While we’re not quite in Brave New World territory yet, graduate recruitment looks a lot different to how it did a couple of decades ago. On the one hand, companies are making use of the latest techniques and technologies to make an expensive recruitment process more efficient and less time-consuming. This sometimes results in filtering stages that are difficult to navigate for applicants who would rather have the chance to engage person-to-person with the boss or recruiter they hope to impress.
On the other hand, digital tools can lend a hand to the candidate who wants to put in extra work ahead of their interview. And those who struggle to convey their potential during traditional interviews can take heart from the efforts that progressive companies are making to create a more rounded -- if often unconventional -- recruitment path. Today’s recruiters know that a traditional interview rarely gives the full picture of a candidate’s potential.
Recruiters for one graduate scheme, for example, invited ten candidates to a session in which they took it in turns to go behind a screen and observe a structure made out of rods and magnets. The graduates then had to explain to the others how to make the structure; but they were told that they had been split into two teams, one working in favor of structure and one working to sabotage it.
The candidates were allowed to put their hand up and accuse others of being a ‘saboteur’, then give their reasons and invite the others to vote to see if they should be removed from the game. At the end, the recruiters revealed a cunning twist: no-one was a saboteur!
"It was a very outside-of-the-box task,” reports participant and University of Kent graduate John Brooks*. “But when I thought about it after the assessment had ended, I thought it was clever and probably told the employers quite a lot about the respective characters of the candidates: how well they can observe, organize, and solve problems; if they are more independent or more of a team player; how they communicate; and how well they can reason their opinions. It just shows you need to be prepared for anything in job interviews!"
Judged by robots
Candidates may soon find that when booking an interview slot with a recruiter, their scheduling is handled by ‘artificial intelligence’ – indeed, they may already unknowingly have been filtered by automated resume screening or encountered a friendly ‘recruitment’ chatbot while making early inquiries.
In years to come, your interview performance may even be assessed by an artificial intelligence with the ability to analyze your body language and facial expressions. We’ve not reached that level of technology so far (at least in everyday recruitment scenarios), but computers are being used to crunch data and figure out the most appropriate candidates to invite for appraisal. And AI is already ‘assisting' in the interview process – even in such high-stakes operations as the national military.
Some commentators note that AI filtering at the face-to-(robot)-face stage will eliminate unconscious bias, but it's important to remember that AI is human-made and technology is never ‘neutral' -- unconscious prejudices and assumptions are always baked-in to some extent.
So how can graduates avoid being ‘black-holed’ by an automated filtering system that never even says “thank you but no thank you?”
One important strategy is to establish a robot-friendly online presence. AI has the time to scour the internet for information about every applicant (or to identify potential candidates), including articles they’ve published, public-facing LinkedIn posts, and tweets. An active, authoritative presence is a green light for automated head-hunting software.
But while ‘keywords’ are the lingua franca of bots like these, keyword-stuffing your resume is not recommended by experts, since it just muddies the water and makes it tough to connect the right graduates with the right roles – a time-waster for both parties. Instead, canny use of keywords can give you an advantage when appropriate, such as switching up ‘content creator' to ‘content writer' to match a particular job's precise description.
Trends like recruitment bots are neither all good nor all bad; they simply require a change in strategy from today's graduates. But other technical developments are more focused on empowering job seekers, who often don't enjoy the traditional, analog recruitment process anyway.
LinkedIn found that 37% of millennials “would rather spend an entire weekend cleaning out their garage than meet with a hiring manager” and 15% get so nervous that they throw up before an interview -- so the company has created a suite of digital tools to help interviewees to prepare. These include expert tips in snackable video form, expertly curated sample interview answers, and even a feedback service for graduates' own video-recorded responses.
The traditional ‘mock interview’ has also been updated for the digital age. Candidates no longer need rely on their school career counselors to provide the service, since online apps now offer a series of randomly-selected, timed interview questions.
Other software offers pre-recorded video of interview questions, in response to which the interviewee can record their own answers, and either study them to improve or share them with a trusted advisor. And some online learning platforms and schools offer MOOCs for job interview skills.
Voice and video interviews
Those robot video interviews are some distance off, but, in the meantime, video interviews with real live humans are becoming more and more common. They should be taken just as seriously as flesh-and-blood meetings, including dressing smart top-to-tail – trousers are not optional!
Nigel Pollard, project manager at a UK transport company, incorporated video interviews into a recent recruitment phase. He said, “It was chosen to add an extra layer of assessment between CV [resume] review and face-to-face interviews,” explains Pollard. “It was an effective way to see if candidates with strong CVs could also verbally ‘sell’ their skills. It was also a helpful indicator of the candidate’s interpersonal skills, which aren’t conveyed by a CV.”
“Candidates should aim to maintain eye contact with the camera as much as possible,” Pollard advises. “Speaking as if you are talking directly to the person reviewing the interview will make you appear more engaging and personable.”
Just like a traditional interview, graduates should do plenty of research on the organization and role you are applying for -- and be up-to-date on your industry background knowledge, too. Think about the questions that are likely to be asked, and prepare some unique answers to the ‘classics’ such as ‘name your weakest trait’, too – by finding concrete examples that show your solutions to relevant challenges.
Humankind may be fast developing Jetsons-level technology for everyday situations, but employers still hope to meet the same type of person in an interview: somebody personable, honest, hard-working, and well-suited for the job on offer.
*Names have been changed.