More so than other years, 2018 can claim some truly notable leaps forward for recruitment technology. The influence of growth hacking spurred an evolution in sourcing and technology, breaking down barriers to allow sourcing to be the function not of a specialist but simply a standard part of a recruiter’s process. Other highlights included the continued increase in automation and the on-set of new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards.

Looking forward to 2019, organizations are still facing incredibly tight job markets and seemingly interminable talent shortages. To get a sense of what 2019 could (and should) bring, we gathered insights on the key talent acquisition trends in the New Year from three of our experts: Adam Godson, Senior Vice President of Global Technology Solutions; Andy Curlewis, Senior Vice President of Brand – Communication; and Balazs Paroczay, Vice President of Global Sourcing – for a recent video webinar.

Here are highlights from that lively discussion:

How can Artifical Intelligence help with diversity and inclusion?

Adam: We’re all still trying to figure out whether artificial intelligence is a friend or foe when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It’s hard not to think about how Amazon got stung earlier this year and had to discontinue using AI for matching because it was actually producing discrimination. That’s going to be a cautionary tale for some time, because nobody wants to see their name behind the “v” in the first big lawsuit about that.

On the positive side, we’re using Natural Language Processing (NLP) well to modify job descriptions and communication. Tools like Textio and TalVista analyze our communication using NLP to understand what terms will repel or attract people. So instead of saying I want a “strong” leader in my job description, I’ll say that I’m looking for an “effective” leader. That’s a more inclusive term that will lead us to greater chance at achieving and maintaining diversity. There’s currently a suspicion of black box-type AI systems that seem to say, “Trust us, this is too difficult to understand. Here’s the solution in a black box.” The trend in 2019 and beyond will be going toward more understandable white or clear-box systems where you can see how it works.

Balazs: I would love to see a system in 2019 that would help me understand my own bias in searching. As much as we would like it to not be the case, everything is somehow biased, down to the language we use. Show me the patterns that I use while sourcing that favor this against that and point that out to me. This would be ideal, but I know right now we are far from that.

How can candidate experience be more personal?

Andy: The great thing is, we’ve got the tools now to make that happen. It’s just a matter of leveraging them effectively. We need to employ true design thinking and get better at mapping out each step of the candidate experience. We also need to create true candidate personas, segmented at every level so that we’re ready for anyone who comes our way. And then it’s just a matter of actually using the tools we’ve got. People are using only a fraction of the functionality of their smart careers sites. They buy these really expensive systems, plug them in and say, “Wow, this is excellent, isn’t it?” But they’re not necessarily doing a huge amount with it. It’s the ROI question, I think – What are we really getting out of this? – that is going to force companies to focus on this and drive better behaviors that will get better results.

Balazs: If I’m a candidate, and I’m applying for a job, I would love to have as much control of the process as possible. And I agree, I think candidates should have more control, including being able to choose their interviewer. I realize that sounds bold, but it makes sense if we think about it in terms of other areas of our lives. For instance, when we walk into a hotel and look at the reception desk, we make a choice based on personal preference as to which receptionist we go to. Maybe it’s because one has the shortest queue, maybe this is the nicest person, whatever. But we make a choice. I go to the airport, or the store, and I do the same. So why don’t I, as a candidate, have the ability to choose who I want to interview with? The whole point is, this is something we still don’t do well enough. We don’t understand that this is a stressful and not equal situation for the candidate. We, as the ones doing the hiring, have the power, and we can have all of these cool things in our heads, but the best way to eliminate the power dynamic is to give control to them, to say, “You want to show us your best strengths, and you know the best situation for yourself, so who are the people you can best bring that out of you during the interview?”

How should companies handle their technology ecosystems?

Adam: Think of the recruiter experience, because that’s what integration really boils down to. If you build a great tech stack that’s got people logging into tons of systems, you’re going to have furious recruiters who are logging in and out, and can’t keep track of anything, and your data is everywhere. So, you have to figure out how to make that experience good for them. We too often see companies getting a bit of the shiny-object syndrome and buying too many systems that all do overlapping parts of the same thing. That can be a trap people fall into, being vendor-led. The vendor has a certain outcome they’re looking to get, but you’re the only one looking out for you and your end metric and the impact on the business.

Andy: Funnily enough, a lot of the work we do now is around communications on how to use these technologies. It’s not necessarily communications on employer branding. We need to fit the technology into the process and experience, not the other way around. As an industry, we can get better doing some full-scale design mapping of the candidate experience. Are we really clear about what good looks like, segmented down as far as possible? We also really need an integrated dashboard on ROI and outcomes that demands and drives harmony. Whether it’s a carrot or a stick, everyone should be living and dying by the same outcomes.

What is your advice on how to spend a talent acquisition budget in 2019?

Andy: I would spend a good 20-30% focusing on the future, asking questions like, “What does good talent look like?” “Where is it?” “How do I engage it?” Then I would spend 20% on building talent pools, building employer brand, generating great content, putting in place a delicious candidate experience through the website and CRM, and then hopefully I shouldn’t be needing to spend quite so much on business as usual. But certainly for the candidate-generation component, I would love for us to be as sustainable as possible: that means great data, brilliant sourcing, fantastic content, getting things to where people are coming to us because we’re magnetic instead of us being out there trying to drag them in.

Adam: For me, it would be all about planning for that integrated technology ecosystem, taking stock of what exactly to buy. There’s the old quote about if you gave me six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the ax.

Balazs: Learning. We tend to not even invest a cent, a penny, on learning. Like a hamster caught in a wheel, we do the same thing over and over again, but we still don’t collaborate or share best practices, so I would put money behind focusing on new skills and training.

What would you like to see from recruitment technology in 2019?

Andy: I’d love to see something around analytics, a better way to pull together the data trail. We’ve got this universe of stars that are disconnected. I’m not sure we’re going to see any amazing technologies come through, but I would love to see a far more integrated way of sowing everything together, across digital, across technology, and most importantly our behaviors within that. Anything that can guide our behaviors around technology would just be fantastic.

Balazs: I want to hear fewer and fewer recruiters say they don’t use this or that because it’s too technical. I had a recent training where I wanted to train our employees to write a recipe for data mining. You need rows and rows of columns – it’s not coding, but it’s pretty advanced. And these were just a bunch of normal recruiters, not tech geeks, and we slowly explained what to do and how, and they understood it. Now they know how to scrape data everywhere. I would never have imagined I would be able to do that, but that’s where we are, and I only see that continuing.

Adam: Integration, harmonizing. Let’s stop chasing a shiny object. After a thousand years of seeing that there’s not going to be a year where there’s a silver bullet that’s going to solve everything, let’s know that next year is not going to be a silver bullet that solves everything.

To see and hear all of Adam, Andy and Balazs’s responses, view the full webinar, “Innovation Roundtable: The Big Questions for Recruitment Technology in 2019.”