Whether we’re talking in-house or agency driven recruitment, the industry is overly mature for change. While its players may not always feel ready, change will come sooner rather than later, and now is the perfect time to get ready.

[bctt tweet=”Innovation in Talent Acquisition: Now is the time to get ready”]

This is a guest post by Anita Schjøll Brede, CEO and Co-Founder of uLabs Ventures, the Venture Builder behind InternX and soon-to-launch TraineeX. InternX enables companies to reach out with internships to the right students, at a fraction of the cost and time of a recruiter. Get in touch with Anita on anita@ulabsventures.com or @twitnitnit

There’s Innovation, and there’s Innovation

S-curve for Innovation in Talent Acquisition

A small theoretical framework on innovation may be a good start, starting with the concept of S-curves. Let’s use a well-known example, the cell phone. At the bottom of the first S in the figure below, the concept of a portable phone was introduced to the market. It came in the shape of a suitcase and was for particular use cases only. But with time and effort, it got a little smaller and a little smaller, until at a certain point (marked with a star on the curve) the technology advanced to make the phone portable enough to actually be useful to most consumers. From that point the advancement of the technology sped up like crazy, everyone had a cell phone, the phones got smaller and smaller… and smaller. And at a certain point, that curve of technology flattens out – in the top of the S. There’s a limit to how small a cell phone can actually be, right?

While the technology advancement S-curve flattens out, someone somewhere will have started thinking about alternatives. The first smart phones weren’t particularly smart and they were less practical than the small cell phones – but at a certain point (I’d claim with the introduction of the iPhone but you are welcome to disagree) the technology is suddenly at a level where it passes by the old one, shoots speed and goes above and beyond what was thought possible by anyone but the crazy innovator with the big vision.

On that note, while communication devices are not my main field, I think we’re getting towards the top of the S of the smart phone now. You can practically do anything with your iPhone/Android, and there’s only so much more it may be capable of. Someone, somewhere, is working on something else, something new that will take over. I don’t know what it is – though I do have a friend who has implanted a chip to open doors in his arm. Maybe that’s the way we’re going?

In any case, as you can tell there’s two ways to think about Innovation: Being on an existing S-curve, doing Incremental Innovation of something that already exists (making phones smaller) – or going about it in a completely new way and trying to entirely change the current ways of doing things (rethinking the concept of telephone) – this is what is called Disruptive Innovation.

So how does this relate to Recruitment? Because I think Recruitment is very soon going to be thoroughly disrupted. The Post-and-Pray mentality of digital Job Ads and CV’s has reached the top of the S-curve and something new and totally different is on its way.

[bctt tweet=”The Post-and-Pray mentality of digital Job Ads and CVs has reached the top of the S-curve”]

So what’s coming? Well, I have my ideas but as with all innovation, no one has the final answer. In any case, our internal vision at uLabs is to Kill the Job Ad.

Innovators leading the way: Zappos and “no more post and pray”

One of the boldest moves we’ve seen comes from already highly innovative company Zappos. The combination of 30k+ applicants per year, hiring about 300 of them, with a six-people recruiting team, and a policy to treat all customers (including job applicants) with the utmost respect… Their team did nothing but write friendly rejection letters. When Head of Talent Mike Bailen (now at Eventbrite) was tasked with improving the process he initially tried improving the existing process, but found himself delivering little value.

I realized I was just iterating on a fundamentally broken process.
Mike Bailen, Head of Talent, Zappos, May 2014

So they disrupted. Using the platform Ascendify they created Zappos Insiders. If you want a job at Zappos, you don’t apply to a specific position defined in a job ad – you register as an Insider, upload information, a CV, a video resume, you engage with their recruiters on twitter and you participate on their online events. You make yourself seen. And when they need someone, they pick someone from their pool. And all the time they freed up from the rejection letters? Parts of it is spent getting to know candidates before they apply – and the rest is spent hunting down more specific profiles. After the first 6 months, their results have surpassed what they hoped and it will be very exciting following them in the future!

Innovation Status 2015

Now, Talent Pools is not the only area of innovation (and as you’ll notice, not the only area Zappos is innovating in either). A classification is always hard, partially because new platforms will often do many things and partially because startups has a tendency to pivot a few times before finding their success formula – or throwing in the towel.

A rough trend spotting will however identify these areas: Video, Social, Dating, “Better” ATS/CRM, Ad Hubs, the before mentioned Talent Pools, and Matching Algorithms.


If the number of new tools and startups is a good indicator for a field’s up-and-coming status, Video in the recruitment process takes the grand slam. With several exciting use cases, a simple breakdown can look like this:

  • Video resumes – there are plenty of tools out there allowing candidates to create digital resumes, including a 1-3 minute video pitch and introduction. Zappos encourages their Insiders to upload one.
  • On-demand interviewing – If you feel that the video editing skills of your candidates is irrelevant to the job, on-demand interviews is worth a thought. It allows you to ask candidates a few questions and screen them in minutes. Time limits on answers? One-go or re-record? Record yourself asking the question? Find your own approach!
  • Live interviewing – Sure, you can use Skype or Hangout (at uLabs we prefer the latter), but how about the ability to record the interview, take notes that acts as markers in the video, and share parts of the video with your colleagues – e.g. asking your Tech Crew to review the tech heavy questions?
  • Video events – Nothing replaces a physical face to face meeting, but you can’t be
    everywhere. Why not integrate video events into your recruiting? It lets candidates get to know you, and lets you get to know your candidates – even before there’s a job opening. Specifically Young Talent and students, who don’t always know what they want – let them get to know you through either a small, casual Google Hangout or a more formal Webinar with a company presentation.

As mentioned there are plenty of tools out there. HireVue, Cammio, JobVite and SparkHire are four definitely worth mentioning, but we can continue down the line with HireArt, HireIQ, interactly, interview4, Kira Talent, interviewstream, VidCruiter, VideoRecruit, Ziggeo. Among others. Pick and choose!


There are two key takeaways when it comes to social recruiting:

  • Posting a job ad on Facebook is not social recruiting. It’s just a job ad. 
  • There are no short cuts to social recruiting. You need to spend lots of time talking to people – make sure you have the resources to follow up on it! There’s nothing sadder than trying to interact with someone on social media and not hear back from them.

The best advice I ever got when it comes to social media is to always consider the name: social. How would you interact with someone at a party? Recreate that online.


Modeling recruitment after dating sites is a trending topic, and just like with dating the approaches ranging from random hookups such as Tinder to serious matching such as eHarmony or Match.com (the former claiming to be responsible for 5% of american weddings each year!)

Now, running a company who focuses on advanced matching algorithms, I may be biased. But on a personal level too, I do have a problem with the simplicity of some of these “Tinder for recruitment” apps. Sure, simple UX is awesome – we love it too! But when you Swipe left or right on a candidate for a job based on their LinkedIn picture and three bullet points about them… it’s problematic to say the least. Fueled by a powerful matching algorithm, perhaps we’ll start talking – but neither Jobr, Entelo or blonk are there yet.

Editor’s Notes:
* There’s at least one Swedish startup taking the “Tinder for Recruitment” approach: Selfiejobs.
eHarmony is also entering the talent acquisition arena, tweaking their existing dating algorithms

“Better ATS” / CRM

The difference between an ATS and a CRM might not be much more than the mindset of the person using it – but no matter what you call them, there are plenty of newer companies building new and better systems focusing on Mobile first, sleek designs, a better user experience for candidates and recruiters – and in some cases, a much stronger focus on communication and dialogue, trying to ensure no candidates are left stranded without answers. Landed, Simplicant, TalentSquare and Seed are some examples.

Ad Hubs

It’s a simple concept. Rather than going into each and every job posting board, you post your job ad in one place and choose the channels to push it out in. ZipRecruiter and Workable are mainly US focused, and in Scandinavia we have Graduateland which fuels job boards for lots of universities.

Talent Pools

There are tool for creating talent pools yourself, like Ascendify – which is great when you have 30k applicants per year. There’s also tools that creates a pool for you, which is great if you don’t.

InternX and TraineeX are our own platforms, created to allow companies to tap into a central pool of Young Talent in Scandinavia (and soon Globally). Other companies thinking along the same lines are 10 minutes with and Individuum, both UK based, and US based Portfolium.

Matching – the foundation of future recruitment

My belief is that the job ad is dead, the CV is dead, and that the future of recruitment lies in comprehensive matching technologies. This is not a big surprise – it has happened in a wide range of industries already. On Netflix, you don’t need to scroll through tens of thousands of movies. On Amazon, you are suggested what else to buy. And already mentioned Match.com helps you find a date that has similar values, interests and are looking for the same things as you. What these tools all have in common is that their matching allows you to explore only what’s relevant to you. And whether you’re a recruiter or a job seeker – removing all the clutter and only exploring the relevant opportunities is such a relief!

So how do you use matching for jobs? There are several ways to go about this, but I’ll speak for ourselves. At uLabs, we match based on four areas:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Preferences (Goals, Aspirations, Practical)
  • Strengths (Self-assessed, Peer assessed, Psychometrically Assessed – Coming soon)

Adding together all of these factors, matching them against the opportunity through more than 200 data points, each student receives an overall match score with each opportunity on the platform. Keep in mind that matching and filtering are two very different things. The overall match score we give a student is “all things considered”. Say that you use filtering, and you’re looking for someone with key words “ambitious”. Sure, sounds simple enough, but what about the person who used “driven” to describe themselves, who are then filtered out? Filtering puts a lot of pressure on the person defining the key words. Matching lets you find the most relevant candidates, and then do a manual filtering at the end.

Matching is useful on multiple areas. In the information era we live in, we are bombarded with information 24/7 – using matching to determine your top potential candidates enables you to send targeted and personalized messages with far better accuracy.

Also, matching can also be used, as previously mentioned, to find candidates directly. No Job Ad, no post-and-pray, no impersonal CV piles.

Thirdly, by using solid matching based on data, you open up a world of opportunities when it comes to relying on data to make decisions. Who are you attracting, who are you not attracting, and at what stage in your process are you losing the candidates you’re having trouble securing?
What channels are most effective in attracting the right Talent? We track everything we do – and so should you.

Algorithms don’t discriminate

A side note – but a very important one. At uLabs, when we deliver a Top List of Candidates, we deliberately remove name, gender, nationality and age. This is only possible when matching is made by an algorithm. I have experienced this first-hand (as in, I even hid this information for myself) – when I don’t have access to that information, I feel so much safer. I would never deliberately reject a candidate due to any of the above traits, however in all honestly I also know that a lot of the hiring decisions I make is made of gut feeling. And while I am a feminist and anti-racist, I still do not always know what my gut feeling is based on. Not knowing made me feel confident, safe and far, far more relaxed that I have been about the issue in the past! My top list when we hired interns for ourselves were the best ones for me, no matter their physical traits. In fact, as I did phone interviews I had never seen their face until the first day if their interviews!

If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do. 

In summary

Recruitment is ripe for change. I am personally convinced that the companies who are willing to let go off their bulky unfriendly recruitment process and rather spend their time getting to know their candidates are the ones who will attract the best Talent. Moving forward, it will be less about reach and total number of applicants – but rather about the quality of the people you do attract. How the processes and tools of the future will look is yet to be seen – but it is clear that comprehensive matching and more centralized Talent Pools will have a big role to play.

Let’s join forces and get rid of the Job Ads and the Post-and-pray mentality once and for all!

Publicerat av Erik Fors-Andrée

Entreprenör, talare, utforskare, tänkare, upplevelse-junkie. Grundare gomonday.se. Boredom hurts my brain. Vill du prata mer? Du hittar mig på bland annat LinkedIn eller så kan du hitta en tid i min lunchkalender.

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