Artificial Intelligence And Hiring - Matt Charney [Interview]

About Matt Charney

Matt Charney is one of the top experts in the world when it comes to talent and technology. He is famous for his intelligent content. He is a partner at Recruiting Daily, the world’s largest destination for HR content, and is the chief content officer at ‘Allegis Global Solutions’. Matt’s personal blog ‘Snark Attack’ is classified as an essential read by WordPress. He’s also recognized as one of the most influential HR professionals in the world. 

Artificial Intelligence And Hiring - Matt Charney [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Matt Charney today to our interview series. I am Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner to 2019 global Codie Award for HCM and is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel that receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Aishwarya

Welcome, Matt, we’re thrilled to have you.

Matt

And I’m thrilled to be here.

Aishwarya

So let me start with the first question, you know, that I had for you, Matt.

So I came across, you know this video where you were saying that no kids would ever dream of being a recruiter. Can you tell us a little about the journey that has landed you here as one of the top-most HR influencers? 

Matt

Yeah, I think it is a good reminder that you know, as much career advice might be out there, nothing ever goes according to plan. And we all ended up here because that plan went wrong.

So, I was a screenwriting major and became a recruiter like so many other liberal and fine arts college graduates and I will not bore you with the details other than to say, somehow, for quite a while now I’ve convinced companies as a recruiter – Disney and Warner Brothers to let me hire people for them, which was awesome. 

And for the last more years than I care to admit, companies like Monster, Cornerstone On-demand, Recruiting Daily, and Allegis have been nice enough to let me pretend that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to talent technology.

But, I think the last few weeks have really shown, I don’t know anything, but in a reassuring way, no one does. So that’s me in a nutshell. Still trying to figure it all out. 

Aishwarya

Right, I think we’re all in the same boat just trying to figure out what we’re doing here. But tell me something, Matt.

What is it that excites you the most about what you’re doing? What is it that makes you wake up in the morning and just jump out of your bed? What is it that excites you the most?

Matt

Honestly, up until very recently, I would not have been a good answer for you. But the silver lining of all this is that is a good reminder that jobs are really important, a huge part of our identity, how we see the world and how we see ourselves. And recruiting is so essential to intermediating not only people that have employment, but also, better employment, better lives, and better livelihoods.

“And recruiting is so essential to intermediating not only people that have employment, but also, better employment, better lives, and better livelihoods.”

And then you really see how imperative what the work is that we’re doing at a fundamental level, as opposed to the impact of AI on whatever. So in a way, I think going back to the basics is what gets me excited. And that is, how do we get people jobs.

Aishwarya

That’s an interesting perspective, how you’re kind of getting back to the basics and especially during these times.

At these turmoil times, how would you advise organizations that still have to continue hiring during these times of Pandemic? What would you tell them? What’s right from wrong?

Matt

I can’t tell you any more than I could have answered that question in the best job market in history. I think intrinsically organizations know what’s right from wrong. They put a bunch of tools like assessments and manual intervention through pre-screens resumes in there. But ultimately, it really just comes down to both interpersonal chemistry, I think.

And these two are something that can’t be defined. So, organizations have done what’s right for them, if you’re the one that’s hiring right now, don’t change anything. Because you’ve done something right. And I have to say is, I would hope that you continue to treat candidates and the candidate experiences as critically as you did back when the supply and demand ratio looked quite different. 

Aishwarya 

Wow, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. If you’re, If you’re still hiring right now in these times, there must be something that’s been done right in that process. Right.

Matt

Don’t change. Yeah. Let me know what’s your secret. 

Aishwarya 

Absolutely. Yeah, what’s the recipe for that, huh? That, that makes a lot of sense and you know, you’re talking about Tech. You’re talking about AI.

Do you really believe that AI is an enabler in this entire hiring process or to the largest, looking at it as, Oh, yeah? You know, I’ll just do that tomorrow. I really have to do something else, you know I’ll prioritize that later on. For later on. Do you see that? 

Matt

Again, the nice thing about this one trend is that I don’t have to adjust my answer around. AI has never existed in the re-creating space. Even the most advanced artificial intelligence researchers in the world say that general AI, which is what we’re discussing, is 5 to 7 years off.

What we’re talking about is Automation. Automation is a good thing. It’s interesting by the way. Remember when robots were the biggest threats to everyone’s job? That was like a month ago we were like concerned, ‘Oh, the robots may, may come and take our jobs and change the workforce dynamic.’ And it turned out to not be that dramatic. So that’s the limitation of artificial intelligence.

Intrinsically, algorithms need historical information in order to predict future results. We’ve spent quite a lot of money on that and fed on that, some of these terabytes of work and recruiting-related data to these algorithms. And I got to say nobody saw this coming. So, as intelligent artificial intelligence may or may not be, you can’t rely exclusively on technology because ultimately you’re a human trying to keep other humans working. AI is not gonna take anyone’s job, but it’s also not gonna save anyone’s job and recruiting either.

“So, as intelligent artificial intelligence may or may not be, you can’t rely exclusively on technology because ultimately you’re a human trying to keep other humans working. AI is not gonna take anyone’s job, but it’s also not gonna save anyone’s job and recruiting either.”

Aishwarya 

Alright. Absolutely. So what you’re trying to say is that you can work with some amount of automation, but really, you have to have human intervention and you have to have a connect with the candidates to really make that process efficient, right? 

Matt

Yeah, well, I think that efficiency is gonna find itself. So for a while, we thought that disruption needed to happen but we could essentially have innovation. I think what we’re actually fighting about is that when a real disruption occurs, innovation just kind of has to happen.

So, the video interviewing whatever we say is synchronous. The employment interviewing market right now is sitting somewhere like $100 million every year. The technology that we’re doing this video interview on is something that you were able to download. Everyone’s using that.

As we’re seeing, you can get your whole workforce upon it in 48 hours and nobody’s like, I don’t understand how to use my webcam and Zoom. Right? 

So, I think what you’re going to just essentially start seeing is that the way that we live our lives and the way that we live our work-lives are going to rely on the same platforms and essentially, you know, have a whole lot of work about it.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And also, you know, since we’re watching everything, we’re kind of seeing everything in retrospect, and we’re doing a lot of reflection on what we’re actually doing in these times.

Do you think that platforms will have to change their narrative on how we hire with technology? Would they have to enhance some kind of features or will they just have to say that, hey let’s leave it to humans?

Matt

Well, so it’s interesting if you look at, let’s say March 2019, which I’ll call peak VC recruiting hysteria. And you look 10 years prior to that. So March 2009 which is the 10-year coincidence was like the bottom of the employment market, last recession. We’ve spent so much money and time talking about new tools, new technologies, new paradigms, and which system is gonna change everything.

Well as it turns out, in that time, job boards have remained the number one source of spending when it comes to getting candidates. It is still that source recruiters put the most faith in. Internal mobility and referrals, still the number one source of hire. So that hasn’t changed. And if you look at sources of hire, other than fewer career fairs and more social media, it’s the same, the peak that it is in the valley. So the fundamentals really haven’t changed on the one hand. 

On the other hand, when you look at systems, the market share looks exactly the same as it did in 2019 as it did in 2009. Oracle, dominant market player, they essentially have like about 80% of the market between all their applications and most of the rest is split between SAP and at the time People Soft, but now all that’s happened is People Soft has been replaced market share wise by workday, both of them founded by the exact same person and learning on the exact same code based with the exact same executive team.

So my point is this What you’re doing now is the future of recruitment. The industry doesn’t move. And so, if you have the fundamental skills, which is the ability to engage, persuade, and negotiate with people, then you’re gonna be okay.

“What you’re doing now is the future of recruitment. The industry doesn’t move. And so, if you have the fundamental skills, which is the ability to engage, persuade, and negotiate with people, then you’re gonna be okay.”

Aishwarya

Oh, that’s quite insightful. I mean, you know, nobody kind of thinks about how hiring has changed or whether it has even changed at all. It’s still the same. The fundamentals are still the same and wow, that is surprising. And it is very strange how we conduct, we’ve been through so many refresh cycles. But hiring is still stuck at the same level. And how do you, you know, when you think about all this, right?

How do you kind of look at how in perspective and say that, Okay, this is one element that, that needs to be changed right now? What is it that we need to change right now? 

Matt

So I think that we’re really bad. So if we say humans are a resource, follow my metaphor here, it’s going to be extended, and I apologize. But if we say that humans are a resource, we’re really bad at inventory, right?

So, what we’ve been terrible at and why this happens every so often, we open, 1,000,000 jobs a year, and then inevitably, within three months, they all disappear. Well, why does that keep happening? Because We hire without knowing exactly what the balance is gonna be, to have maximum impact with the right headcount.

“We hire without knowing exactly what the balance is gonna be, to have maximum impact with the right headcount.”

Because you have to think if telling our position was incorporating the right people, the variety fits from a cultural perspective, the right analytics, do everything right, then hiring needs to essentially never fluctuate. So what we need to do right now is, in my opinion, to get away from being so tightly focused on what’s not a great practice in inventory management, making sure that supply and demand match and that is get away with just in time.

Stop coasting jobs and finding the most qualified person and really focus on finding the person, who’s got the highest degree of learning agility and the most development potential because that person in a downturn is able to change directions without necessarily having to change what the workforce looks like.

So I think you can have continuity if you get away from just looking at everything through the tight lens of what job needs to be done and more from the lens of how do we get the right people to do whatever job is going to be needed to get done and most of the time that can’t be described as we all know. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, I think there are a lot of grey areas in this and how do you find out, the culture fit between the candidate and the organization. That is something which will require just going out and catching the fish, just because there are plenty of them and there will be plenty of them going on, coming after the crisis now. And I feel sorry for the graduate class this year. But yes, this is going to be. 

Matt

Yeah, right. They were born out of, born out of 9/11. And then this is their senior year. So but they got, they got some bad luck, for sure. 

Aishwarya

Yeah. And you know, the unemployment rate in the last five years has just increased. And I think it’s unfortunately really going to increase even now. Oh. And you know, when you talk about SAP and all of this and all these platforms, they are legacy system but they’re also complex to use right? Every, every little, every small step that you kind of take, it just takes you forever to train yourself and to understand these systems. So, you know, it’s like the stuff they’re just stuck, you know, somewhere they’re not coming out of it.

So why don’t, why don’t they kind of, aren’t you supposed to look at the end-user and keep them in mind and make a platform? What’s your opinion? 

Matt

Absolutely. So as hard as it is when you’re an applicant and as stupid is it is when you’re on a phone and you click this beautiful job description with employer branding and then it hits you, that login screen, where it’s like enter your credentials, you’re like, What? What? So as stupid as that is, imagine trying to explore hundreds of thousands of those applications from that system to anything else. That’s why the status quo hasn’t changed.

That’s becoming more entrenched when you take cloud computing into it. So work will start having all that data. But now it’s in the cloud, but they’re also in the cloud. So, between them and Google offering their business products, Amazon obviously, supporting everyone. I think certainly that’s the only wild card, but it doesn’t probably change a lot. So should they focus on their own user? Yes. Ultimately, they’ll focus on revenue. 

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Oracle, as much as we want to make fun of their products like Taleo, which for some reason, is still supported and hasn’t been updated since the last time we talked about recruiting in a recession. You know, they make their money off of out-licensing and intellectual property. So, API calls, code that sort of thing you never think about. They don’t have very many people sitting there trying to design a better way to apply. They have a lot of patent attorneys ready to sue anyone who doesn’t write them the right check. And that’s decent as fairly. 

Aishwarya

Wow, that is quite insightful. You just never really know what they’re thinking when they’re making these platforms. And then I think, the newer kind of start-ups and companies, they’re thinking better on this and they’re kind of implementing better technologies or better automation tools than these guys are, and they’re really kind of coming ahead, which is, kind of a boon for some people.

They do use technology, but there are some who are, kind of repelled. And they just think it’s just too much of work, you know too much of training. So that’s that. 

But you know, when it comes to, newer generations, right? We were talking about millennials and Gen Z’s and you have written about that as well. And you do say that many millennials think of a job as a good job, and that’s only gonna be truer as we come out of the crisis. Right?

So, you know what is the future of work going to look like with millennials in the picture, you know? And what do you think about the gig economy? 

Matt

Oh, so that’s interesting. What we’re going to see, I could confidently tell you the gig economy has always been a flaming mattress, right? It has been a money pit. So the reason why I was artificially inflated, why we’re talking about the gig economy is that there were a whole lot of companies and a whole lot of money that went into trying to make that a reality.

Well, the economics of the gig economy state that you have to have supply before demand and supply is predicated on going out and finding a whole bunch of people and the model that they were able to bring to that in acquiring people through this partnership, freelance gig, whatever you wanna call it model, has made them look like they were changing the paradigm of work and as we all know and knew, nobody wants to be a freelancer gig even as much as they would like to tell us that, everyone wants a full-time job with benefits.

So I think especially, what we’ll see now is that people are even more going to push back against this lack of having an employment contract and really start valuing stability. And I think what you’re going to see is that companies are starting to be forced to treat their workers a lot better. People will get used to being able to work from home when they can and not have to commute now or each way to go to a job that could be done from home. So I think, that’s gonna be a change that has to happen.

I think, certainly, in the United States, people are going to start realizing, oh, my goodness, I shouldn’t go to work when I’m sick and that previously, unless you were dying, you show up or you don’t get paid. I think that that’s the future of work actually looks pretty good. And I think that We’re being forced to really rethink what matters.

“We’re being forced to really rethink what matters.”

The gig economy, you know, ‘WeWork’ being the poster child that looks like their valuations today became $0. Ultimately the gig economy didn’t work and the old economy which is people have value and they’re our greatest asset and as that continues to be proved, put your money where your mouth is or else you’re going to just be having the same problem coming out the other side. But it’s gonna be Gen Z’s instead of millennials and you know you’ll still be paying too much to re-acquire the same workers you lost. 

Aishwarya 

Absolutely. I think you know once you come out of the crisis, you’re going to realize that there’s just no language out there, you know? How do you separate the good from the bad? And how do you make a choice with so many people out there, how do you, how will you market yourself as a brand? Will you go to social media? Where do you go to these job sites?

How do you think organizations should do it? Should they rethink that strategy now?

Matt

I think, we firms have always been the most effective source of external hire, both from a percentage perspective. So, like somebody is referred to as opposed to apply, then they’re 400 times more likely to be interviewed. Right? So, they also tend to stay at a job five times longer, than just a blind applicant.

So what I think that companies need to start doing, I say that not as a sweeping generality but if I were kind of, you know, giving blanket advice, it’s that we have talked about this idea of brand ambassadors. But if we look at a market where everyone’s out there and everyone’s kind of looking over their shoulders right now, that can be a good thing. It’s incumbent on your employers to let you know who they know who’s good because all of us know a bunch of good people whose jobs are something just like that. 

And so if you’re able to say, here’s what you should be looking for when you’re referring, who do you know and really relying on that as opposed to here is a job. Do go, go get him, then you can hire when you meet the right person and you can make sure that you’re able to capitalize on the market as opposed to being reactive to the next crisis. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, that makes sense. Because I think, you know, everyone’s gonna just tell you things that you would like, they try to please you because there’s going to be so much gap in recruitment. And there would be so many candidates who’d be desperate to get their dream job, so they’re just gonna be on their, very polished and they want to kind of really grab on the market, so it would be very difficult. Recruiters are gonna have a hard time. So referrals make a lot of sense. Definitely. 

Matt

Yeah. Recruiters are gonna have a hard time, but not as hard as the time of the candidates. So, you know, there’s the thing I would encourage any recruiters to remember how easy it is to be one of those resumes. 

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Aishwarya 

Yeah, that is good advice. And that was my follow-up question.

What do you advise for candidates, how should they approach, how should they vouch times after the Pandemic?

Matt

So I’ll tell anyone looking for a job, now if you’re reaching out for your network, never make it about a job. If it’s like, some guy, who you know from LinkedIn, like, ‘Hey! I’ve noticed that your company is, whatever’. People think that’s being smart like I don’t know if I’ve told you that I’ve applied for a job but you’re never gonna get one, you mean that, right?

So, I would say, really look at not only who can immediately help you but who you’ve built good relationships with because I think to my earlier point, referrals do really drive a lot of hiring and if you’re having to go out, look for posts of jobs, it better be because you’ve identified somebody in your network, who you’re close enough with to trust their recommendation that yeah, that’s a place to work. Here’s the thing, if you’re applying for jobs that are posted, it’s probably already been sold. That’s always been true but now that’s gonna be more the case. 

But you can get to a place where you’re having a conversation with the company as opposed to applying for a job and jobs will be created for you. It always happens, the key is to not be reliant on any social media platform. I think authentically be in the best of what it is that you’re having a conversation opens the door where companies can’t say ‘no’.

“Having a conversation opens the door where companies can’t say ‘no’.”

And ultimately the best way to get in is by not being like an applicant, but by being really good at what you do.

Aishwarya

Absolutely. I think ultimately it’d be your skills and how genuine you are, having a conversation as you said, would be what matters. But on the other hand, if basically, you see, if the candidate is a millennial or if it’s a Gen Z,

Would they kind of look at corporations and then question them? Hey, you know, what is it that you did during the Pandemic? Did you do something good? Did you do a social cause? Did you support something social? Are they gonna be picky? 

Matt

Yeah, no. I just think that they just can’t be choosers on one hand, so if on the lower end of that, though like Gen Z’s, they’re gonna handle a job market where they’re gonna be happy to have jobs that we would never consider doing, you know as reasonable as it means, because that’s what they know.

I think, on the other hand, this is older Gen Y, we know that that’s all just PR anyway. Intrinsically, right? These companies, we now have understood, don’t really care about us, they really care about their shareholders. So, ultimately I think there is a lot of cynicism that undercuts all of the commitment, the things that both of those generations believe in. 

Aishwarya

Right. Absolutely. And I’m really very happy with what we’ve spoken about.

So I just want to kind of end this with, what is your secret to creating exceptionally good content for marketing?

Matt

I don’t create it for marketing. You know, if you wanna create content, remember that you need to care about it if you want anyone else to. So, if you have nothing to say or don’t have a passion for anything, then don’t force it. And if you do, just craft in your own voice and Honestly, if I had any advice for content, sometimes no content is better than a bunch. People will find you. Don’t go out selling yourself.

“Honestly, if I had any advice for content, sometimes no content is better than a bunch. People will find you. Don’t go out selling yourself.”

Aishwarya

Right. So, it’s just not about bombarding the internet with you know, post after post after post. But it’s really about value.

Matt

“If the goal of any marketing is differentiation, then you don’t win by saying the same stuff everyone else has, and volume gets you nowhere other than unsubscribing.” 

Aishwarya

Wise words. Right. So I think, definitely, our viewers are gonna benefit from that and I’ve had a wonderful conversation, Matt, and thank you so much, it was a pleasure talking to you. I really appreciate you sharing your views and we’re gonna have your interview.

Matt

Well, I appreciate all the great questions and I look forward to speaking with you soon. 

Aishwarya  

Definitely, I will keep in touch with you and you know, I’ll just say, stay safe and stay well.