If you've been looking for a new job recently, then you will already know how technology-driven the job market has become. Pop into a recruitment agency and they will send you away to submit your details online. CVs are routinely screened not by human beings, but by recruitment software that decides on the basis of key word searches who should be shortlisted or rejected. In addition, employers will be investigating your "virtual presence." This includes your online CV, Linkedin or Twitter profile and a sneaky look at your Facebook page or other "data trails" that you may have left on the internet.
And if you thought that the recruitment process couldn't get any more "techy," one of my career coaching clients related their experience this week of a "virtual interview."
Rather than a dialogue with a real life interviewer, they were given written questions in advance and had to speak their answers directly into a webcam. Their monologue was recorded so that the employer could then access the recording at their leisure and compare candidate responses .
Now you can see the advantages of this for the company. It's cheap, efficient, no one has to travel and you can pretty much dismiss unsuitable candidates early on, whereas interview protocol usually dictates that you let the full interview run its course, even if you know within the first 5 minutes there is no way you are going to hire them.
There are also undoubtedly benefits for the candidate. It's a real boon for anyone prone to interview nerves and you can practice and rehearse your answers before recording them.
But, recruitment should be about finding the best person for the job. Increasingly the growing sophistication of recruitment technology means that candidates must not only be good at their own job, they need to be very technically savvy about recruitment processes too.
Regardless of how good the candidates' answers may be, virtual interviews are going to put undue emphasis on the individual's appearance, level of comfort in front of a camera and the overall effect will be enhanced or potentially sabotaged by the lighting, camera angle, sound and editing. Does an individual have to be video-savvy in order to work in a completely unrelated job such as mortgage broker?
In some respects, the job market has always favoured those who are able to "sell themselves" and present confidently to an employer. These individuals are likely to do as well via webcam as they would at a normal interview. However, the fast-changing recruitment technology continually presents new trip hazards for candidates.
As a career coach, I see this on a daily basis. Candidates who are clearly very skilled at what they do fall at the first fence in a recruitment process because they do not understand, for instance, that their CV needs to be in a particular format to upload on to a recruitment database, or how to manage their Linkedin profile. While I can advise them, or they can access this information via books and online, the reality is that there are many suitable candidates out there who still have no idea of how the recruitment processes really work. While this is an issue for the individuals, it also has significant implications for the employer because it undoubtedly means that they are missing out on some top talent.
The technology also tends to depersonalize the recruitment process from the candidates perspective. Both organisations and recruitment agencies should remember that every contact with a candidate is a potential PR opportunity or disaster for the company. If candidates feel they are treated well and fairly then they are more likely to become an "engaged" and loyal member of staff or if rejected, they will at least take away with them a more positive perception of the organisation. Given that candidates can also be customers, suppliers, brand ambassadors, then damage limitation is important.
For instance, candidates may spend hours working on an application but rarely receive any acknowledgement that their application has been received let alone considered. A nicely worded reject email that shows some sensitivity costs nothing but is meaningful for the candidate who, after all, has probably invested a great deal of time and psychological energy on their application. The more remote relationship between agencies and candidates also seems to have allowed some of the worst agency recruitment practices to flourish, such as posting fake jobs on websites, hoping to attract individuals with itchy feet, so that they can contact their employer to backfill their role once they have moved. Agencies should also remember that candidates have long memories and wherever they can, will influence decisions on which agency their organisations should use in the future, and which to avoid.
Recruitment will continue to be technologically driven but employers and recruiters should remember that at the heart of it are real individuals who deserve consideration, respect and who may not be reducible to a key word search term.
Corinne Mills is a career coach and Managing Director of Personal Career Management, the leading specialist career coaching and outplacement company (www.personalcareermanagement.com). She is also author of several best- selling career books including "You're Hired! How to write a brilliant CV" and "Career Coach"