Welcome to episode 1 in our ‘The Future of Work’ podcast! Here we discuss the important theme of AI in the selection and recruitment process, and how you can use it to your advantage in your job searching! For more information, read our blog here!
Ellen: Hello and welcome to The Future of Work podcast series. My name is Ellen Wang, Faculty International Manager here at Leeds University School and your host for this podcast series. Last year, I launched my first podcast series, themed around globalisation, which involved a range of discussions with our students and alumni on how to think globally, act locally. I was really pleased to see the podcast was very well received, and connected with many of our alumni who could share their views on this topic. Now this year, I wanted to pick a topic that’s new, trending and topical. So, having had some thoughts and discussions, I've decided to focus on the future of work. The reason I chose this theme is organisations everywhere have experienced unprecedented destruction caused by the global pandemic over the last couple years. The vital lesson we have all learnt is that we can no longer delay our reimagining and restructuring the way we work. Since the disruption, workplaces have never been more remote and disparate. Yet resilient organisations have found progressive new ways to embrace flexible team working in ways that would never have been thought feasible a little two years ago. They have also moved to redefine roles to align with rapidly changing customer needs, sometimes redeploying staff into completing new activities, perhaps leveraging core skills to provide urgent relief in other sectors. So there are plenty to talk about in this new podcast series and I’m looking forward to discussing the future of work from a different perspectives with my Co-host and guest speakers. So, Speaking of Co-host they share had the pleasure to work with a very good colleague of mine, Marc Steward, who is also an expert in career consulting here, at the University of Leeds. So welcome Marc, thank you for being on the show and a very excited about this collaboration.
Marc: Thank you, Ellen.
Ellen: So before we start to digging into this topic, please tell us a little bit more about you and what you do at the university. I know you are already known to many, but this is really for the benefit of a wider audience.
Marc: Thank you. So, my name is Mark and I am one of the career consultants here at University of Leeds, seven years now, originally from London, so talk very quickly. Apologies for that but I am from London so we walk and talk very quickly. And so I liaise with the Faculty of Business School as well as Earth and Environment. Anything careers or employment wise, and I will run again along with a colleague of mine, Jan Spalek. And also anything interesting, such as this podcast and other interesting webinars, workshops.
Ellen: Great. Thank you for the wonderful introduction, Marc. So coming from a career consultant background, I wanted to start by asking you what are your observations between the traditional ways of recruitment processes versus new ways of recruitment process please?
Marc: Okay so, what I would say is that technology has really increased that last couple of years with regards to section recruitment and the different types of filters are still there. So what I mean by that is if we look at very large companies, they will use an application, followed by a psychometric test and then telephone interview or video and usually go through to an assessment centre, which usually includes final interview. Code has accelerated that, so technology is meant that companies can move very quickly with regards to the selection recruitment process, and it means that they can service a lot more students and candidates and graduates with regards to selection recruitment. And also some sectors also heavily rely on technology and obviously that's their business, so they happen to have more vacancies over there. They have what we call rolling application which means they don't keep your timetable, they recruit all year round. Should I talk through a breakdown?
Ellen: Yes please.
Marc: Okay to the first one as I said is an application process. So, one of the main changes have been that while CVs and application forms are quite prominent, some companies are now using the LinkedIn profile of candidates as an application. So they approached the candidate and say can we use the information from your LinkedIn profile, and that will be the initial application. So if your profile is good and I would advise everyone listening to have a very good profile on LinkedIn, then they will download that information. Secondly, will be the psychometric tests, and a lot of those companies now going towards gamification. We will talk about that a little later on, but they use gamification in lieu of psychometric tests, even though they are testing the same sort of cognitive skills and personality. Then we have the telephone and video interview, those were introduced pre-covid, they're not going to go away, so they’re going to remain. And again, that's really around two things: around speed, it's quicker to have those interviews, I think, you know, back in the old days when I first started years ago. Before you were born, Ellen…
Ellen: I doubt that very much.
Marc: What they would do with some companies would actually have a mission to you in the company but now that’s gone. It’s to do with travel costs and to save the company money, but it is also for sustainability as well, and so they'll run telephone, mobile video interviews. And as I said, then there is the assessment centres, and I think the main change arguably is the fact that they may be so shorter than previously. So I know some companies might have had candidates in for whole day. That isn't necessarily the case now in terms of
remote assessment centres, it might be one or two activities followed by interview, rather maybe through for lunch and maybe social drink or dinner afterwards. That's probably the main difference. In terms of similar feedback from the employers in the last two years and in the meetings I had, I would say the assessment centre is the one mixed thing in terms of what we would like to get back to face to face. And I’ve certainly met with a few students recently, one I have met with who went for a face-to-face this week, who invited them onto face to face assessment centres, who would like to get them back and actually seeing them and getting them back together, so I think that might be one part of the selection recruitment process that might change.
Ellen: That's great. Thank you, mark. Thank you for sharing that insight with us. I've picked up a couple of interesting points. I just want to go back to those if that's okay, I mean, you mentioned COVID has significantly accelerated process of these changes within recruitment processes. The first thing on the second thing you talk about speed, which then for me it means efficiency, right? So, employers really wanted to recruit people quickly. And that goes back to my question to you is, do you think employers can make a judgement in the shortest time, cutting from a full day assessment to half day? Do you think they are able to really look for or decide on the correct talents for what they looking for versus efficiency?
Marc: Yes, that's. Maybe around the use of technology as opposed to sort of, human beings. So obviously this situation regards to AI and algorithms being used to make initial decisions. And obviously you know, in a way the sort of selection recruitment process, again you've got to learn the game. A lot of the work that we do in careers is getting students and graduates to understand how to tailor applications towards algorithms and using the right language. Who knows? I mean, I'm sure employers would say yes, they think they can do the job, I mean if they use AI initially to go through applications and then they'll be human error and whether they look at the rest of those, and then they make a judgement based on their own, sort of, emotions and feelings. But, you know, there could be unconscious bias in there. But the numbers of applications, they had to use that, and that’s their argument, a human can’t check 10,000 applications for jobs, you’d need AI to do that.
Ellen: Of course. Moving onto assessment centre. This is something that I think not only myself as a host, but I think majority of our graduates are very, very focused area is that many of our graduates obviously they you know when they first look for the job markets, they will look for jobs or employers at least, often have an assessment centre process. So, what changes did you notice in the last couple of years?
Marc: So, going back to what I said earlier, one of the main ones I've noticed from not just employer feedback but working with students going to assessments is that they’re shorter. That probably initially was around things like the fact that no company had lived through a pandemic like we had, so they had to adjust very quickly, I think you know time is of the essence. So it might be quicker to run 1or 2 activities because the staff weren’t that agile. They have certainly adjusted to that, they are much more agile now.mock online interviews around:
So if we do when we get back to face to face, if we get back to some of the companies, then they will have that introduction style with a coffee, a chance to network, with current graduates or placement students. Then you have an activity, then you have lunch. That obviously isn’t the case if you’re doing it remotely. it could last a couple of hours and that’s it.
Ellen: Sure, so you talked about all these changes, I mean obviously you know, making the shortest time, which to me sounds like students will have less time to make first good impression, right? Of course, you talked about embedding the technology, AI augmented reality as part of the assessment centre. And also you talked about, you know, some assessments centres being held online, and some of them are going back to face to face. So there is a big question, Marc, is what you think our students should do to prepare themselves for all these changes, for all these different methodologies that the companies have been implementing as part of assessment centres please?
Marc: Okay, so preparations is pretty much the same for assessment centres, an assessment centre is a couple of activities and an interview, and the employer will always say, we cannot practise for assessment centre, well we can for to an extent because you have an interview. That's possible. I would say. I would agree to some parts if you're face to face for an assessment centre, that you are in a physical space and I always say to students, when you turn up to an assessment centre, you look around in that physical space, even reception areas there’s going to be something there that isn’t on the website, you know, it's not going to be part of your research prior to turning up. So it might be like an internal staff newsletter, just look at what is going on. You know, if you inject that into an interview on the day, the employer will know that the reason you know that is because you were physically looking around. You were actually attentive, and that’s part of the assessment centre. Obviously, the remote work, you can't do that, but you can still look up the people who are going to be assessing you if you know who they are, go can go on LinkedIn, look at their profile. Obviously, you want to research the company and research the sector as well. You want to look at some of the news stories going on with that company as well because obviously at the moment, currently we have a situation in Ukraine and affect sectors, we still have COVID and that affected sectors and that's affecting the company as well. So you need to know about that because generally going to be assessed on that anyway, you’re going to be assessed on commercial acumen anyway. You can still do the research, it’s just that you don't have that physical, you know, surrounding, you can’t speak to other candidates in reception, or you can't talk to maybe the graduates were hanging around at reception. That’s what you can’t do. But you can still engage online, and it is important to do that when you have the opportunity, it is quite key, whether that is opening a mic or opening the chat function, and that's really important. Again, that's feedback from employers. Whilst you can't physically talk to them, they are really open to someone using the chat box, asking really questions or opening the mic if possible.
Ellen: How do you think our students can do to make a first good impression within the shortest possible time?
Marc: I think it is its remote. Again, I think it is engaging. You know as soon as possible with the employer. So again, if there's an opportunity to have an introduction and you listen to the company and what they’re talking about, ask them questions. You have to be careful, don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions, if it’s on their website, there’s no point asking that. It is about listening and engaging where possible and personalising that as well, as much as possible. What I mean by that is bringing yourself into play as well. So, if you have a question you start it or frame it by saying well actually I've done this, or my project, this is my dissertation, do you think that fits into what you were saying about X… what you’re doing there is selling yourself self immediately. That’s what assessment centres and careers is about, selling yourself, that’s how it works, by standing out from other applicants as well, which can be slightly difficult online compared to a-to-face assessment centre, but it's still possible.
Ellen: What about a face-to-face assessment centre then?
Marc: So, for a face-to-face assessment centre, as I said, it’s game on as soon as you walk in that building. I mean you; you are looking around you, you are engaged. In reception when you tell them that you’re here, you mark yourself off, you answer questions. Something simple like how was your journey or how’re you doing? Making sure you’re not monotone, you might be nervous, but you want to engage with everyone in that company, is the eyes of that company. They can actually ask at receptions; well actually how did they react and how were they when they were sitting down and waiting as well? So, I would look around information and pick up information in the surrounding environment. You wanna talk to people who are giving you a tour, so ask questions and again listen and react to what they’re saying with regards to that. Things like lunch as well, you’re still being watched, anything social you’re still being watched, and so I guess so being professional, listening and trying again find some commonality with anyone that is speaking again, and if you can hang onto something being said. Even things like, I mean other big ones I’m a fan of is observing clothing, things like clothing. You know, I had conversations around socks before, picking up on a coat, a broach, a tie. I mean anything like that as well that can come into play, and it just shows that you’re attentive.
Ellen: Absolutely, yes. It’s all about the details isn’t it?
Marc: The devil is in the detail.
Ellen: Absolutely. So, you talked about all of this, you know, in terms of what our students can do to prepare for remote or face to face assessment centres. These are really, really useful. Thank you, Marc. Now I've got another question just kind of looking from a different perspective. It’s that, obviously listening to your advice that, it is all very encouraging, encouraging people to be forthcoming, encourage people to have an external observation, the commercial awareness, talk about current affairs. But you know, come forward to questions, engaging and being interactive. Now, is it possible for them to be seen as too keen? Because if everyone is acting in such a way, that would it be possible to create this almost, like a chaotic situation, where everybody wants to squeeze their word in rather than taking a back seat. What are your views and some advice on this please?
Marc: Yeah, that is a possibility. That’s mainly through things like group activities, assessment centres are the most obvious one, it’s what employers will feed back on. Yu won’t win any points for being the loudest or talking the most. You will actually be marked down. The point of group work is seeing if you can be part of a team. It’s about your communication and engagement, but the main part is teamwork, it’s basically that. You listen to your teammates, and even bringing in someone who maybe hasn't said anything into the conversation as well, as dangerous as that can be, you might bring them in and they say something incredible, amazing, you will still win bonus points for that. Because you’re engaging in the team and you’re asking things as well, so I won't worry too much if someone keeps talking, talking, talking, because really they’re going to lose out.
Ellen: Right. So really, it's about speaking at the right time rather than speaking for the sake of speaking, right?
Marc: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. That's like anything, you want to be considered. I think if you’re one of the people that hasn’t said anything, then you can work off your other team. So, you can listen to them, you can sort of, you know, you can work and coattail, so what that means is that you can say that's really great. That's brilliant... I also thought about this as well, so you know you're always very positive when you when you engage, but you can add something to that as well. Or if you want to change it a little bit, it’s like you say that's a great idea, I was also thinking about this and then change slightly to what you want to talk initially anyway. That's all fine, there’s ways of doing that, but you have to be positive…
Ellen: Absolutely, right. Great. Thank you for all of this insight and advice. So, I want to go back to what you talked about slightly earlier about gamification as part of the application process. And we also talked about psychometric test as well. So, my question is what really is the purpose for doing these? You know, for employers to implement this and exactly what do employers is try to establish through these exercise and process, please.
Marc: Okay. So the reason gamification is introduced for undergrads, postgrads, graduates was purely customer feedback around psychometric tests, and it was just seen as being a very dry way of assessing a candidates competencies, skills, personality, whatever. Psychometric tests, if you don’t know, are things like double reasoning, numerical skills, situation judgement, etc. So, it was just sort of that employers needed to find a way of engaging candidates more. And so, they decided to introduce gamification. Not all of them I have to stress, but some of them have introduced gamification, based on the fact in the research that sort of Gen Z and Gen Alpha and millennials spend more time on mobile technology. It was researched that they were quite keen on gaming and so that's the reason why they were hoping that it would be more attractive, and the candidate would find. It more interesting to do, because I've yet to meet anybody who likes psychometric tests.
People say, how do you prepare? I mean, you prepare by practising, it’s the only thing you can do for a psychometric test, but the other thing is if you go into anything thinking you’re going to fail it, you’re going to fail it. That’s like anything, if you want to play a violin and think, ‘well, I’m never going to pick this up’, you won’t pick it up because you don’t want to do it. That’s the reason why they’re doing that. I think with some companies as well, the reasoning that they chose gamification was also part of their branding. So, if you were playing a game and that was to get you onto the next stage of the recruitment process, you would also be looking at hat company thinking, wow! They’re going to be fun to work for, because they use games to assess rather than the old-style statements and sentence. And that's the reason why they believe it's really to attract more candidates, to make them feel more at ease, to match their skill set and personality. You have to be careful with labels, I’m not a big fan of labels, but it is just to show you are aware and innovative.
Ellen: Right on. Do you think it terms of psychometric space do you think is fair for certain individuals hold certain style of verbal reasoning and situational judgement? I mean, I'm assuming there isn't a right wrong answer in there, or there is a pass or fail. Is that correct?
Marc: Yeah. Okay. So, in the first instance, the employer always says that psychometric tests and gamification is for testing skills that are required for that job role, right? Organisational psychologists are involved, they spend a lot of time and money working, and that's what the employment is saying. The tests are relevant to the role, so if it’s numerical, then it's the job will involve numerical work. If it's situational judgement, then it will require situational judgement skills, that's how it works. In terms of, whether it's rather… I mean we have to be careful, as I say, things like gamification are based on the fact that candidates, millennials, Gen Z’s, they’re on their mobiles, they like gaming. But there are certainty a lot of students that I’ve met, that don't like it. Didn't understand it. Didn't understand what they were being asked to do. I remember one a couple of years ago about bursting balloons in a certain order. And they were furious, they couldn't understand why they had to do this right? They were very academic students; they don't like games. What's the point of this? So it is slightly careful that, but you know. And the other, yeah, I mean your final point is whether an algorithm is suitable for choosing candidates, I mean, that's an age-old argument. It’s a tricky one because it depends on a lot of things; programmers who programmed it? The software, the people that it is based on, the people that have tested it. Are those candidates or those that have tested it, do they represent society? You know, a made up of the correct members in society, the correct socioeconomic background for that company? I can’t answer that as I don’t work for that company, but I know there are arguments around this machine, and why the machine can decide whether I am good enough for a job or not good enough for that level of psychometric test. In terms of whether it's wrong, I mean it can be, obviously psychometric tests there are statements that can be based on the be job function thing, you’ve got personality questionnaires which are not right or wrong, you’re just testing personalities.
Ellen: Great. So I've got one last question. So, do you think this is the trend will reflect on most of the future employers going forward, or is it just some of the big international firms? For sake of our students and in terms of preparation and using this, is it going to be an ongoing trend?
Marc: Yeah, so I think, yeah, I mean… A lot of this technology were used pre-covid. So, as I said, the video interviews where there's no one talking to anyone, you just talk to camera and there’s a clock counting down. That’s all pre-covid anyway, the psychometric tests were pre-covid. So, I think, yeah, things will move on, we talked briefly about augmented reality, virtual reality. I think there are companies investigating and investing in that. Again, I think it has been used before. I think there are certain sectors that have used it where it works very well, things like engineering. So, I know that I went to an employer about 5 or 6 years ago and they were looking at engineering cockpits in helicopters and that's great way to put on headset on and look around the cockpit when you don’t have a helicopter to hand. I’m not sure how many of our students have a helicopter to hand in Burley Park. So, that’s quite a good one. Dentistry as well, when you couldn’t get into the dental practise over COVID. Dental students could actually go into the practice with a head set on. The issue there is of course access, people having that technology is costly. I think it’s costly to the companies, and again, COVID, and some of the other situations going on like in Ukraine and the energy crisis, you know, that's going to cost companies. It’s not just about selection of recruitments, what does the company do, can they afford this? So, they might put some of these on the backburner. I would say that it is definitely being investigated and it will be looked at. Like a I say, a lot of things initially, is expensive, but I can see in probably four, five years, people will have headsets. They will be sitting front room in Bali; they might be sat in Burley Park but will actually be in Bali with the headset on. but will actually be involved with the headset on, you know, sitting on the beach because the cost will come down. It is supply and demand and they can use that in terms of selection recruitment.
Ellen: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that's great. Thank you so much, Marc. I think that's all we've got time for, and I think we've discussed so much and it’s certainly a great start to this podcast series. Now, before I conclude or wrap up before this episode, I just wondered if you got any takeaway points for this episode for our students to think about in terms of recruitment processes, in terms of preparation?
Marc: Okay, so, I have a few things. The first is obviously we have the careers centre website, we have information on psychometrics and interviews, so we have practice psychometric testing which is free, we also have a software to practice video interviewing which you can sign up for as well, that’s on our website. So, the external career websites have some very good information as well, target jobs, articles, gamification, that’s called the graduate job hunt, the guide to gamification. LinkedIn, get your profile sorted on LinkedIn, it is so important, there is a lot of stuff going on in LinkedIn, and I do a lot of webinars and session on LinkedIn so keep an eye on MyCareer for those.
Do engage with employer webinars, we have, we still have a lot of webinars, and you must engage, I can’t stress that enough. I have been in meeting where they say to us, students must use the chat function, they must if we allow it, open the mic. That's a way of standing out. If you can't get onto the premises, you gotta, you gotta stand out another way. And the last thing I will say is it interesting. We only found out yesterday, and I watched it overnight. The BBC on the 8th of March actually had a documentary about AI in selection, recruitment, graduate selection, recruitment, it’s on iPlayer for the year. It’s called ‘computer says no’. It's... Yeah, I mean watch it, just be slightly careful of the content, not that's rude or anything, it's just it's, only one way of looking at it. But it is well worth having a look, it’s about 50 minutes long. Have a look at that, and the last thing I would say is that there is a company based at Nexus at the far end of campus, they’re called Slingshot, working on VR and AR technology, I’m actually going to meet with them pretty soon on the VIP programme in July.
Marc: And have a look at their website, they have some very interesting articles on there about augmented reality, virtual reality, and some of the work they do there as well. As I say, they’re based on campus. So, that’s what I would say, Ellen.
Ellen: Well, there you have it everyone. So, thank you so much, Marc. And that's plenty of takeaways for audience. The more the better, you shared so much. So, I guess for the next episode we’ll invite industry practitioners who's going to share more insight on the adaptation of AI technology in recruitment process and how graduates can prepare for this. So, stay tuned for the next episode we’ll continue on this discussion. Now, if you're interested in finding out more about this topic, please subscribe to our podcast series. You are also welcome to get in touch with us. You can either send this email or book an online appointment directly with Mark via create centre. Our contact details available in episode description. Lastly, I shall leave you with quote, by Brian Connell, the CEO of Target Corporation, he says: ‘the technology is going to disrupt the future of work, perhaps sooner than we thought’. until next time.