they successfully recommend a suitable candidate for a vacancy. The company uses a digital recommendation tool for this process. Thanks to this tool, internal recommendations have increased by about 40% compared to the times when recommendations were submitted manually. “That makes us very happy because our employees are the most important brand ambassadors our company has.”

For more information about the short program "Recruiting Campus", please click here.

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