A Festival of Ideas

By: | June 26, 2018 • 4 min read
Elaine Orler is founder and CEO of Talent Function and program chair of Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech LIVE!

I don’t know about you, but I’m stunned to realize that we’re already halfway through 2018. It seems as if it was just yesterday that we were enjoying the Ideas & Innovators session at last year’s Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech conference.

The I&I general session—among the most consistently popular RTTT sessions—consists of practitioners and experts from the world of recruiting giving fast-paced, five-minute long presentations (with each presenter accompanied by 20 PowerPoint slides timed to advance automatically) on an idea or innovation that they believe will strengthen or even revolutionize the talent-acquisition process. Some strong ideas were put forward during last year’s session that merit revisiting as we round the first half of 2018.


Terry Terhark, founder of Randrr, kicked off the lightning rounds with a focus on the need to fix the job-search process for candidates. Terry called out the current state of recruiting by noting that organizations receive, on average, 150 applications per open job posting and have an average time-to-fill of 42 days and average cost-per-hire of around $4,000. Meanwhile, he continued, the candidate data shows that 76 percent of people going through the job-search process describe it as frustrating and 83 percent of candidates rate their experience as poor.

Most people I connected with agreed that those numbers sound accurate and that we need to do better—better at our candidate communication, better at explaining the job so the right candidates can apply and better at connecting with candidates to ensure a positive experience. Terry introduced Randrr’s plan to improve that connection point. Since then, he’s acquired Anthology.co and Randrr will now operate under that brand. He’s bringing forward a platform for candidates to conduct anonymous job searches and applications and, notably, letting them remain in control of their data—something everyone should be thinking about in today’s era.

Candice Berger, co-head of campus recruiting for financial-services firm Citadel, took the stage next to describe her company’s unorthodox approach to finding and screening great talent: “datathons.” After noting that astronauts, football players and hedge-funders all have to demonstrate their skills via some form of “talent audition,” Candice went on to describe the programmatic approach Cidadel takes to finding the highly skilled, analytical talent it needs. Students are teamed up, provided with data to review and then submit their findings along with the methodology for those findings.

Their work is reviewed by a panel of judges. The benefits of these events include awareness, brand accretion and observable performance. Who doesn’t want that level of insight when evaluating talent for career opportunities? Traditional interviews aren’t always the best indicators of future performance, so consider stepping outside of the traditional box and trying something different.

On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Mike Allan of Talent Sonar (now owned by TalVista), helped us better understand how our own unconscious biases work and the implications of that bias on the way in which we recruit. Citing examples such as blind auditions at an orchestra leading to an increase in the representation of women players from 5 percent to 50 percent, Mike demonstrated that blinding key data in resumes leads to a 40-percent increase in the number of diverse candidates who are selected for the next stage of the recruiting process. If we fail to start thinking differently, Mike told us, then we won’t see the talent that’s right there in front of us.

The ideas kept coming. Robin Erickson, talent-acquisition research leader at Bersin, presented research from her company reminding us that the strongest job candidates may be the ones already working for us. Recruiters are searching everywhere for the best candidates, Robin said, but they’re neglecting the talent within their own organizations. She validated this with research showing that internal candidates rank third-highest as the best source of hires, trailing only employee referrals and professional-networking sites. Marry that information to the Gallup surveys which show more than half of employees are actively watching for new opportunities, and I’d say it’s time for us to consider re-recruiting our own employees and helping them find their next opportunity by staying with the organization.

Joe Rubin of Crowded hit the stage in full comedic style, reminding us via a series of movie stills with hilarious captions of the insanity that is recruiting today (and I guess we’d better laugh, otherwise we’d cry, right?). Joe’s goal was to challenge us to think about the data we have and how we’re using (and should be reusing) it to improve our recruiting results. I’m still laughing at the truism, “We know where the bottlenecks are, we just don’t fix them.”

We’ve been talking about mobile in recruiting for over a decade, and Othamar Gama Falho of Talentify really brought it home by reminding us that mobile-first is a strategy that encompasses far more than just being mobile-friendly. For those who might’ve felt complacent about their mobile strategy, Othamar added some urgency by noting that the volume of candidates looking at job content via their smartphones has increased by 68 percent, while job searches via desktop and tablet have decreased. Carrying the principle forward, Othamar introduced a concept we should all be familiar with and leverage in our recruiting efforts: The ability to do A/B testing. The days of “one and done” (or implement and never enhance) are in the rearview mirror, Othamar told us. We need to be agile in our recruiting delivery so that we can adjust to the candidates we’re trying to recruit.

One of my biggest takeaways from the entire session was the need to research, understand and leverage the concepts that Adam Godson, senior vice president of global technology solutions at Cielo, introduced and explained. Adam’s topic was explaining the differences between “computational trust” and “observational trust.” Observational trust relies on the things we see, hear, read and our own unconscious bias.


Pointing to a slide showing two chairs that were almost identical, Adam noted how you might decide you prefer the one with three legs over the one with four legs due to a past preference for three-legged stools that you didn’t consciously know you had. However, if you go to a review site and find that the four-legged chair has 5-star reviews while the three-legged one has only 1-star reviews and you decide to purchase the former, then you’ve made a decision based on the trust of others’ experience and reviews—computational trust, in other words. Adam went on to point out that artificial intelligence in recruiting will only benefit us humans if it can build computational trust, and we have a long way to go.

I’m reviewing submissions for the Ideas and Innovation general session for the conference in February. If you have a forward-thinking idea, or innovation, then let me know – I’d love to discuss it and maybe you will be among those defining the landscape in 2019.