Why renowned recruiter Steve Levy believes that recruiting technology in the wrong hands is as dangerous as a gun in the wrong hands.
As the principal and founder of Recruiting Inferno Consulting, Steve Levy specializes in personalized recruiting practices that focus on building relationships with candidates. As a member of the Jones Beach Lifeguard Corps, Steve knows one thing for sure: There is nothing more important than a human touch.
His motto? “Tools don’t recruit. People do.” In 2017, the big news won’t be about artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics; rather, Steve believes that today’s social and political environment demands a return to personal relationships and an end to poorly-written job descriptions.
What do you see as some big lessons learned in 2016, looking back on the year?
I think there has been a reaffirmation of something that many of us already knew, which is that tools don’t recruit candidates, people do. As technical as I am, for some reason I have become one of the de facto leaders of personalization and reaching out personally.
For example, at SourceCon in 2014, I asked the crowd, “How many of you reach out to employers and use the word ‘love’ about a candidate and say that they are a perfect fit, all before you even know who the candidate is or even what the real job is?” What I said to the crowd was, “You say you love these candidates that you are trying to sell but you don’t mean it because you don’t know them. So you’re lying from the start.” That’s when people started finally, really talking about the fact that tools don’t recruit good candidates, good recruiters do.
Recruiters are helping companies make exceptionally important decisions, and yet we lie to them about how much we actually know about these candidates we are recommending. And so, what I see in 2016 is more people realizing that candidate engagement – really knowing your candidates – is one of the most important things we can do in recruiting.
It’s all about relationships at the end of the day, right?
Yes. Compare it to dating, for example. At the end of the day Tinder might be great for hook-ups, but I’m not really thinking it’s great for long-term relationships. You need to have a relationship to make a real human connection.
Do you see that continuing in 2017? How does that impact technology?
Much of the automation – the “AI” technology – all use pretty much the same learning engine. It’s really good technology and it’s very good at dealing with the very well-defined operational issues, but when it comes to the personal stuff that we all do on a day-to-day basis – the things that make us human – they aren’t so great. We have many, many years to go before technology alone becomes the best way of recruiting.
The personalization, the relationship, the being able to find that visceral connection between your company and the person you’d like to bring to your company is still so damn important. That’s not going away for a very long time. Folks are finally realizing that.
The folks who are most excited about the technology are the ones who don’t recruit – those who don’t know anything about recruiting. This is why we’re seeing more companies reaching out to recruiters to be their hiring advisors, which, in my opinion, is a very, very smart move.
Do you see technology as an enabler in allowing recruiters to create those personalized relationships and experiences for candidates?
It always is. Technologies are like guns and bullets. In the right hands, pretty amazing things happen. In the wrong hands, pretty bad things occur. It’s an enabler only so far as you are able to incorporate a real human element into it.
Do you see any headwinds as we go into 2017? Are there any obstacles you think that recruiting and hiring professionals will be facing?
I look at political, economic, social and technological trains coming down the tracks, and I ask myself, how can these positively and negatively impact my recruiting and the way I do business, at least here in the States? The political environment is going to have some impact. It may just be a ripple this year, but at some point, I think all these moves are going to make people less trusting of companies.
Now, mind you, I’m an engineer who’s crossed over to the dark side. I’m a very big believer in automation, but I’m also a big believer in that there are human functions in business which are, in fact, human functions. Can’t get away from them. But political movements always impact the economic and social changes. We’ve been talking about the gig economy for a very long time. Will this be the year that more people start doing it?
Do you see the gig economy transforming itself in ways that affect how people recruit and hire?
I see the gig economy modifying, changing, giving people more options to work. At the end of the day, it’s like the tail wagging the dog, or the dog wagging the tail, whichever way you want to look at it. Is it the chicken or the egg? Are people going to conform to companies and hiring managers, or are hiring managers and companies going to conform to the needs and desires of people? As we move towards more of a gig economy, the job description becomes less of a concern. The ability to perform becomes the primary concern for hiring managers because the job description in and of itself is a pretty poor recruiting document.
A job description describes someone who might turn out to be maybe a C or B player because it doesn’t offer a sense of performance. People are hired to solve problems. Pick any random job description, read it and try to define the problem the company is trying to solve with that position. It’s very rare to be able to do that by looking at a job description.
Personally, my preference is to recruit people for their ability to solve problems. To recruit for their performance. In my opinion, that’s not going to change in the gig economy. My strategy and philosophy of recruiting isn’t going to change. Define the length of the project, define the statement of work, and then you find the people who want to do that job where it is, at the price point offered.
What should recruiters do to maintain that network of relationships so they can tap into it when they have a need?
That’s a good question. The thing to do is this: you have to get out there. You have to get out from behind your desk and immerse yourself into the communities where you know the people you’re looking for live and breathe. That’s actually one of the things I’m known for. I get out there. I go to events. I speak to people. How do you get somebody to finally date you? Not just date you but to be part of a serious relationship? It’s trust. It’s time. It’s honesty. It’s talking. It’s listening. It’s looking at people in the eyes. It’s helping them.
You mentioned job descriptions. Can those change at all to make it more of a human experience and to gauge the performance capability of someone, or is that only possible when you’re having a personal interaction with the candidate?
They can be made better. Job descriptions, they follow the lemming principle. People will just cut and paste the same job description from last year, and guess what? The job description is not a recruiting document. The job description is a compensation document, really, and it’s unfortunate. Many recruiters don’t understand job creating or job evaluation because all job descriptions really are most of the time are compensation documents.
I say focus on performance. For example, in the first 90 to 180 days after a new hiring, the hiring manager will know whether they made a good choice if the hire has been able to accomplish A, B, C, D and E. I mean come on, seriously? If I’m hiring a technical writer, do I really need to write a job description that explains to candidates what a technical writer is? If so, I’m not sure you’re going to hire right person. In fact, I think you’re pretty darn stupid.