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Recruiting with a touch of human - Katrina Collier [Interview]

Recruiting with a touch of human - Katrina Collier [Interview]

Zeba Kazi
May 27, 2022
Recruiting with a touch of human - Katrina Collier [Interview]

About Katrina Collier

Katrina is a keynote speaker in the field of hiring. Well known for her book, “The Robot-Proof Recruiter”, she is also the co-host of the #socialrecruiting show podcast. She is the founder of the event disruptHR London and facilitator for The Searchologist. Besides being a lover of HR, she has also taken up roles as a business mentor and a product advisor. Helping organizations get free from the blockages in recruiting and hiring.

Recruiting with a touch of human - Katrina Collier [Interview]

Aishwarya Jain

We have the pleasure of welcoming Katrina Collier today to our interview series, LeadersHum. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.


Welcome Katrina,  we're thrilled to have you.


Hello, Thank You for having me. 


Alright, let me begin with the first question. Could you tell us a little bit more about the concept of The Robot-Proof Recruiter?


Yeah. So I am very proud to be the author of 'The Robot-Proof Recruiter'. I was actually approached by the publisher Kogan Page to write a book and the first thing that struck to my mind was that I want to write a book, which is all about putting the human first, getting recruiters away from thinking that tools can do every part of the job and just demystify it showing how to use technology to create a better engagement with people so that they recruit people better.

I think there's been a lot of hiding behind technology and not doing as good as a job as they could, so it basically goes through the entire recruitment process and it's way bigger than you think because it's really about like, how you're even presenting yourself online, how you treat people through the recruitment process through employee experience on the other side because all of that impacts talent acquisition now. So yes, it's just human first, is that the best way to describe it.


Right, that's wonderful. And what do you think is the most important skill or skills that recruiters should have for talent acquisition strategies? 


Obviously, that's a really huge question, because it could be so many different skills. But the ones that I think are lacking these days, which really need to develop, are those things that make us uniquely human. Our adaptability, our curiosity, our empathy and compassion, our persuasive skills, those kinds of things that really, really need to be developed because it's not just enough for me to find you and talk to you about a job. 
Now it's like there's so much more involved and it's really been about to put yourself in the situation of the candidate and to really understand their needs because they have so much choice now, to persuade them to come to your organization, it is a much bigger job than it used to be. 

"Our adaptability, our curiosity, our empathy and compassion, our persuasive skills, those kinds of things really, really need to be developed".

It used to be I found you, I talked to you, come work for me now. Now It's like I'm up against the noise of the Internet and how people are perceiving you and the company. So it's much more important that I am really developing and there are human skills and that I stand out from the noise and you think about your normal day, where you're constantly interrupted, so recruiters try to get your attention and talk to you about a job, you're just like, Enough! So, it's those really human skills that I think if recruiters developed them, then they're gonna really stand out. 


And is it true that candidate engagement is a very important part of the entire process? And how do you make this better for the candidate?


So it's not a case of - Well, I found you on LinkedIn and I sent you an email, and you just replied, I mean, it's just not gonna happen these days, even with what's going on now, in certain sectors, there are still gonna be big problems. 

So healthcare sectors, in technology, there will still be a shortage of people, people have so much more choice. So candidate engagement again is about not just the finding, because it could be. You know, people hear about an opportunity at your company and they're looking at you and how you treat your customers, your employees, and your candidates before they get in touch with you.

"People hear about an opportunity at your company and they're looking at you and how you treat your customers, your employees, and your candidates before they get in touch with you".

It's like there are lots of places they can go and look at people. So you've got to get someone's attention and hold their attention and pull them through the recruitment process, and that includes stopping them from ghosting out of the process. So, you know, it's like in a relationship where you would just disappear. They're doing that in the recruitment process. So if you're not focused on keeping them engaged and informed and giving them clarity and certainty all the way through the process, they just drop out. So more human! 


Absolutely. And even I think after, you know after you reject the candidates after that too, you have to kind of engage with them and give them the reason as to why you didn't offer them, right? 


Yeah, absolutely. I think right now, while we've got COVID-19 as well, it's gonna be very telling how you reject your staff, your current staff, how you let them go. How you treat them in this process is going to be impacting future recruitment and how you treat candidates, how you reject them, how you say, "Look, I'm really sorry." So, like that second-place candidate who you may actually want to pick up in six months' time.

If you don't do it right, you won't be able to see it. It's their ability to go online and you talk about you and you know what we're like. If we're disgruntled, we go online and we talk. We get people's attention. You know, I have a problem getting something done, I'll go to Twitter to get attention from that company. It's the same thing. 

So, yeah, absolutely. All of it, I mean to me literally it is from how you treat your customers and your employees and your candidates, all of that impact. It is also important to give them feedback.

Plus, there's also that element of paying them for their time that they've spent on your premises interviewing. And that one thing that you give them, that could set them up for an amazing job. Just by giving them that crucial thing. 'Oh, you weren't explaining this quite well, as you could have'. And then they go in and they do it better. And they get another job. You could change someone's life. It is very important.


Right, and when a candidate enters any building, any corporate building, what is the first impression that they should get from that corporate building? 


So I did some facilitation with a company recently, so it's sort of working with the hiring managers, their team, get them to treat people better, make recruitment better. A common problem with a lot of hate. So I walked into the physical building, one, I could walk in. There were no steps to stop me if perhaps I was disabled. But I was greeted so brilliantly by the receptionist and I was treated so kindly, we even had a joke about, like, the seating in the lobby wasn't really good. If you sat in it, there was no way to elegantly stand up. 

So if you're about to interview,  I'm never gonna get up without making a shocking impression because it was just the design of the seat, it looks funky but I wasn't sitting in it. So it's like, yes, that matters. That is what I was really talking about was online impression. Their online reputation doesn't match what it's actually like working there. I could see that they all got on and they had a really good time, and they talked to each other and supported the other. None of that was showing online. In fact, it was showing that they don't look so. So sometimes, the impression online isn't correct either.

So these are things that need to be worked through. 


Well, I mean you don't know what the first impression that you get when you see them on twitter, when you see their profile. They might be very different in person. 


So, yeah, they can't be, so another example, with the company. I went to Berlin, and everything that they showed online was exactly what they were like in person. And that's what you want. You don't want there to be a disparity. It also gives people the opportunity to de-select. 

So like anybody working in health care at the moment, it's like a really, really trying time. But it's a really difficult role. So if you were genuinely showing everyone what’s genuinely like to work there, then people can choose that or not choose that as their career. And that actually saves you a lot of money as well. 

So both ways, like just genuinely you need to show who you are. I mean, I have an entire chapter that it's basically like Do you look like a company worth talking to? Do your hiring managers look worth talking to? All of that matters. Just be real.

"Do you look like a company worth talking to? Do your hiring managers look worth talking to? All of that matters. Just be real".


Really. I mean, in a fake world, let's try to be real as much as possible. 


And I think what the really interesting thing about this COVID-19 virus is flattening everything. It's impacting everybody. 

There's not one person on this planet that this isn't touching, well, unless they really live remotely, maybe in the middle of Australia somewhere. But it's spreading all around the world, and it is leveling, and it's giving us an opportunity to support the locals, to support the community, to be a lot more genuine rather than the fake world.

And so it's almost backing up what I'm saying. Like be real, be genuine, treat people well, treat the community well. And also, I think the joyous part with such an opportunity for companies is everyone is now having to work remotely, so it's kind of blowing the myth that it can't be done. So going forward it's going to be really interesting.


Yeah, I think once we come out of the pandemic, it's going to be really interesting how the world of recruitment is going to change. 

So what I want to understand next was you know, what is your take on the automation of hiring processes? Because in an age of artificial intelligence and machine learning, is it here to stay, is it a good thing or how does the human element evolve to accommodate this technology automation? 


I think my concern with automation is it's possibly not being used in the right areas. So I see some brilliant examples where you've got hundreds of drivers coming to a website and there's a chatbot on the website because they're coming whenever they want to look for jobs because that's all that company recruits, right? It's a courier company. Drivers, drivers, drivers, drivers and it's great.

So a chatbot's there when they’re communicating, telling them whether they're gonna proceed through the application or not. Can you carry boxes of this weight? Wait, no, I can't lift that. You're not gonna proceed that sort of thing, So that could be brilliant. But that's people coming, so there's some automation there. 

But when it comes to finding people and getting in touch with people, then I have my concerns. There are some AI hosting tools, which kind of worries me because a lot of people don't know how to write their CVs, their resumes. They don't know how to write their LinkedIn profile. I was talking to a head of talent acquisition this morning. I mean you recruit, why haven't you got any information on your own profile?

No wonder you're not getting a job like, how does anyone know what you do? What have you achieved? So if we've got tools trying to find those, we know what the head of talent acquisition does, I'm not convinced that the AI does. Obviously, we've also seen some concerns around biased algorithms and things like that. So I think that you should use AI where it will give clarity and certainty.

"You should use AI where it can give clarity and certainty".

It will keep people automated through the recruitment process keep in touch with them, make it very human.

So I often talk about if you apply for a job when you get that auto email and then any emails that follow, make it really human, make it really like you're in my contact as you're dealing with me, Katrina. You don't hear from me I get busy, you don't chase me up. One in 100 applicants would chase you up. It is nowhere near the level of recruiter status, you know, it's just that make it really personal.

That's one way to provide clarity and certainty. But I think too often it's used in the wrong part of the recruitment process, so it has its place, but I think it takes a step out of the recruitment process and maybe apply for a job at your own company and go all the way through every single step and see where you're falling down.

Is there a place for automation to make that better, for you, the company and the hiring manager and the candidate or, you know, maybe something else needs to happen. So it's a case of like stepping it through and really picking right as it goes. So it has its place. I just don't think we're there yet to be able to go.

We can do it all just using technology. I'm not sure we'll ever get there because there are still tellers in the banks and the automatic teller machine has been around for 50 years, and that's just for taking cash out. So I don't know, but this is people's lives and careers we are talking about. 


So you're saying that we are not using AI correctly, we're not using in the right way that it's supposed to be used? 


I think there's an element to that I have my concerns we're not there yet, so I think there's a lot of buzz word going on, if I'm honest, I'm very aware of what you guys are going through. So not wanting to offend. But I just have my concerns that we're just not there yet. But I think, honestly, there was so much stuff that heads of Talent acquisition could do right now or HR Directors, to really check their process.

And actually, once we get past the whole everyone has to work from home, we are being given a brilliant opportunity right now to actually have some breathing space. Just stop. Look at all of that. What’s better? How can we treat people better? How can we treat the community better? And we can do that by just stepping through the recruitment process from beginning to end. 

Half of the people I talk to have never even applied for a job on their website. They don't even know what goes on. They don't know what gets sent to candidates. They don't know. How do you know whether there are any reminders to keep in touch with anything? They don't understand that, it's quite fascinating.


Is it a problem of awareness, you know, Is it that recruiters are not aware of these things or what is it?


I think it's very hard to be aware of all this. You know, there is just such a platform and found that research in the book. There's just so much choice out there, you know, and you go to like one of the big HR Tech events, and it's just so many vendors doing so many different things. And it's very easy to pick the wrong piece of technology. To not really sit back and look and go. So we're talking recruitment, is this technology specifically built with the input of recruiters?

Is it actually going to free up my time so I can deliver a better experience to the candidate and to the hiring manager and the recruiter like I don't see anyone asking those questions? It's very easy. 'Oh well, look at that. That's really exciting. I'll buy that'. I think it's just, there is a lot out there, as you know you are on that side with peopleHum, so it could be very difficult to know what to buy.


How can organizations improve candidate experience and engagement? 


Yeah, So I think one of the biggest problems that companies have is that they forget that it's not just the recruiter's job, but if they have an in house recruitment team, which not all companies have but If they do, it is not just their job. Now, because of the fact that people can go to the Internet and go and look at how you treat people on all of these sites and not just, you know, the one that everyone thinks of lots of places.

It could be social media. It could be anywhere. It really is about how the recruiter treats them, the hiring manager treats them. HR treats them, the receptionist, anybody they meet in the team, literally. Everybody is making an impression on that candidate, and if they ask somebody with skills that are in demand, but I have to tell away any of it. But where, especially where I talk about one of the free blockages, is where the Passover happened. 

So I get your attention, I get you into the recruitment process. We go through the hiring process, you have your introduction, I'm still in touch with you with the recruiter, and then we get to offer, you accept the offer. I'm then passing you to the hiring manager and HR manager to get you ready for your first day. To show you the paperwork and all that kind of stuff. That's where the drop, making sure of all of that takes place. And that's where I think technology can be really amazing from the pre-boarding through that onboarding period and actually through the first few months.

"That's where I think technology can be really amazing from the pre-boarding through that onboarding period and actually through the first few months".

And a recruiter has to stay in touch. They need to do it in partnership with the hiring managers. Those managers need to understand that, you know, keeping in touch with someone before they start is really, really important because people aren't turning up on day one because they feel like they can’t, you know, it used to be, I mean, my generation, because I am older, you did turn up one day when you didn't risk your reputation. Now they're like, man, whatever, so they're in touch with me, they gave me a contract four weeks later or I'll start with another job and they feel they can do that.

I'm not convinced, even with what's going on now, even though we are gonna hit a recession and there will be job losses. There won't be job losses to everybody. There will still be skills that are in high demand, and those people would still have their pick. so it is incredibly important that they have a smooth process that everybody feels they know their part.

There's clear communication between those parties to make sure that the human coming through the process starts and stays, so it's very important to me, that's an easy one to fix this. You just need to step out of the process and look at it and go 'Where are we going wrong? What do we need to fix? Half the time they are not difficult fixes. Half the time they're not even expensive fixes. It's just having the awareness.


Right. It's like taking a step back and looking at what you're doing and thinking it's true. 


Just clear the speed humps, free it up just make it easy for people. You know, it's just I mean, you think about how easy it is to look for something online and push certain steps through. Okay, I know I'm comparing, but, you know, shopping had to change. 

It used to be you drove to a store and you were in the store and you looked around, and then you went to another store. Now, we just sit here at the end of our fingers. We've got used to that, pick up the phone, do anything, I can do my banking using my phone and my face id and it's like so many things that are easy except recruitment.

And it's really funny because you're probably in this hole right now. We're all stuck at home, locked down. That whole - Oh, how do I interview now? We're interviewing now, we are in the marketing side of you know I've had The social recruiting show, it's been a huge hit, being a video chat.


I see, as an organization what are the aspects of creating a talent brand in the market? What should organizations focus on while they are creating that talent brand? 


Well, it has to be genuine. People wanted to see behind the scenes. They want to know what it's really like and I think customers do too as well. I mean, certainly, so many of my customers end up becoming friends, they know a little bit about my dogs so they see behind the scenes on Instagram, for example. 

So it's that, keeping real, I cannot stress that enough - real people love peer to peer content, so hearing from them. They go for a data scientist job, they want to hear from other data scientists. You know they're going for a nurse. I want to hear from the nurse boards. It's like what is genuine about the company and that's what people really want to hear. I'm sure that some of the employer brand's people would be horrified that I'm simplifying it to that point. 

But I just think the content that we really love that's online. So, for example, I've been blessed, the one that's going around at the moment, we're all suddenly stuck from work from home, we've got multiple chats going on, and there's this poor girl who goes into the bathroom right, But we can all relate to it because it's the kind of thing we're terrified of doing.

And maybe you don't want to do that for your talent brand part, that kind of genuine content that's on your phone. That might be a bit shaky. That just really is you and us having a conversation. You know this has to go out. It's gonna have a few marks because the Internet isn't playing. But you know what? That makes it real. We are all struggling through something right now. It would just make it more relatable to people. So it's that no more polished PR you know, you still put some boring videos, they still have to be real. I want to know when I come in that door, when, you know, you start the interview process and I physically come to your premises that it is how you have portrayed it to be.  

But I just think, be aware that it's not just about review sites. It's also about, like, accessibility. So do you have something like 'recite me' on your website? So somebody with dyslexia can apply? Have you considered disabled access? Can someone actually physically come into the building in a wheelchair or whatever it might be? So there are lots of different elements to it, and I think sometimes the focus is just on polished PR  instead of real genuine. This is how we are. 


Right, I think that's what will sell coming forward, you know. What is your advice for companies that have to keep hiring in these times of fast galloping pandemic times?


What is really obvious to everybody right now is in complete, utter lack of certainty. So if we were ever to compare a recruitment process of what one's normally like to what's going on in the world, this is the perfect time to do it.

We have these leaders who actually have no idea how to stop this, how to reduce the pressure, you know, on the hospitals and the intensive care. And they have no idea and they're trying to lead. And really, it's as clear as mud. That is a normal recruitment process, Right?

Let's be honest. The candidates come in and we kind of don't keep in touch with them. And they don't provide them what they used to get. Like I can pull out my phone and put in the postcode of where I want to go, and it will show me multiple routes to get there and exactly what time I'm going to arrive. And that's what people want in the recruitment process.

"I can pull out my phone and put in the postcode of where I want to go, and it will show me multiple routes to get there and exactly what time I'm going to arrive. And that's what people want in the recruitment process".

That's normally; then you add in this pandemic. So it's a case of contacting, saying I have no news for you. I haven't forgotten you. We're still recruiting or we're not, okay? You're gonna have to have those tough calls, you deserve to have those tough calls. I have lost all my work, all being pushed back to the end of the year.

But at least I know it's there at the end of the year because my clients have told me. It's the same for you where you promote it and that's what we're doing. And we have no news. You're having it hard to work remotely. Can I come back to you on Friday and then you come back at that time and you let them know and you update people. No news is news. Give them something. 

I cannot stress enough if you keep in touch with people and once they start and know you more. But they've certainly started to trust you and that probably bought you into the company as well, because you just said, you know, I'm so sorry I haven't gotten the news, but like you have been dropped off my radar. I think I cannot stress that enough people have so little certainty right now that you providing them something that is giving them something, just some form of little control that I know where I'm at in that process. 


Yeah, it has to be a two-way communication bridge and build that trust right?  Just a last question, if you want to give some advice to our viewers?


Other than buying a copy of this book, this money actually goes to a charity called 'Home for justice and state free alliance' so just if you purchased a copy I’ve donated my royalties, I think the main thing is human first technology is meant to be in a supporting role helping the humans through the process and its meant to provide that clarity and certainty and all those kinds of things that we crave as humans, so I think if you think that way round, you will always succeed with your recruitment. 

"Human first technology is meant to be in a supporting role helping the humans through the process and its meant to provide that clarity and certainty".


Awesome!  That is great advice and I loved interviewing you Katrina, Thank You so much for your time.

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October 25, 2021

A very inspiring list. Thanks for putting this together


October 25, 2021

This is such a great list of women leaders! More power to you all

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