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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How Innovations Revolutionize Talent Acquisition

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the spring SourceCon event in Anaheim, CA.  It was chock full of ideas, information, and enthusiasm.  One of the highlights of the trip for me was a presentation by Kerstin Wagner.  Kerstin is the Head of Talent Acquisition for Deutsche Bahn.  The theme of her presentation was “How Innovations Revolutionize Talent Acquisition”.  Thirty minutes into her presentation I took to Twitter and announced to the world that I had a new hero.  Presentations can resonate with you for a variety of reasons, but for me, it was the attitude or philosophy that Kerstin and her team have taken in their quest to become a top employer.  I found it to be very progressive and a great example of how innovation, branding, marketing, and technology can all come together and be an integral part of an overall talent acquisition strategy.  While I could never do this presentation justice by simply putting it into words, I wanted to share some of my key takeaways.

The role of the talent acquisition professional has evolved and must continue to do so
I know that this is a hot topic for many of us and it’s something that I’ve written about previously.  Kerstin and her team have taken it as far as to identify 11 core competencies that make up a successful recruiter.  The most intriguing of these competencies they label as a trendscout.  A trendscout is someone who lives and represents the innovative image of the company.  This outlook was refreshing to me.  I was impressed because not only does the Deutsche Bahn team identify some of the core traits that are required of a modern day recruiter, but they recognize innovation and innovative thought as a core competency that they look for when building a talent acquisition team.  From the onset, it’s apparent that innovation is not only valued, but is considered a necessity. Laying this type of foundation can only help when trying to build a creative culture. 

Anyone can talk about innovation, but you must take action to promote it

As a leader within a talent acquisition function, I can tell you that while I embrace the idea of innovation, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to truly implement it within my team.  Telling someone to “be creative” sounds good but to do it without cultivating an environment that promotes new concepts is an exercise in futility.  Kerstin mentioned several ways in which they encourage innovative behavior and I made sure to take note.  The approach that she outlined highlighted a number of things including market and performance analysis, screening other companies to see how they utilize technology, and constantly challenging processes.  One of my favorite approaches that was mentioned was to constantly monitor technology and technological advances regardless of their application.  Then, brainstorm and derive use cases to utilize these technologies in Talent Acquisition.  The second approach that struck a chord with me was the formulation of digital and social think tanks.  Every 4 weeks a group of people who have volunteered and show a passion for innovation meet and discuss new ideas and philosophies.  These individuals come from various sectors of the business and they are encouraged to brainstorm in a consequence free environment.  I loved this idea.  Organizing a group of people who are interested in challenging the status quo and giving them the opportunity to express themselves in a space where they can feel comfortable I think hits the mark.  These are great ways to promote creative thinking but it can’t stop there. 

Leadership plays a key role in establishing an innovative culture

Applause rang out at SourceCon when Kerstin made the following statement “How can I ask my team to be trendscouts if I’m not being a trendscout myself?”  From my perspective, the message here is very clear.  Your leadership must embrace change and new ideas.  It’s impossible to foster a truly creative environment if the members of your team are met with nothing but resistance from the people they look to as an example.  Kerstin went on to mention a number of other things that are important for leaders to do.  Leaders must recruit employees with an innovative mind set.  They must encourage collaboration.  Again, talking about this is not good enough.  Facilitating meetings that encourage innovative thinking, promoting and recognizing new ideas, and letting the employees take control of their own creative process is key. 

Technology is to be embraced

If you want candidates to view your company as a cutting-edge company that is innovative and embraces new ideas it’s not in your best interest to be a technophobe.  Sometimes new technology can be intimidating and hard to trust.  Ask my parents and their VCR from 1994.  When utilized properly and taken advantage of, new technology can be a huge advantage for you.  This is especially true when you can tap into a technology before your competitors do.  It makes you stand out.  It differentiates you from the crowd.  I thought that some of the things they were doing at Deutsche Bahn were really cool.  I know that’s an oversimplification but trust me when I tell you that as I watched the presentation I just kept thinking “that is really cool”.  I will give you some examples.  Let’s say that you want a potential candidate to understand what a day in the life looks like when assessing a new job possibility.  Why not tap into new Virtual Reality technology and provide them with a look into what they will be doing?  This is something that they are doing and I love the idea.  You’re telling the candidate that not only do we talk the talk, we walk the walk.  Another thing that was highlighted came as a result of the use cases and the think tank that I mentioned earlier.  After observing the use of holograms from another industry, Deutsche Bahn had discussed the idea in one of their think tanks.  From there, they devised a way to apply it to talent acquisition and developed a prototype.  Now, with a smartphone as well as an inexpensive and easily accessible prism, candidates can receive a holo transported message.  After seeing this technology in action I was impressed by the impact that it could have and how it could affect your employment brand. 

All in all, it was fantastic to see how a large company could embrace innovation within talent acquisition and utilize the latest and greatest technology to work for them.  To me, this was a perfect example of human ingenuity and machine based advances coming together to produce a world class experience for potential candidates. 

Will Maurer is currently living his dream as a Talent Sourcing Manager.  His opinions are strictly his own and do not reflect the opinion of his employer.  He will tell you that all of the credit for this article belongs to Kerstin Wagner and her amazing team.  Will is a self-proclaimed recruiting nerd who has a healthy obsession with talent acquisition and an unhealthy obsession with tacos.  You can routinely catch him rambling at  He is offering to buy you a cookie at the next SourceCon if you subscribe to his blog.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Semantic Search Insights

This is from a recent post on the Career Builder resources page.  
GM Exec Shares Semantic Search Secrets to Up Your Talent Sourcing Game
A critical part of a winning recruitment strategy is being able to proactively source the right candidates at the right time. Do you or your team use semantic search or resume parsing techniques today as part of your talent sourcing efforts, or are you planning to in the near future? What should you know about and expect from semantic search efforts?
Get semantic search secrets from a pro. We asked Will Maurer, global sourcing manager at General Motors, for his insights.

CB: What is your perception of semantic search within recruiting today?

WM: I have observed a major increase in the implementation of semantic search technology within our industry. Of course it was initially greeted with a number of questions and a certain level of skepticism. As I grew to understand the methodology behind semantic search it really started to make sense.
For years, recruiting and sourcing professionals have relied on complex Boolean searches in order to extract information from databases and the open web. It only makes sense that at some point technological advancement would intervene and make this process simpler for the user.
While I think a lot of folks still have questions around the methodology, there is little doubt that semantic search can be a big time saver. This becomes increasingly important in a corporate recruiting function, where people are balancing a number of responsibilities and may not have the time to generate a number of complex search strings. 

CB: Where do you see semantic search impacting recruitment in the future?

WM: I see semantic search ultimately being a large time saver as well as a useful tool for those folks who may not be well-versed in traditional search syntax.
Search strings, as we traditionally know them, can be cumbersome to someone breaking into the industry and anyone who has limited knowledge of the various facets of the skill set that they are trying to recruit for.
In this way, I see semantic search as a way to alleviate issues and ultimately get talent acquisition professionals to the types of the candidates that they’re looking for faster.

CB: How do you see semantic search and Boolean interacting?

WM: The interaction between semantic search and Boolean is an interesting topic to me, and it’s [a subject] I’ve heard a number of people take different stances on.
For me, personally, there is room for both in a proper sourcing strategy.
The fact that semantic search can identify a large number of the relevant keywords surrounding a concept or notion simplifies the process for a lot of people. Some would argue that you no longer have to do exhaustive research identifying alternate keywords and all of the different ways potential candidates can express similar ideas on their resume. While that can be valuable, I think there is always a place for Boolean in a precise and “deep dive” search.
I appreciate the fact that semantic search can help formulate searches by making certain assumptions for me, but I also believe that it’s not safe to assume. At times variations on keywords or concepts that are brought in by semantic search are not actually what I’m looking for. With that said, I do believe that as semantic search continues to evolve, the ability to manipulate the search and truly hone in will increase and may eliminate the need for traditional Boolean.