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A record collector’s guide to Digital Talent Acquisition

A record collector’s guide to Digital Talent Acquisition

by Lewis Cohen

RPO Solutions Architect 13th Oct 2016

The digitisation of Recruiting is something we are all hearing & thinking about…and many of us already actioning! Finally succumbing to home pressure to remove the overspill of my record collection from the downstairs bathroom (unreasonable, I hear you supportively cry) I found myself reflecting on why analogue records and tapes are still valued when the digitisation of music has been with us for decades. What does that tell us?

After all, the case against analogue is pretty compelling.

Every time you play a tape or a record it degrades, not so an MP3 which is consistent from the first to the millionth play.  There are all sorts of manual interventions required – from taking a record out of its sleeve to demagnetising the playback heads of your reel-to-reel tape machine (you…have one of those…. right?).  Then there’s managing the media … storing records in the right conditions, organising them so you can find a particular track when the mood takes you, the sheer feats of recall required to access your music in the absence of convenient digital playlists. And if you want to share any of that media with friends, you have to physically give it to them, denying yourself simultaneous access (and also introducing the anxiety of wondering if they are as meticulous as you are about care!).

Manual intervention, maintenance, the challenges of storing, interpreting and sharing data…. sounds a lot like the analogue recruitment processes we’re all working hard to leave behind.

But people still love records. Why is that…and can we carry any lessons forward with us into the digital age of Talent Acquisition?

Ask any record collector to describe why they like listening to music on analogue media and one phrase you’re almost guaranteed to hear back is that analogue sounds warmer, whereas digital can sound harsh and sterile. Now, some of this is down to digital being technically better – digital does a better job of recreating high frequencies which can be interpreted as harshness to those not used to hearing them as clearly. And those low down frequencies that are technically below the threshold of human hearing, you still feel them…and a lot of those get removed from an MP3 to make it small enough so you can fit thousands onto your phone. As we digitise the content that a candidate consumes, we should be mindful that some of that content – be it video job descriptions, online assessments, live chat – we’re replacing interactions like sourcer approach calls and telephone interviews that were also felt. We must find ways not only to retain that feeling, but also capture how people are feeling as they progress through our digital recruitment process.

Another word you’ll hear back from lovers of all things analogue will be authenticity. This is less about the media really, and more about how music was made and recorded when analogue was still king. The music on those records was recorded before autotune made every caterwauling reality TV star a potential chart topper, and before digital editing made it commercially viable to clean up every human imperfection. Listen hard enough to an old record and you can hear a singer’s breathing, the creak of a chair in the corner of the studio, and less-than-perfect pitch everywhere. But that doesn’t detract from the experience of hearing that music. It enables you to picture yourself there when that record was being made, and it’s an authentic experience of a captured moment. Candidates really value that level of authenticity. And one of the many beauties of digital is that there are so many opportunities to provide it – 360 degree video of the actual working environment or perhaps a video introduction to an online assessment delivered by one of the actual people a candidate would be working with ….as long as we avoid falling into the autotune trap of overly polished and inauthentic content. Digital native candidates can smell it a mile off.

At this point, if they haven’t already, your record collector will descend into anecdotes about bus journeys home from having spent all of my … I mean their… pocket money on an album, staring at the cover all the way home, scrutinising every credit, acknowledgement, lyric and image, running into the house and straight to the turntable. They’ll talk of the delicious anticipation in that moment when the stylus hovers, and then starts its descent towards the spinning disk. How do we make people going through our digital hiring process feel like that? Now, people don’t pore over the metadata attached to an MP3 file on the bus…but what we are really describing is an engaging and propulsive process - one that uses the controlled release of content and perfectly timed calls to action to create anticipation, and to heighten motivation to get to the next stage. It’s gamification and, as with the idea of authenticity, digitisation is a rich source of opportunity here that eclipses anything that our old analogue approaches could deliver.

There are, I’m sure, many more parallels to be drawn but for me these three  bring out a common point that we overlook at our peril - there’s a lot about analogue that people like and we need to reflect that as we as we push on towards our digital future. Because your next rock star (hire) doesn’t want a digital distribution contract; they want a record deal.


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