(Illustration by dem10/iStock by Getty Images)

Talent acquisition did not come to a halt during the pandemic, but attitudes changed among both the job candidates and recruiters. The hiring process now needs to reflect the remote-work revolution. “Most office workers (83%) want to work from home at least one day a week, and half of employers (55%) anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after COVID-19 is not a concern,” reports PwC, based on a survey. “But if recruits–and recruiters–are working remotely at least part of the time, traditional talent acquisition processes just won’t cut it for firms that want to attract the best talent. Companies should digitize the way they recruit talent end to end: find talent, attract them, show them the ropes and make them feel part of the team.”

How to adapt? Artificial intelligence is a precious tool in this regard. Eightfold AI, the inventor of a Talent Intelligence Platform rooted in deep-learning AI technology, serves 100 large enterprise and government customers. Steve Feyer, Eightfold’s director of product marketing, offered five strategies to recruiters in a presentation at From Day One’s virtual conference on attracting skilled talent in the new year. “Why do we need them?” he asked. “Well, the simple reality is that the beginning of 2021 is more uncertain than any year we have encountered as professionals. We don’t know what our organizations will need.” Eightfold's five strategies for these uncertain times:

Hiring For Potential: The way we hire now is typically “the safe option,” Feyer said. “We want to hire someone who has done the job before.” The downside: the person who has had that job before may not be the ideal person for the job now, because that person is going to be motivated to do something new, or take a step further–a natural promotion, a new step in that role. People are really motivated to take the job that’s next for them in their career.

When looking for candidates and checking their backgrounds, recruiters will see profiles showing their background. Yet what recruiters should be looking for are the skills that they have, as well as the skills they can readily acquire. “Cross-checking current skills and potential skills allows recruiters to understand who is going to be most motivated by this potential job offer, and therefore is going to be the most loyal, the most productive,” said Feyer. In fact, when hiring for potential, you really understand each candidate better.

Steve Feyer, director of product marketing for Eightfold AI (Photo courtesy of Eightfold AI)

Building a Talent Network: Talent re-discovery, the process of matching candidates who’ve previously applied for a job with new roles that have become available, took on new importance in the past year as companies scrambled to adapt to new situations. “Recruiting organizations have not been set up to do talent re-discovery historically,” said Feyer. “Recruiters do new sourcing for every job. They might not have the capabilities to look for silver medalists in their organization.” Most hiring networks now have disconnected recruiting channels: pools of past applicants, university recruiting, internal referrals, company alumni who don’t interact with each other.

The way to do sourcing better is to build a single network to access all sources of talent. Recruiters should build a database and continue to nurture them, just as salespeople and marketers chase leads. One unified database is the handiest source–it’s cost-effective and cuts a lot of unnecessary steps.

Creating Personalized Career Sites: Many organizations fail to make their career page as accessible as possible. The candidate has to manually select options and search for keywords. They’re typically returned a long list of jobs. They have to parse through all of the job descriptions and then, once they decide to apply, they have to painstakingly fill out an application. It takes, on average, 150 to 300 clicks to complete all the steps, Feyer said. “Recruiters might think that people who apply through the career site are not going to be qualified, because qualified candidates are just going to be so turned-off by the process that they’re not even going to apply,” said Feyer, explaining how recruiters tend to do their own thing in cases like this by reaching out to promising candidates individually.

With a personalized career site, the candidate is encouraged to upload a resume, then the AI will scan the resume for keywords in the candidate’s experiences and skills. The program will then come up with a list of jobs for that person and show them the reasons those jobs are well-suited for them. Once the candidate is in the network, recruiters can easily retrieve their resume for other opportunities. To be effective, Feyer said, the AI program needs to have a deep understanding of the content, not just keywords—all the information that’s there.

Hire Anywhere and Hire Virtually: Before remote work (and remote hiring) took hold, recruiters would typically hire people who lived within a 60-minute commuting range. Widening the search to an entire time zone, or beyond, opens up many more possibilities to find motivated talent. Not every role has to be on site. “I was not sold on this myself,” Feyer confessed. “We had a mindset that we wanted to be in-person. But then the pandemic hit, and we quickly decided that we needed to acknowledge people were not going to be at the office right away.” Opening up to other locations resulted in finding tremendously skilled workers from all around the U.S. “We were able to grow our productivity more than we’d have expected,” he said.

Candidate Engagement: Once you have a network, how can you make sure they’ll come in when they’re ready? Communication is key. Feyer made another marketing analogy: we get emails every day from organizations that want to sell us something–and we ignore them most of the time. Yet, every now and then, we might get an email selling us something that meets our immediate needs, and we interact with them. That’s the mindset recruiters need to have as talent professionals: send messages to people who are ready to respond right then. The pre-established network and career site make the process an efficient one. “The content that you have is likely to be of great interest to some small portion of a talent network,” said Feyer. “So focus just on them: you’ll greatly increase the response rate.”

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner who sponsored this presentation, Eightfold AI. Please visit our conference page to register for more upcoming events.

Angelica Frey is a writer and a translator based in Milan and Brooklyn.