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Ep 591: Is AI Changing Jobseeker Behaviour?

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Conversations about AI’s impact on recruiting tend to focus entirely on the employer and recruiter viewpoint. However, it may well be that the most potent force of change for talent acquisition comes from AI-facilitated shifts in jobseeker behaviour.

Employers are already seeing a rise in applications they suspect are being driven by AI tools that facilitate bulk applying. The use of LLMs to create or edit resumes is undoubtedly widespread, and we are also seeing examples of AI being used to hack online interviews and assessments. There is still much debate about where these activities fall on the scale, from legitimate assistance to outright fraud.

What is very clear, though, is that this is an unstoppable tide that will have severe implications for recruiting processes. What do employers do when they are inundated by applications perfectly tailored to the role that are impossible to assess using current tools and techniques?

My guest this week is Richard Collins, Co-Founder of CV Wallet. Richard has decades of experience in recruitment marketing and talent acquisition. He has recently been diving deeply into the issues caused by jobseeker use of AI and how the solutions to the problems might make recruiting better for everyone.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The current talent marketplace

• AI-driven changes in job seeker and applicant behaviour

• The potential impact on the recruiting process

• Challenges of dealing with an increasing volume of applications

• Unreliable applicant data

• Pre-qualifying and pre-verifying without creating friction in the process

• Will we see a revolution in assessment and selection?

• How do we define what is cheating or fraud?

• A shift to assessing soft skills

• How does recruitment marketing need to adapt

• A cost-per-qualified application model

• Proactive versus reactive change

• How much change will there be in 2024

• What does the future of recruiting look like?

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Transcript:

Matt Alder: Support for this podcast comes from CV Wallet. for recruiters. In a world of generative AI and skill shortages, where you either have too many unsuitable applicants or struggle to hire due to a lack of qualified ones, CV Wallet’s global programmatic network uniquely combines their award-winning programmatic sourcing technology with a global media network that’s optimized on applicant quality to automatically deliver qualified, verified candidates on a cost per application basis straight into a hiring process. Find out more by going to cvwallet.com/recruiter-platform.

[Recruiting Future theme]

Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 591 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Conversations about AI’s impact on recruiting tend to focus entirely on the employer and recruiter viewpoint. However, it may well be that the most potent force of change for talent acquisition comes from AI facilitated shifts in jobseeker behavior. Employers are already seeing a rise in applications that they suspect are being driven by AI tools that facilitate bulk applying. The use of LLMs to create or edit resumes is undoubtedly widespread, and we’re also seeing examples of AI being used to hack online interviews and assessments. There’s still much debate about where these activities fall on the scale from legitimate assistance to outright fraud. What is very clear, though, is that this is an unstoppable tide that will have severe implications for the recruiting process. So, what do employers do when they’re inundated by applications perfectly tailored to the role that are impossible to assess using current tools or techniques? My guest this week is Richard Collins, cofounder at CV Wallet. Richard has decades of experience in recruitment, marketing, and talent acquisition. He’s recently been diving deeply into the issues caused by jobseeker use of AI and how the solutions to the problems just might make recruiting better for everyone.

Hi Richard, and welcome back to the podcast.

Richard Collins: Hi Matt and very nice to be here again.

Matt Alder: An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Richard Collins: Yep, absolutely. My name is Richard Collins. I am the cofounder of CV Wallet.

Matt Alder: Fantastic. And tell us a little bit more about CV Wallet and also a bit about your background in the industry.

Richard Collins: So, despite my youthful looks, I’ve actually been in the industry for nearly 30 years. Started out as a recruiter, but very quickly moved into the whole online space in 1995. Since then, largely lived in the HR tech, ad tech sort of world. I’ve done three startups that I founded and exited all of those three. The most recent one is probably what people generally know me for, which was ClickIQ, which was a programmatic advertising business that we sold to Indeed in 2019.

In terms of CV wallet itself, we sort of describe ourselves broadly as a talent marketplace. So, by that we mean that there are two sort of sides to it. We have our jobseekers and the recruiter side. So, on the jobseeker’s side, we are a career management app that basically allows jobseekers to store proof against their CV as a whole bunch of tools that allow them and make it easy for them to find work. On the recruiter side of things, we call ourselves a global programmatic network. So, effectively what that does is we’re combining some programmatic technology that we built with a global media network and then we optimize that based on the quality. So, the output is effectively to automatically deliver qualified and verified candidates on a cost per application basis and that goes straight into a company’s hiring process.

Matt Alder: So, obviously you’ve been in the industry a long time. You’re constantly kind of tracking how it’s evolving and all those kinds of things. What changes have you seen in recruiting in the last few years? And also, what’s your sort of perspective on the talent market as we move into 2024?

Richard Collins: It’s a funny one, isn’t it? Because I was thinking about this earlier, and I think the problem that we have is our perspectives have changed very quickly. Since the whole AI thing came around, you kind of look back and you think, “Well, not much happened, did it really?” And then you think about it a bit harder and then you realize, “Oh yeah, there’s that COVID thing.” There was a whole shift to remote working, ongoing skill shortages, so the normal kind of– to me that’s the sort of supply and demand of dynamics of the marketplace. The thing that I think runs through a lot of that period of time, particularly from the HR tech side of things is one of automation, so an improvement in efficiency across technologies, I think that’s been pretty fundamental.

When I look back to our days within ClickIQ, that was just about how would you make technology manage your advertising in a much more efficient way, automated way. So, I think that’s the kind of key themes from that side of thing. But I also think there’s something that’s been going on in the background over the last few years and it’s a quieter revolution and that relates back to the whole jobseeker applicant behavior stuff. And I think that one of the things that we’ve very much been seeing is people’s attitudes when they’re applying for jobs and specifically when they put in the effort. Because I think in olden days, when I [unintelligible 00:06:29] and all that stuff, we used to do all our research up front and then we would put the effort into the actual application itself having done that, because it used to be quite hard to do applications and still is in many cases.

And I think that over time, what’s happened is, as a result, often of employer ghosting, so people not replying to applicants, letting them know where they are in the process, whether they’ve been successful or not, I think that the jobseekers have become very jaded throughout that particular process. And the result is there’s a lot less value being put on the actual application itself. And the result of that, I think, is what is setting us up for what will be an absolute fundamental change that we’re going to see across our industry as jobseekers increasingly adopt AI and all the tools that AI is producing to help them actually apply for jobs. So, in terms of those trends that you talk about in the last few years, I think largely about automation. AI obviously came out last year and that’s caused huge disruption. But I think the fundamental thing going forward is not so much how companies are adopting AI and automating their tech, but it will actually be driven by the jobseeker adoption of that technology.

Matt Alder: I think that’s such an interesting point, and it’s also interesting to see how quickly that’s potentially already happening, because I think I sort of saw this first being talked about four or five, six months ago with some of the sort of tools that are coming into the market where people can mass apply for things. But talking to some employers in December, they’re already seeing that. They’re already seeing this kind of vast increase in applications potentially coming from these kinds of tools. So how do you think that this is– Because, as I say, we can see it happening already. How is it going to affect the recruitment process as more and more jobseekers start using these techniques?

Richard Collins: Yeah, I mean, the obvious one is you’re going to get more applications, that goes without saying. And with more applications, the reality is many of these applications will be unsuitable. I think that the extent that this is going to be a problem will largely depend upon what tools those jobseekers are adopting, because there’s a whole sort of spectrum of jobseeker use of AI, isn’t it? You know there is from the very basic “I use Chat GPT to help me write a cover letter to I use a spam bot that applies for 3000 jobs in my sleep kind of thing.” I personally don’t think it’s going to be everybody using the latter, but I think there will be enough of it that it’s a problem.

But even in the former, if you are able to complete application forms, write covering letters, tailor your CV to a job much more easily, much more quickly, then people, they’ll spend the same amount of time looking for a job, but all that will happen is they’ll apply for more jobs. We’re going to have this situation, therefore, that you’re going to see a lot more unsuitable applicants coming forward. So, if you’re running a TA team, the challenge is, “Well, how do I get from these 1000 applicants that I’ve got to my job to actually the 10, 20, whatever the number is that I want to speak to, shortlist, put forward to hiring managers, assess or whatever it might be.” And I think that’s going to be the real challenge. And to make that challenge even harder, we have a huge trust issue coming as well because whilst people have lived with the whole white lies on CVs, which is not great, but I think the reference at the end of the process often put people off from going too far in that direction.

One thing that we’ve seen from AI is it’s not really great friends with the truth, is it? You even have a word ‘hallucinations’ that describe AI’s approach to these things and if you are doing mass applies, then there’s going to be stuff in there that is just not true. So, I think the issues for HR teams are, firstly, oversupply of unsuitable applicants and secondly, “How do I get to that short list of candidates when I’m not sure that I can trust the data that I’m being presented with and therefore, how do I– My normal matching technology, how is that going to get me to those people, if that’s the case?” So, I think those are going to be the key challenges that the teams are going to have to face.

In terms of how they address that, we believe that it’s all around pre verifying as part of that application process and pre qualifying the candidates through it. So how do we check things that the candidate says that they have done? Do they have a driving license? Have they got the right to work in this particular job? Those kinds of things, but making sure that it’s done in a very light way so that we’re not putting huge hurdles and discouraging the best candidates. But neither, it’s not a full referencing process but just to get through to those small number of applicants, those qualified, verified applicants that you actually want to see in your shortlist.

Matt Alder: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting, and I want to dive into a bit more detail. I suppose to cover something off first, a lot of the discussion last year about dealing with this problem or as it was seen then, potential problem, was all about using technology to filter out applications that have been made with AI. Now–

Richard Collins: That’s so bad. [laughs]

Matt Alder: [chuckling] I don’t want to even address that because it’s becoming clear that that is impossible, but also in some respects, undesirable and wrong, because why should people not use the tools that are available to them? So, I suppose putting that aside, do you think that this is going to drive a kind of a real revolution in the assessment and selection process and are there other benefits that will come with that for employers?

Richard Collins: Yeah, I think the world of assessments is in a really strong position here, but they are also potential victims in all of this. I don’t know if you or any of your listeners have seen, there’s a few TikTok videos doing the rounds where there’s a guy and he’s playing computer games and he’s got his phone open next to his screen and it’s basically listening in real time to the interviewer’s questions and it’s giving him answers to repeat with no thought to it at all. And there’s also tools that will complete assessments for them, write code for people, all of this kind of stuff. So, I think in the sort of traditional assessment of particularly hard skills, where there is a right and a wrong answer often. I think those assessment companies are going to have to do stuff to make sure that there isn’t the same level of– that level of cheating happening.

There’s obviously tools like auto proctoring tools, which is like an exam invigilator, but an online version that can sort of monitor all that stuff. But again, it’s a bit of an armed race. I think we’ll see a shift back to in-person interview and assessments because of all of this stuff. The other part of it is, I think we’ll also see a shift towards more soft skill assessment, because the thing that I like about assessing on soft skills is that they are unique to you. There’s not a right and a wrong answer, so using an AI to give you the answer just doesn’t make any sense because it’s a reflection of you and how you work and all that kind of stuff, and everybody’s different, so the AI can’t represent you in that regard. It makes it more difficult, I think, for people to cheat.

And the other thing is that when you look at the research, they say that– there is a thing, there’s a Harvard piece that was written quite a long time ago, I think it was in 1930s, and they were saying that 85% of job success came down to the soft skills. So, this shift from hard skills to soft skills as an assessment piece, I think will be really fundamental. That’s not to saying that hard skill assessment doesn’t have a place, because it really, really does, and I think it’s a great way of when you are in person and you’ve got a level playing field to make sure that the people do have the knowledge and the skills that they’re talking about. But I think in the meantime, when it comes to that sort of upfront pre verification as part of the application process, what employers will do increasingly, is they will take this huge amorphous blob of applicants, they will put them through some effective screening stuff, prove to me who you are, what you’ve done, and then they will look at things like the soft skill assessment within that to then get to their shortlist, at which point they invite people in, then they do the hard skill testing there.

Matt Alder: Yeah, I mean, I think that makes perfect sense. I think also from the digital perspective, it’s just suddenly occurred to me that consumers who are also jobseekers, are used to technology. When you’re trying to prove your identity for anything these days, it’s all a completely online system, whether that’s getting a new driving license or bank account or all this kind of stuff. So, I think that people are used to providing data and having these kinds of checks for other aspects of life, but we’re not yet seeing that in recruiting, are we?

Richard Collins: Yeah. And that was one of the initial reasons that we set up CV Wallet. What we believed was that jobseekers, consumers, people, we want to own those points of proof against our CV, our credentials, whatever it is, and be able to own, store, share them and do it from our personal devices or your phone, they shouldn’t be held centrally. And when we first started out, we were really interested in the whole kind of Web3 stuff and blockchain blah, blah, blah. And whilst that is a very, very small piece now of what the app involves, fundamentally it’s about people having the ability to own that data and to control that data and to use that data how they want, rather than it sitting in some central database owned by another company or what have you. And I think you can then see a world where you are scanning in for a job and the HR system is checking based on that scan what your skills are, what experience you have, do you have a contract in place, have you provided proof of your identity, of your qualifications, of your experience, all of that stuff, and to do that instantaneously to create a completely frictionless hiring system, so I think that is possible today.

We built, we call it Bluetooth verification system and it verifies forwards and backwards so we can make it forwards and backwards compatible. So, if the company that is verifying something are unable to verify it, then you can provide proof of it and all that kind of stuff. So, all of that is there and working and what have you, but it’s not in the mainstream by any means yet.

Matt Alder: So, we’ve talked about the deluge of applications, the potential deluge of applications, and how people are going to have to kind of retool the way they assess and select and deal with that. What we haven’t talked about is where that’s coming from, so the way that job boards and other ways of marketing jobs will need to adapt as well. I mean, do you think that recruitment marketing is currently fit for purpose, and if not, how do you see it developing over the next few years?

Richard Collins: I’m kind of a job board guy, so I like job boards and I know they always get bad press and what have you. And in some ways, I think we’re at a point where there needs to be the shift from quantity to quality because there’s never been a time where it’s been easier to fill the top of a funnel, but harder to find the actual qualified applicants. I think that the business models have obviously been shifting over the last few years from paying for duration-based ads to performance-based cost per click. But I think that if you are running a TA team, what you want is your advertising to reflect your own objectives and goals. So, as a recruiter, you are tasked with delivering a short list of qualified applicants to a hiring manager generally, so why aren’t we buying advertising on a similar basis?

So, whether it’s cost per application or even better, cost per qualified application. Now to actually qualify an application, we are using technology to deliver that. So, ultimately you can now have a situation where you take this great technology, you blend it with a global media network as we have all of these different job boards and then as the responses come in, you qualify and verify those applicants so that effectively what you’re doing is you’re optimizing based on the applicant quality that you are getting and that way you are delivering against what the recruiter is effectively tasked with also delivering, so those goals become aligned. But I think certainly in terms of how it will develop, that shift to being close to the hire, the ability to deal with the trust issue, the understanding from job boards that more is not more. And in fact, if we can shift to quality, that would be a really big result, really great result for their clients.

Matt Alder: So, we’re talking about some huge fundamental changes to the job board industry, the way the recruiting works, all these sorts of things. And traditionally as an industry, we’ve perhaps not changed as quickly as other areas of the enterprise and certainly perhaps not as quickly as people predict. How do you think this is going to pan out? I mean, how much actual change do you think we’ll see in 2024?

Richard Collins: I think 2024 will be the year that we see the effects of the AI stuff on the jobseeker’s side. We talked about it for a big chunk of 2023 that this is coming and here are the tools and people are starting to adopt it. And you run a survey and you’re already seeing sort of 60%, 70% of respondents saying that they would use AI as part of their job application process. So, I think 2024 is when we see the full impact or certainly the start of the full impact within the recruiting teams of that.

You’re increasingly seeing people posting about the fact that they’re getting 1000 applications to their jobs. What do I do about it? And the answer of manually going through them is really not the solution. Because even traditionally before all this stuff came along, you had a situation where you reject typically, what 95% of applicants coming in. Well, what happens when it’s 99.99% of applicants that you’re having to reject? You need some tools to actually do that. So, I think 2024 will be when people realize that they have to do something.

One of the things that I saw posted the other day was the idea of companies adopting a sort of jobseeker charter of what they expect from people using AI, etc., It’s a good start and it’s certainly something to consider, but jobseekers will use the tools that make their life easier. And if you’re going to then ignore those people’s applications anyway, they’re not really going to care, so I think it’s slightly naive to do that. And what is a much better approach is to think about how do I cope with these huge volumes of applications? How do I deal with a potential trust issue in terms of what is in those applications that have been submitted? And how do I therefore get to whatever percentage of candidates who are actually qualified to do the job?

Matt Alder: I was just thinking as you were talking there, I think that the difference in this year is we’re talking about reactive change. We’re talking about employers having to react to something that’s happening. And perhaps we’re not very good at proactive change, but I think we only have to look back to the pandemic to see how fast reactive change can happen with interviews all going to video within a matter of hours or days, so I think people should expect a lot of change in 2024, so I completely agree with you. Final question, let’s look forward a little bit more into the future. I was going to say beyond the chaos, but I think chaos is here to stay. What do you think recruiting will look like in five years’ time? Or what do you hope it will look like in five years’ time?

Richard Collins: I think it will better. I think it will be frictionless. I think the idea of having to go through and apply for jobs and people considering short lists and all this kind of stuff I think will be gone. I think that you’ll have a situation where jobseekers have their AI tools that help them apply for jobs, and the employers will have a similar thing, their side, and the two things will shake hands in between. Details will be swapped between them. There will be proof behind all of these things. So, you get to that frictionless hiring environment quite quickly. You then will invite those people in and then you’ll probably go through a typical, not very different recruitment process thereafter. But certainly, that initial stage, I think, is where we’ll see most disruption.

I think from a recruitment advertising perspective, which is obviously our world, I think we’ll see this shift towards buying advertising on a cost per qualified applicant. I think the idea of advertising on an individual job board will be a bit old. I think you will effectively advertise for a network of job boards, and I think that the technology then will do all the heavy lifting to get you to those people that you actually want to talk to. So, I think that’s what the world will look like in five years’ time. But I do think there’s some pain to go through. And I think part of that pain will involve spam bots from jobseekers, sourcing bots from employers who just constantly badger you for stuff. There is so much stuff that will happen in the middle that will make everybody pull out their hair and just want to leave. But I think by the end of it– Once you get to that frictionless top end of a funnel, then it should be a much better hiring experience for everybody.

Matt Alder: I agree, I agree. But there is much work to do. Richard, thank you very much for joining me.

Richard Collins: Fantastic. Nice for speaking, Matt. Take care.

Matt Alder: My thanks to Richard. You can subscribe to this podcast on 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 our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and 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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