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Sourcing candidates, driven by HR tech - Karen Azulai [Interview]

Sourcing candidates, driven by HR tech - Karen Azulai [Interview]

Sneha Moorthy
January 12, 2022
Sourcing Candidates, Driven By HR Tech - Karen Azulai [Interview]

About Karen Azulai

Karen Azulai is a global sourcing trainer and co-founder of HR TechNation. She is a well-known keynote speaker, who is passionate about propagating her unique ideas and knowledge about new-age job sourcing. She is also a mentor at Israel’s first HR tech accelerator. Being an expert herself, she also brings with her a lot of experience, and loves trying out everything tech and new.

Aishwarya Jain

Sourcing Candidates, Driven By HR Tech - Karen Azulai [Interview]

We have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Azulai, today to our interview series. 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.

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


Welcome Karen, we’re thrilled to have you


Thank you for having me here.


Okay! All right.

So, Karen could you tell us a little bit about your interesting work as a global sourcing trainer, what does that mean?


Well, global is only because it's all over the world, but basically, it's sharing my view on how talent sourcing needs to be done. I'm a little bit different from other trainers in the two senses.

One, that I come from the intelligence force here in Israel, you know, here in Israel, the women do army for two years, and my mindset is that of a searcher, more of a researcher than as a recruiter doing sourcing. I have totally different backgrounds. I was also an information professional. So I'm all about the search, basically and this means that...

"I will not rest until I find my bit of information, in this case, people."

For me, sourcing candidates is not only LinkedIn and many recruiters, what happens with them is that they at least this is how they were brought up, okay, or educated in sourcing is that LinkedIn is basically sourcing. For me, LinkedIn is only one source because of my mindset. I would never only look at one source.

So basically what I do is I train for sourcing following my mindset, where it has to be searching wherever those people are. And LinkedIn is just one place to start. But there are advanced recruitment tools that in one click generate results from 100 websites and LinkedIn is just one. 

So, yes when I train, it's very important for me to bring or to share my mindset, help make sourcing candidates much more professional than what they're doing today. 


That's a wonderful line. I do think that a lot of recruiters need training from where to get good talent. Because that's always such a big, big gap in organizations. You're always trying to find a good talent that matches your culture, and, you know, you just waste so many resources and the process itself is not very efficient. 


So companies need to basically, start sourcing really globally because you need to find remote workers today.

"Even post Corona, I think remote work is not something that's going to disappear."

So, I think companies are finally going to be more open to finding talent wherever it is in the world and not just, you know, in a radius of their own country.


Absolutely. And you also think the number of gig workers, the gig economy is going to increase. And there'll be more people doing, you know, freelancing and more contract workers.


Okay, so let's put it this way, up until now, we've seen that the gig economy was catching up really quickly. I mean, I think with more and more people going and becoming freelancers. In the U. S, I think 30% were already freelancers.

But we were hit very hard with this Corona Crisis, and in some countries, independent workers and freelancers and employees found themselves with no work and nobody's paying them for anything, not even the government. So I think it may shake up the industry of freelancers.

On one hand, they're thinking, 'Oh, my God. In such a situation, I'm in really deep trouble, so I may want to go back and work for a company.' But then, on the other hand, there's this remote work that's gonna be catching up finally so much stronger, and you can become an employee and still remain in your own country.

"If you're a digital nomad you can still become an employee and work under a coconut tree."

So, I don't know exactly how the balance is going to change. I'm thinking 50-50 right now. Either they're gonna be less inclined to it, or more inclined to it. Seriously, I'm right there in the middle right now.


It is so unpredictable, there's so much uncertainty that you just don't know what's going to happen.




So there's going to be an increase in the number of candidates that we are going to have, so in those circumstances, how do you think organizations should look at recruiting? They will have to change something because there would be so many candidates lined up, right!


Yes, there's one aspect of me that is extremely happy about what's happening right now. Because it really is going to open the door a little bit wider for HR’s, recruiting managers, even CEOs of startups to start adopting technology because there's gonna be so much volume.

And they're gonna need technology to sort through CVs quickly. Do the matching, and there's a lot of technology out there that's really automating the whole process. But there's another caveat for it, I mean, some of them are just, you know, still coping with what it means to use Zoom.

Yesterday I had to wait about 15 to 20 minutes in line to get Zoom working.  So Zoom is not going to be the answer to everything. So there's a lot of HR tech there, that includes chatbots and, virtual interviews and a lot of that kind of technologies that can step in and take over.

But since they're still so overwhelmed by everything that has happened, I don't know at this point how open they're going to be with adopting new technologies, but I think they will understand at some point that they're going to have to.

Is it going to be right now, the minute we step out of this, I don't think so. But definitely I think there's going to be at some point, more awareness for it. I hope so.


You're saying that recruiters right now, they're quite hesitant to use technology because they are not 100% confident whether it can really make the process efficient.


The HR Tech startups still don't know how to say what their R.O.I. is when you use their solutions because it's relatively new.

We have only two to three years of chatbots, some of the other companies have been around maybe a little bit more, but the industry is about three years old. So they're basically still collecting data all the time. And they're not always able to say, “Hey, if you use our solution you're going to be able to save 70% of your recruiters time”.

So some of them do say it, but can they prove it? Not many of them can. And it doesn't still work like we would have liked it to work. And of course, some of them have really big companies as clients, and some of them are doing very well, but there is, like, about 25, 26, 27,000 applications out there, so not all of them have this kind of experience that you need, and data that you need in order to decide if you want to embrace them or not.

So, it's not only the HR’s fault for not adapting to them. It's on both sides.


What do you think in terms of  HR Tech, what is it that recruiters really want? Because a lot of the viewers might also be looking at it HR Tech and they might be making HR Tech. So if you could tell us what exactly recruiters want in HR Tech?


The suite of solutions we have today for the recruiter basically begins from even the pre-recruitment, the pre-applying, even at the point where somebody before he applies, there's already HR Tech. There are applications trying to supply them with more information about the company before they even apply on the career page.

Once they apply, there are applications like a chatbot that will speak to them, answer all their questions, take them through a whole process of sending them to testing, evaluation, gamification, assessment online, all of this before the sourcer even speaks to them.

The point is, I believe what HR technology does for the recruiter, in a nutshell, is really completing the pre-assessment before those potential candidates even step into the company, thereby saving a lot of the recruiter's time.

"What HR technology does for the recruiter, in a nutshell, is really completing the pre-assessment before those potential candidates even step into the company, thereby saving a lot of the recruiter's time."


Right! Yeah, that makes sense. So maybe Tech and Chatbots can eliminate that and can give you a good set of leads, a good set of candidate lists, that they can work on and focus on. 


And besides, some of the recruitment is fully automated. From the minute the system goes out to source for those people on the outside, on the internet, also on the company's database.

So the whole thing up to the point that you get a pre-vetted list, shortlist of 3,4,5 candidates that have rated really well against 1000 applicants. And you still have not spoken to any one of them. I mean, you just can speak to those five.

A lot of it is also performance-based. I mean, not having to use the CV just performance-based. There's a lot of AI-based performance tests and that way you get people that have already shown that they can do it well, I mean, what more than that!


Right! So Performance-based hiring is something that really works. 


It's going to catch on, I believe much more because CV’s as we already know is not the right way to get a really in-depth evaluation of a potential candidate, right? Sometimes they don't know how to write it, or they miss out on their great points or experience.

So HR tech is really enabling candidates to bring out their experience, the real experience, and the real personality!



And when it comes to sourcing talent, what is the number one source of talent, Now, I do understand that a lot of people think LinkedIn is kind of, the best source out there. It has changed the landscape worldwide. What is your take on that?


First of all, we can't take away the fact that LinkedIn a great source. Okay? But I don't have to tell you that so many of the profiles are not full, there's not a lot of information in them, they're very basic.

So for me, that's not the ultimate source. As I said, it's only one source out of many. There's so much more information out there on the Internet. Not to mention there are people who don't want to be on LinkedIn.

So, for example, when I was doing some work in New York, because they were trying to recruit sales managers, sales, and marketing managers, they insisted on those people to have a LinkedIn profile, so they weren't even interested in looking elsewhere because they needed that LinkedIn profile. 

So, that was one case where they needed to have LinkedIn, and it wasn't important for them to source elsewhere. Okay, if he's not on LinkedIn, I'm not interested. That's what they told me! Otherwise, I always recommend other companies to look for candidates where they are.

So we're talking about meetups and we're talking about blogs. So many people have their personal blogs. They don't want to be anywhere else because they have their personal blog. Those people who don't want to be out there on the Internet, meaning they value their privacy more.

So the question here is how much time do I spend on sourcing? So, there's this 20/80 law, right? Do I spend 80% of my time searching and only bring those 20% or do I spend 20% of my time sourcing and bring those 80%.

"So, there's this 20/80 law, right? Do I spend 80% of my time searching and only bring those 20% or do I spend 20% of my time sourcing and bring those 80%."

So it really also depends on the sourcer itself. Is this a full-time sourcer, is this a recruiter end to end who has maybe one hour-two hours to source? Or is this even an HR recruiter who has no time to the source? So yeah, LinkedIn is great.

I would always start with LinkedIn, but I would always continue to search for those candidates wherever they are. And I will also say something else, those people who think that in LinkedIn Recruiter will show them everything and everyone, it's not always correct.

I mean, they should be able to see it, but sometimes the good results are back on page 15 or 16. So I don't even recommend it even if you have a LinkedIn Recruiter Corp. I don't recommend only using that I recommend also backing up candidate sourcing with a little bit of X ray and trying at least one or two other tools.

"I recommend also backing up sourcing with a little bit of X ray and trying at least one or two other tools."


Right! So you have to focus on where the fish is. You need to understand what is the role of the job that you're trying to fill in and then do some research on it and look at where the audience that you're looking to recruit? 


"For me, sourcing is research."

Yesterday I was on a webinar and somebody explained that it's a sourcer, a recruiter and then an HR and I said, No, no, no, sourcer, is not at the bottom line of the food chain, sourcer is just like a recruiter. It's just a researcher, It's not an entry-level ticket to a recruitment world. Absolutely not.

And I'm really fighting it as best as I can to re-empower sources to stop thinking that they're at the bottom of the chain. First of all, sourcers are extremely smart because they need to be extremely curious and intelligent, and to think where else can I look for people and really do some market research and understand the business of the industry.

So I am really trying to fight this right now for sources to feel much more empowered, and do more.


Yes, yes, I understand.  It's like sources of the engine off the entire thing because they are really empowering, the other functions stare so you cannot have them at the bottom of the chain.


Exactly, but somehow, in most of the countries that I talk to, they feel that it's an entry-level position to their recruitment world. And it's a shame because it really is not.

And also what they don't understand is that they hold the key to the company's branding. If they're the ones who are engaging with the potential candidates on the front line, it doesn't matter how amazing the company's brand is. If the source is not doing a good job with the engagement, the brand is worth nothing at that point.

"We sourcers and recruiters, we hold the front line, we hold the brand in our hands."

So that's why I think it's even so much more important not to have sorcerers pushed aside. There are many companies that have CV centers and the sourcers are pushed aside, they don't take part in company meetings.

I think that's not okay because really professional sources need to be on top of the business. They need to know where the company is going. They need to know what the road map is. They need to know the vision of the CEO because we're the ones talking to those potential candidates.

And this is when we're doing this manually. I mean, now that it's becoming fully automated, it's going to change the balance.


Right! You know, you are the front face of the company. You have to be in alignment with everything that's going on in the company, and you have you know, it's like sales professionals trying to sell a product and they are really passionate about it, they believe in the purpose!


Exactly!  Yeah, that's what I'm trying to do, when I speak to the sourcers, it's not enough to wait for the manager to come and offer them to join into the business. They have to ask for it. I have to say, I know not a lot of people are like me.

But when I wanted something, I just stepped into the CEO's office, and I said, This is what I need. This is what I want. I understand that some cultures are less, I would say adamant or direct. And I wrote another post about how I would really like employees to understand their power and to get out of their own mind shackles and to burst free and ask for whatever it is they want to be happy in their job.

"I would really like employees to understand their power and to get out of their own mind shackles and to burst free and ask for whatever it is they want to be happy in their job."

And a sourcer is a researcher and for that, we need good tools, we need time, we need to be on top of things. So yeah, I would really like to see that happen.


Yeah! I think the first step is to change the mindset, right?


Yep. That's what I'm working on all the time. 


So are there any specific differentials or peculiarities in the approach to HR in Israel compared to the rest of the world? 


I don't think so. I think we're lagging behind, very much so and Israel is a country that is a startup nation, there's like 6000 startups here for a relatively small country of a few million people.

So you would expect them to embrace HR tech so much quicker, but they don't. They don't, not only because of their own fault, but also because startups cannot prove ROI, but also it's a big shock for HR’s.

"HR’s did not become HR's for technology, let's remember this. They are people's people. And suddenly they are asked to use technology. Some of them are not equipped to deal with it."

Some of them are totally disinterested in technologies. Some of them are fearful for their future roles if there is technology. And some of them are adapting really quickly. 

So the real question today is, will they be able to step up and learn about technologies and want to adapt to technologies? I believe some of them will. Some of them will say, 'Hey, this is not for me anymore.'


What do you think, it would really be different now after the pandemic?  What are your insights? What are you reading? 


After Corona, there are going to be, of course, some changes. As I said, remote work is still going to stay and perhaps become more widespread.

Besides, I'm not really worried about what's gonna happen after Corona, because after a few months, you know companies who wanted to cut their headcount will probably do so now because it's a good opportunity to do it, sadly and regretfully. 

But I think, I'm a lot more concerned with what's gonna happen with recruiters and sourcers once more technology is adopted. Because one chatbot can do the work of thousands of people.

"I'm a lot more concerned with what's gonna happen with recruiters and sourcers once more technology is adopted. Because one chatbot can do the work of thousands of people." 

So call centers, CV centers, all of this all of those people, I'm concerned about them. Because we're not gonna need a sourcer or a recruiter in HR. No need. All this technology is gonna bring an option for it to become more self-service. 

Why would a VP, R&D need a recruiter, if he can talk to his phone and tell his iPhone: Find me a python developer within the radius of 50 kilometers who is also a team player with attention to detail, or whatever.

And the whole system does the whole thing automatically. And he gets like, after 24 hours, he gets a shortlist of five potential candidates who rated really well. Why would he need a recruiter at this point?

So the answer is that he won't. So there's not gonna be a need for a sourcer. As a sourcer, I already say that manual sourcing is dead. But looking down the road, like in five years or maybe a little more, I'm not sure this is still going to be happening.

There will probably be one person looking at data. All these technological advancements are going hand in hand with data. So it's either going to be that person who's going to be overlooking those technologies, working with the robots, with the chatbots and looking at the data.

Is it the only way to look at it? I'm sure not. There's probably all kinds of predictions and how it's going to be, but that's definitely one of the things that I see going on. So, yes,

"Sourcing, recruiting is definitely a role in jeopardy."

Now, a lot of people want to say nobody's gonna change people, a robot will not be taking my job. But I think you read my last post right when I said that people who are not on top of the exponential growth of technologies are in for (I will say, I will be blunt)  deep shit because if they're not gonna be on top of what's going on, they're gonna lose their jobs 100%.

So my point is always to raise awareness, set some time to learn what's going on with technologies with AI, Nanotechnologies, 3D printing, Biotechnologies and learn how they all come together and are bringing this great exponential growth and technologies, which is a menace to all of us if we won't be on top of what's going on. 


Absolutely. And thanks for being so honest about it, because not a lot of people are overly optimistic, but that might not be the real case. And, yes,  the curve that's kind of relating Coronavirus to technology, that's just amazing.


I want to tell you that I received really different reviews on that post because people who saw that, got so scared, but how are you equating the death of Corona with the death H. R. And I said that wasn't the point, but this is what they see and they couldn't relate to even what I sent.


Yeah, that's great. Somebody has to spread awareness about these things, too, and that's a really good thing. 


It's my point of view, of course, but I know for a fact I'm not the only one who thinks this way.


Absolutely!  And that makes a lot of sense, it's gonna help a lot of people for sure. 

And, coming down to my last question if you have any other important sound bites, just something that you want to tell our viewers?


"It's really important to set time and learn guys. It's something that 'needs to be done' not something that maybe you'll find time for."

Learning now is something that we all have to do, you need to schedule it into your agenda. One hour a week at the very minimum. Listen to webinars. Listen to Ted talks.

When I wake up in the morning, I hear two Ted Talks: one about technology always and one about whatever. Because I believe that innovation is at the intersection of multi disciplinary unionism.

"Innovation is at the intersection of multi disciplinary unionism." 

So don't just learn something that has to do with your work. Try to expand to other industries, other topics, because this is how innovation is done. You start with references to other things that you've heard and you learn. 

So learning, just raising awareness. Raise your own awareness as to what's going on. It's going to make you such a better recruiter. What are employees interested in today?

I mean, that will automatically help you engage with them. Just be more on top of everything. And I think you'll become a better sourcer and recruiter. And I think you'll have a better time in your own job. I mean, you'll find it so much more interesting.


Absolutely. It would be a great time to enhance your skills and get ready for what's coming next. And this is the best time to do it. 




Wonderful!, it was a pleasure talking to you Karen. 


Thank you for inviting me again. Thank you. Great questions. You have great questions. Thank you. 


Yeah, that's thanks to the team, and I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us. It's been enriching. It's been a learning experience. So thank you so much. 

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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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