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3 Dos and Don’ts of Technology-driven Hiring Decisions

By Mac Tefft

Big data these days is a ubiquitous term. It can come from anywhere, including banking habits, criminal records, social media pages and postings, and other more directly work-related sources such as customer feedback or sales performance histories. Increasingly, big data and new technologies are being applied to HR decisions as organizations seek ways to automate hiring and firing decisions using data available on candidates and employees.  Most HR professionals are either jumping in full force to this wave of the future or sitting cautiously on the sideline to avoid being dragged in as a risky early adopter.

Technology Hiring Dos and Don'tsPersonnel decisions like hiring can be made faster and more effective with the improved collection and analysis of data. After all, we humans have quite a history of slowing down the hiring process by introducing biases irrelevant to the decisions at hand, which leads to all sorts of negative consequences. Here in the United States, a multitude of federal regulations have been put in place to safeguard against these biases in personnel decisions, dating back most notably to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the litany of ensuing court cases and additional guidelines and standards created to ensure fairness in employment practices.

One study found that 60 percent of companies are investing in big data in some form, yet the strategic, sound practices around it are varied and perceived as a challenge. Not only is it important to learn how to use data and technology appropriately, it’s important to learn how it can be misused and to avoid those situations.

When we use data and technology at the expense of other more reliable means for gathering information to be used to make hiring decisions, we actually may be hindering the overall effectiveness of our process simply to improve one metric (e.g., speed of decision making). As a result, we should ask some careful questions about where and when to jump into the use of such technologies, such as:

  • What can be learned from these technological advances which can provide information more efficiently and with equal or better accuracy as current practices?
  • In which part of the hiring process is the use of technology best applied?
  • What information could be reused if captured throughout the hiring process (e.g., candidate application information and interview data)?

These questions can help us figure out the best use of this technology. As we are thinking about where to best leverage data to improve our HR decisions and how to safeguard against over-reliance upon it, I have some recommendations as you consider updating your HR technology strategies.

#1: Social media

DON’T: Discount a candidate for not having a social media presence or use what you learn in the search as sole criteria for hiring or not hiring someone. Who hasn’t Googled potential applicants and reviewed their social media pages to identify potential red flags? However, unless the job description involves having a social media presence, it would be difficult to argue it’s a bona fide occupational qualification to maintain one. So, while it may raise your curiosity about why a candidate doesn’t have any social presence, don’t read into things.

DO: Use social media to get to know candidates before meeting them. Learn more about the candidate as you attempt to sell the organization and build a positive experience for them. You can tailor your interview questions based on information gleaned from sites like LinkedIn and other professional sites.

In this example, technology can be used to re-focus the use of humans in a more efficient and purposeful manner, rather than taking humans completely out of the process. Using technology can help interviewers conduct consistent interviews across the company for similar jobs, or receiving background information about the candidate prior to the interview, which can be as helpful as generating automated decisions based on big data.

#2: New technology

DON’T: Jump on unproven technology that doesn’t have enough research behind it. Many brand-new technologies promise outstanding outcomes involving everything from automating decisions based on big data banks to conducting your background research for you on candidates (and even mining your own employees). During last year’s HR Technology Conference in Chicago, a host of vendors were touting solutions that could automatically scour social media for candidates and help match and evaluate candidates for organizations. This sounds very cool as one way to help uncover potential red-flags for interviewees who use social media openly and honestly, but there isn’t enough data out there to know if this would help the hiring process. Surely, though, some of these products will prove to add enormous value, and we may look back five years from now and wonder how we ever hired people before such technology existed. But in the meantime…

DO: Run your own tests. Experiment with new technologies and measure the impact on intended outcomes. Be sure quality of hire isn’t impacted. Think about the questions posed earlier and look for specific areas that can be tested. Avoid replacing entire processes with a piece of technology that is intended to only solve one of many criteria you hope to achieve.

#3: Humans as decision makers

DON’T: Remove humans from the decision-making process altogether. It’s tempting to seek out a hiring process where information is automatically gathered, analyzed by sophisticated algorithms, and candidates are filtered and provided upon request. Certainly, this would seem to remove all human bias, provide ultimate fairness and consistency, and be more efficient than manual processes, right? But even if we can eventually fully and accurately automate the ability to measure non-verbal communication or be able to automatically measure everything to predict the successful employee, we humans still have a need to feel needed in making the decision.

In reality, no selection tool (automated or otherwise) makes perfect decisions, so there will always be mistakes in hiring decisions. Our job as HR professionals is to minimize the poor decisions and maximize the right ones. As such, when we are left out of the process, it’s human nature to feel as though hiring decisions would turn out better if we had more input. The good news is humans still can make good hiring decisions while using technology. For example, when using trained interviewers following a solid behavioral interviewing process, humans can still make effective hiring decisions.

DO: Look for areas where technology can perform activities more efficiently and accurately than humans or ways technology can may humans more effective. A simple example over the last five or so years is video-based interviewing. While many organizations still resist relying solely on video-based interviews which are pre-recorded, they do find ways to interview candidates remotely via Skype or similar software, or even capture video interview responses for screening interviews, which saves travel costs and logistical nightmares for individuals that won’t make the cut for a final interview.

For those who have already begun the experimentation with advanced technology in talent acquisition, you can probably list many other examples of how to and how not to use technology in your HR processes. These are my top three after talking to dozens of organizations and talent acquisition consultants over the last few years.

As our exploration of technology in talent acquisition continues, we’d like to know specifically how you would view some potential digital solutions as part of your interviewing process? Fill out our Digital Interviewing Survey to shape future solutions and points-of-view (and have a chance to win one of several $25 Amazon Gift Cards!)

Mac TefftMac Tefft is a leader in DDI’s Global Practices focused on aligning many of DDI’s digital solutions to client’s business needs. When he’s not exploring new ways to leverage technology across various leadership solutions, Mac can often be found exploring the great outdoors; fishing, hiking, and camping with his wife and two children.

Posted: 06 Sep, 2017,

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