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Talent-Sourcing Tools Need Refinement

The pandemic altered the labor market, but the imperative to find good talent hasn't changed. Are talent-sourcing tools up to the task?

Recent Society for Human Resource Management research revealed some jarring data: 41 percent of U.S. workers intend to leave their jobs sometime within the next six months. This is the highest rate of intended turnover since before the Great Recession.

While the pandemic has changed the pool of available labor, a talent shortage remains. Today, there is an abundance of available talent but a scarcity of the right talent. As a result, firms across the globe have altered their sourcing strategies. Take, for example, three tactics that for years were eschewed by enterprises for being inadequate but that now represent fresh methods for identifying talent in nontraditional ways:

Hiring former employees. Many enterprises previously thought hiring so-called boomerang employees was a bad practice. After all, these workers already chose to leave the organization. Now, however, many employers are turning to boomerang employees because they prefer the known over the unknown. For this reason, organizations have devised alumni networks and created the ability for former employees to gather on platforms such as Slack and GreenOrbit.

Sourcing skills before people. Deloitte describes this approach as the use of talent technologies to piece together a distributed workforce from a range of resources, including artificial intelligence, gig workers and vendors.

I like to think of this a little differently: Organizations are best served by distilling jobs to skills and examining the most efficient way to source those skills. In some cases, this means finding talent through AI or contract workers. In other cases, it means identifying people who have the right skills but not a traditional, expected job title.


Tools like Burning Glass and Upwork allow employers to find sources of skills—from professional accountants to gig workers with bookkeeping ability, for example. This strategy enables employers to cast a broader net than traditional candidate search tools allow. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed a talent pipeline program that adopts this approach.

Conducting interviews via video (or not). According to global research and advisory firm Gartner, 86 percent of organizations are conducting video interviews because of the pandemic. Video interviewing has many benefits, including the ability to source talent more broadly. But is it the right way to go?

Many employers have learned an ugly truth about using video interviews for talent acquisition: It does nothing to bolster or diversify the applicant base. Video interviews in many cases rely on AI screening tools to assess responses, and these can limit the applicant pool due to unintentional biases built into the scoring systems. Video interviews also can introduce new biases toward attentiveness and technological know-how, and they are remarkably limited by rigid time frames. The world had no choice regarding the use of video at the beginning of the pandemic, but now it is time to reassess and refine that practice.

That goes for all talent-sourcing tools. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we came to rely on various technological tools for sourcing talent. As a lover of all things Apple, I find myself biased toward tech. As a consumer of talent-sourcing technology, I think it has a long way to go before it lives up to its potential—but we are getting much closer to marrying the tech to our methods.  

Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, is chief knowledge officer for SHRM.


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