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Ep 435: Personalization (Part Two)

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This is part two of my mini-series on personalization. So to recap, I feel very strongly that personalization is the new Megatrend in Talent Acquisition. Offering personalized recruitment marketing, candidate journies, assessments, feedback, onboarding, and communication will be critical objectives for employers over the next few years. Candidates are demanding it, the technology is here to facilitate it, and the amount of friction that will get removed from recruiting processes will be a win for candidates, recruiters and hiring managers.

So what is possible, and how are employers dealing with the practicalities of personalization in talent acquisition?

A few weeks ago, the awesome team at Paradox invited me to speak and record some interviews at their client board event in Scottsdale, Arizona. Paradox is a technology that is really driving the progress of personalization. It was very insightful to talk to some of their clients about the need for personalization in their TA processes and the change journies they are taking their recruiters and hiring managers on to make personalization happen.

In this second set of interviews from the event (check out Episode 435 if you want to hear the others), you’ll hear from Derek Braun, Staffing and Recruiting Manager at GoWireless and Steffanie Chaviano, VP of Talent and Patient Access at Autism Learning Partners. Derek and Steffanie talk us through their experiences of using conversational AI to transform the effectiveness of their recruiting strategies. First up, though, is Adam Godson, Chief Product Officer at Paradox, talking about some of the psychology behind conversational interfaces.

These are some of the topics you’ll find discussed in this episode:

• Personalisation at scale

• The psychological elements of conversation design

• Using conversation to drive processes

• Connect with people, not software

• How technology is affecting recruiter career choices

• Handling high volumes of applicant flow is an engaging way.

• The importance of being user friendly for hiring managers

• What does the future of talent acquisition look like

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts

Interview transcript:

Paradox (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by Paradox, the Conversational AI company helping global talent acquisition teams at Unilever, McDonald’s, and CVS health get recruiting work done faster. Let’s face it, talent acquisition is full of boring administrative tasks that drag the hiring process down and create frustrating experiences for everyone. Paradox’s AI assistant, Olivia, is shaking up that paradigm, automating things like applicant screening, interview scheduling, and candidate Q&A so recruiters can spend more time with people, not software.

Paradox (40s):
Curious how Olivia can work for your team? Then visit paradox.ai to learn more.

Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 435 of the Recruiting Future Podcast, which is also part two of my mini series on personalization. To recap, I feel very strongly that personalization is the new megatrend in talent acquisition. Offering personalized recruitment marketing, candidate journeys, assessments, feedback, onboarding, and communication will be critical objectives for employers over the next few years. Candidates are demanding it, the technology is here to facilitate it, and the amount of friction that will get removed from the recruiting process will be a win for candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers.

Matt Alder (1m 53s):
What’s possible and how are employers dealing with the practicalities of personalization in talent acquisition? A few weeks ago, the awesome team at Paradox invited me to speak and record some interviews at their client board event in Scottsdale, Arizona. Paradox is a technology that is really driving the progressive personalization. It was very insightful to talk to some of their clients about the need for personalization in their TA processes and the change journeys they are taking their recruiters and hiring managers on to make personalization happen. In this second set of interviews from the event, check out episode 434 if you want to hear the others, you’ll hear from Derek Braun, Staffing and Recruiting Manager at GoWireless, and Steffanie Chaviano, VP of Talent and Patient Access at Autism Learning Partners.

Matt Alder (2m 44s):
Derek and Steffanie talk us through their experiences of using conversational AI to transform the effectiveness of their recruiting strategies. First up though, is Adam Godson, Chief Product Officer at Paradox, talking about some of the psychology behind conversational interfaces. Hi Adam, welcome to the podcast.

Adam Godson (3m 6s):
Thanks, Matt. Great to be with you.

Matt Alder (3m 7s):
Yes. Well, it’s brilliant to be talking with you and it’s great to be at the event in this fantastic location. For people listening, can you just introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?

Adam Godson (3m 16s):
Yes. y name’s Adam Godson. I’m Chief Product Officer at Paradox. Paradox is a conversational AI for Talent Acquisition. My role is to come up with what our assistant should do and then to make that happen.

Matt Alder (3m 29s):
Give us a bit of history. How long have you been doing that? What’s your background? How’d you to get to be the Chief Product Officer?

Adam Godson (3m 33s):
I’m a recruiting industry guy. I started my career as a recruiter doing volume recruitment and had a few stops doing that, then spent almost 10 years in RPO with CLO, a global leader in RPO, in the technology space, to help build that function there, and then got to see all the technology and put together all the tech stacks on earth, and then was able to join the team at Paradox in their ascendance and really start to drive a new version of technology that we thought could change the Talent Acquisition industry.

Matt Alder (4m 8s):
The thing that we’ve been talking to everyone about, and it’s come through as a very clear theme and it came through in the presentation that you gave yesterday, is personalization in Talent Acquisition. I think it’s been something that has been a bit of a holy grail for a long time, in terms of how do we give a personalized experience to applicants and indeed to recruiters. Tell us a little bit about your view on personalization in TA.

Adam Godson (4m 32s):
Absolutely. I think some of it comes down to breaking down what Talent Acquisition is really about, and then the transformative technology that we’re applying in conversational AI. As we think about talent acquisition, it really comes down to really a few things. It’s about conversations. It’s about some degree of matching and decision making. Do these things fit each other, some decisions? There’s a boatload of boring stuff. We call it the BS, the administrative work, that happens, but so much has driven in conversations. Conversation between manager and recruiter, between candidate and recruiter, between a candidate and hiring manager, all about different types of conversations. The scale problem in our industry has always been about those conversations needing to be person to person.

Adam Godson (5m 19s):
Conversely, if you were to take the idea of a boring chat bot, something very basic, the lack of personalization that is involved with the tennis that goes back with the basicness of that exchange. The third way of that is combining those two things. How do we get the personalization that you get in a human conversation with the automation that you’d get through conversational AI? Then being able to do personalized conversation at that scale.

Matt Alder (5m 47s):
I suppose, for people who’ve not seen that in action, just give us a quick example so people can sort of visualize what it might.

Adam Godson (5m 54s):
Yes, absolutely. It’s really comes down to data and what we know about a person and to be able to personalize that conversation. For example, being able to have someone upload a CV and take a look at a resume or a CV, and then being able to ask a question about that CV or something that could be related to something that’s on that CV that hasn’t told someone in that conversation. Much like people are able to infer things based on a conversation, we do that naturally, being able to have data that helps to infer something, to ask a question. To see that someone has been served in the armed forces and then be able to deliver them a question or some content about programs at the company that lend themselves to veterans, that type of thing, to be able to personalize based on what we can know or infer about someone.

Matt Alder (6m 46s):
I suppose the interesting fact about that is that obviously there’s a big logistics part of that in terms of making the process quicker and simpler and whatever, but I’m guessing from a candidate perspective, there’s a bit of a fundamental human thing about actually being heard and understood in a way that a company probably couldn’t do with humans or human recruiters at scale.

Adam Godson (7m 5s):
Absolutely. There is a psychological element about conversations as well. We see that in lots of our data. We want people to know they’re having a conversation that is automated, but feel like the conversation is real subconsciously. We see that when people say thank you to Olivia or our assistance, and they did two and half million times last year, for example. As they carry on asking additional questions in a traditional conversation, that feel is really, really important. The psychological elements of how we build a conversation and do good conversation design or what make that come to life and are able to execute that third way of having an automated but effective conversation.

Matt Alder (7m 47s):
One of the interesting things for me is where you’re taking conversational AI and personalization, I suppose, deeper into the Talent Acquisition process. Yesterday, you were talking about career sites and how it can drive personalization in career sites, which has been a topic that’s been close to my heart for many, many years because I’ve always been passionate about how bad career sites are and how they need to improve. Tell us a little bit about the career side angle on this.

Adam Godson (8m 22s):
I think our perspective is that career sites have gotten a bit upside down, where in an old model of the web, you would have people search for information. Search was the paradigm. In the new model matches the paradigm and be able to push the right content. As I think about career sites, we’ve asked people to do some mental gymnastics that they’re not prepared for. A visitor goes to a career site and they’re asked to search for a job. That job is entirely in the language of the company. “I don’t know that I want to be a systems analyst three in your language. That that doesn’t make any sense to me.” What we do is take that on a flip that on its head and say, “Why don’t you tell us about the thing you know best, which is you?

Adam Godson (9m 4s):
We’ll ask you questions about your desires, what you want to do, what your experience is, and we’ll match that to our language and say, ‘This job sounded like they’re a good fit for you. Do you agree?'” Then be able to push them content and other jobs that are relevant to that, basically what we know about you. Again, just flipping that paradigm from expecting that candidate to know the language and to search into let’s match and suggest to that candidate based on what we know.

Matt Alder (9m 29s):
One of the other things that’s come up, and it came up in the conversation that I was leading in the session that I had with Madeline this morning, is about how this affects recruiters and how companies are managing the change in terms of this new way of working and what the impact is for recruiters if parts of what they might see as trusting their job are being taken over by conversational AI. What are you seeing from your clients there? What are the challenges? How are they getting through that?

Adam Godson (9m 60s):
I think we see some mixed reaction to some of that. We see that this was discussed some in the room this morning to where some people would become really comfortable with doing the administrative work. They’ve gotten to those rhythms and they feel that that is the work and what that work is going to be. Others have fully embraced the offloading of that work. I think, in many ways, it depends a bit on the individual in what value they get out of being in the Talent Acquisition space. I think folks that have really gotten into the process and some of the administrative parts of it. Will likely need to level up their game to become more process change experts and folks that help design processes rather than execute them.

Adam Godson (10m 41s):
People that have joined because they love conversations and connecting with people will be really empowered by the freeing of administrative work to focus, not 20% of the time on conversations and 80% on boarding staff, but the opposite, to be able to really connect with people.

Matt Alder (11m 1s):
As you’ve been developing and launching these products and seeing how your clients have been using them in the field as it were, what’s the one thing that surprised you the most?

Adam Godson (11m 9s):
Great question. There’s lots of things that surprise me every day. I think one thing that I like about Paradox is being quite data-driven as well. There are things that surprised us regularly where we think, “Wow, that’s not what we maybe expected to see there.” This may sound a bit obvious, but I think the real power and the psychological power of conversations was even greater than I expected. I thought it would be an improvement over processes, but the way that it tends to grab people, and there are reasons for that, people that are engaged with a conversation feel rude to leave it. For example, if they are chatting with Olivia and it feels like they’re chatting with a friend, they feel rude that they just start to ghost that person.

Adam Godson (11m 59s):
We see things like there was a client of ours that had the same process in a traditional ATS, exact same field, exact same thing. Also did it in conversational AI. Conversationally, he got 700% better throughput in a conversation versus a form. Did I think it was going to be better? Yes. 700% better? Maybe not. Things like that, I think the psychological power of conversations and what that has meant from a throughput perspective surprises us even everyday.

Matt Alder (12m 28s):
Final question for you. I always ask people this question, but actually, in some ways, you’re developing the future. What does the future look like? Where is all this going? Where do you hope it’s going?

Adam Godson (12m 43s):
Ultimately, that’s rooted in our values. Make sure that people can connect with people, not software. I expect recruiting processes to be faster. I expect it to be more personalized and I expect it to be more effective. I think if there’s anything that the pandemic has brought out in our industry is a greater focus on talent acquisition. In many ways, companies that were mainly hitting a below average at this have really felt pain and had been forced into transformational change. They’ve had to have that moment where they can’t run their businesses without people. I expect continued investment in this industry and I think we’re in for a real sea of change in ways that make it all better.

Adam Godson (13m 27s):
I think if you’d have asked people the rate at which you can change before the pandemic, they just said, things take a long time. When the business imperative is there, people can change really quickly. Now that that business imperative is there, I think we’re going to see a lot of change in a relatively short period of time, and I think that’ll be changed for the better.

Matt Alder (13m 47s):
Adam, thank you very much for talking to me.

Adam Godson (13m 49s):
Thanks, Matt. Great to be with you.

Matt Alder (13m 50s):
Hi, Derek, and welcome to the podcast. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Derek Braun (13m 54s):
My name is Derek Braun. I run Staffing and Recruiting for a company called Victory, previously, GoWireless. We are a Verizon wireless premium retailer. I run that department, which is 80% of my hiring is through retail. It’s a company that has high turnover. My key problems with my job are one applicant flow. How do I get as many applicants as I can to be interested in working for us as well as the problem with having high applicant flow is how do you handle them?

Derek Braun (14m 37s):
If you’ve got 500 to a thousand applicants on a daily basis, how do you touch each one of those? How do you interact with one of those rather than wait seven days, 10 days, and lose half of the great ones or all the great ones are gone. Now, you’re dealing with the bottom of the barrel and you’re still trying to make them look good and trying to show your hiring managers that this is what you get to pick from now because you took a while to connect.

Matt Alder (15m 8s):
That’s really interesting, I suppose, in terms of one of the things that we’ve been talking about over the last few days is engagement, personalization, and using technology to be able to communicate to those applicants and do some of those things that recruiters would have traditionally traditionally done. Where are you on that process? How important is that to what you’re trying to achieve?

Derek Braun (15m 28s):
Being able to connect with somebody in today’s day and age is consistently getting more difficult. If you’re not using their avenue, their way of communication, you might as well not try to reach out. Don’t grab them from whatever this world of people that are looking for jobs’ realms are because if you try to connect via phone call, one out of a thousand are actually going to answer an unknown number or answer any number. They just don’t answer phone calls. I look at my son who’s 18. I got another one that’s 21.

Derek Braun (16m 9s):
Now, both of them are gainfully employed, but at one point they weren’t. I was chatting with them about trying to find a job and here’s how you interact. Here’s what you need to be looking at. They’re like, “Dad, I don’t check my email. The only reason I have an email is when I sign up for a new application, they send me an email saying that you’re a part of it.” Outside of that, they could care less. Everything that they have comes via what avenue, text message.

Matt Alder (16m 38s):
Absolutely.

Derek Braun (16m 39s):
They do have some other little platforms, the Snapchats, things like that they use just more for fun, but when it’s anything important, what do they do? They text their friends. They text me. I do have meaningful conversations with my kids because I forced them to, but most of the time, when they want to talk to me, it’s a text. What am I getting good at? I’m 47 years old and I’m great at texting. I’ve obviously been through the initiation, but needless to say, with paradox, Olivia, and their avenue to understand that, their ability to understand that simple hiring need or that simple hiring avenue of connecting with somebody as via text it’s, to me, initially, was intrusive to the hiring force today.

Derek Braun (17m 20s):
It’s their avenue. It’s what they feel most comfortable with. You can’t connect somebody with an initial, “Hey, I want to do a video interview.” Sure, that’s to come, but being able to get somebody out of the blue that just applied to your job and being able to have them connect back with you, having an avenue, to be able to say, “Here’s the cool things about my company. Here’s why we might be interested in you and here’s why you might be interested in working for us,” because in today’s hiring day and age, anybody can get a job anywhere. If you’re even slowly considering a job and you’re a passive looker, if I’m a company that’s looking for passive lookers, which are probably the most important, they would be the best people I can find.

Derek Braun (18m 11s):
Olivia gives me that avenue to reach out, connect with them on a personal level. I don’t lose anybody so it becomes simple.

Matt Alder (18m 20s):
I think one of the things that we were talking about this in in the session that we’ve just been in is there’s a lot of change to the way that recruiting has always been done that’s going on here to meet the new expectations of the audience, but also the recruiting challenges that every organization has. What would your advice be to people who are trying to drive that type of change through their organization?

Derek Braun (18m 44s):
It is tough to find change and to be in my position as a manager over staffing recruiting Talent Acquisition, trying to get my people in the field, my hiring managers in the field to pick up a new way, to understand a new avenue or we’re implementing a new process or a new application, trying to get them to actually grab hold of that, to love it, to start using it, to use it to its full potential, is almost a task that is impossible to do. I was nervous. I needed a new way to find people. I needed a new way to interact with people.

Derek Braun (19m 25s):
I researched it and I did. I figured out how do these people in today’s day and age that are looking for a job at what’s their best way to interact? I knew it was via text message. What was the best platform to do it? I looked for a few different ones and I fell on Paradox Olivia, and this was four and a half years ago. We were what we would call an early adopter of this new idea of recruiting, new idea of how to connect with somebody that on that level, on their level. Like I said, the difficult part was yes, I can implement a new idea, but having my people in the field grab a hold of it and actually use this product, it had to be user-friendly.

Derek Braun (20m 12s):
It had to be easily trained, had to be something that, oddly enough, that they were used to using. What are they used to using? Text. That’s how my hiring manager in the field, when somebody is late for work or they didn’t show up, how do they contact them? They use it via text. If they need 10 new iPhone shipped to their store. Well, our avenue in the offices, they send a text to the, to the inventory department, shipped me out five new iPhones shipped to their store, well, our avenue in the office is they send text to their inventory department, “Ship me out 10 new iPhones,” or whatever. That’s just what they were used to So their ability to grab hold of this new process, this new platform was surprisingly easy. My idea of user-friendliness or their ability to grab a hold of something new, I figured after a year, I’d still probably only have 50% of them that were using it to any potential.

Derek Braun (21m 4s):
It was not the case. One training for a half hour, I could train a group, I could train one at a time, whatever. Within a month, they were all using it to the same ability that I was. I’d been using it for six months so it’s very easy to grab a hold of.

Matt Alder (21m 23s):
As a final question, asking you to get your crystal ball out a little bit. Well, what do you think’s next for recruiting? Where are we going? What would we be talking about if we were having this conversation in a couple of years time?

Derek Braun (21m 35s):
I feel like, at some point, the avenue of conversation may not be necessarily via text message. It’ll be an AI, three-dimensional character that pops up out of your watch, but the surprising thing is it could still be Olivia because she interacts on this level of understanding or of making people feel comfortable. Instead of a text message, it’ll be a pop-up on your watch that says, “Hey, this is Olivia with GoWireless. Do you mind if we chat for a little bit? If now’s not a good time, press number one on your watch, and when you’re ready, that’ll take us five minutes.

Derek Braun (22m 16s):
I just want to talk to you.” It’ll be a virtual person that you’re talking to and they’re your recruiting assistant for your company.

Matt Alder (22m 23s):
Derek, thank you very much for talking to me.

Derek Braun (22m 24s):
You’re welcome, Matt.

Matt Alder (22m 25s):
Hi, Stephanie. Welcome to the podcast.

Steffanie Chaviano (22m 27s):
Thank you. Hello. Good to be here.

Matt Alder (22m 27s):
An absolute pleasure to be talking to you. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Steffanie Chaviano (22m 31s):
Absolutely. My name is Stephanie Chaviano. I work for Autism Learning Partners and I am the vice president of talent and patient access.

Matt Alder (22m 41s):
Tell us a little bit more about autism learning partners and the kind of organization that it is.

Steffanie Chaviano (22m 46s):
Yes. I’d love to. Autism learning partners, which I will refer to now as ALP, because that can be a mouthful, originally, was based in California. We are now in 18 states though, have over 70 regions, and we provide behavior therapy to kiddos that are on the spectrum. We do one-to-one in home services.

Matt Alder (23m 1s):
Tell us about the recruiting challenges that you have.

Steffanie Chaviano (23m 4s):
Yes, so our recruiting challenges are actually pretty unique. We do hire at volume. We look to bring in a very high number of new hires on a monthly basis. However, these are individuals that oftentimes need to have some bachelor’s degree or a specific experience and meet a lot of criteria. While our challenges were volume, it also was quality. It was a mixture of both.

Matt Alder (23m 34s):
Tell us about how is technology helping you, or how do you think technology can help you in terms of automation, personalization, and all the great things that we’ve been talking about for the last couple of days?

Steffanie Chaviano (23m 50s):
For us, what we realized was we were not able to really eliminate the phone screen completely from recruiter to interview. It was something that we needed to leave in place, but there were questions that were being asked during the phone screen that 100% could be handled by technology. That was one aspect. The other was just getting interviews scheduled, getting candidates scheduled for phone screens. All of that was being done manually previously by working candidates through workflows. When you’ve got volume and you’ve got recruiters moving people through workflows, there were bottlenecks quite a bit. Then lastly for us, our biggest pain point was forms, paper chasing, getting candidates to fill things out, filling it out again because they filled it out incorrectly.

Steffanie Chaviano (24m 37s):
For us, technology is a way to have recruiters really focus on why they became recruiters in the first place, having more conversations with people meaningful work, and letting the technology do all of the rest of the stuff, all the admin.

Matt Alder (24m 55s):
You’ve just implemented paradox so you’re in the process of implementing it. Obviously, using conversational AI is a big change for lots of organizations and it’s a big change for recruiters, which is something that we’ve been zeroing in in all of these conversations. Tell us about that change process and how it’s going.

Steffanie Chaviano (25m 13s):
Matt, we went live last week and we are really still in the thick of it. We’re still in pivot mode So I think for us, on a daily basis, there are things we’re having to tweak a bit. Our recruiters are really nervous about some of these changes, especially. we did everything we could to prime them as much as possible talk through what it was going to look like, show them the system, all the things, had them involved, but once you’re actually in it and you have to trust that the technology is going to work, you also realize that you’re not responsible for doing those things.

Steffanie Chaviano (25m 55s):
There is this existential moment that happened for some of them to really take a step back and think, “Is this role what I want to be doing? Is this the right career choice for me?” Because I do think transparently, there’s some folks that fell okay with some of the paper pushing and the administrative work. It’s an opportunity for them to really take a deeper dive there, but, ultimately, what it will do for us is just give recruiters that, give them opportunity to connect with people. What I like to call increasing stickiness, so making sure that our candidates make it all the way through the funnel and they make it to their first date once they sign that offer letter.

Matt Alder (26m 36s):
As a final question to you, obviously, lots of change, you’re implementing a whole new way of working so this might seem like a bit of strange question. What does the future look like? What’d you think the future of recruiting looks like in the the medium to long term?

Steffanie Chaviano (26m 55s):
Medium term, I would say much more adoption of technology. It’s actually been really great to be in this community of people here at the Paradox. We’re talking about how technology can be a great solution, but I still think that there is a lot of hesitation widely about AI. I think a much wider adoption to it. Long-term, oh my goodness. I’m not sure. Is it going to be all AI, start to finish? It might be. We’ll see. I think at the very least just a wider adoption of tools to help the process be much more efficient and provide a much better candidate experience.

Matt Alder (27m 31s):
Stephanie, thank you very much talking to me.

Steffanie Chaviano (27m 35s):
Thank you.

Matt Alder (27m 35s):
My thanks to Adam, Derek, Stephanie, and all of the team at Paradox for inviting me to their awesome event. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at RecruitingFuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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