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Deploying tech to hire best candidates

December 08, 2021 00:00:00

Hundreds of companies in Bangladesh, from small businesses to the most established companies, still resort to extremely manual recruitment and onboarding processes. Considering how rapidly Bangladeshi companies have embraced technology in other primary operations, such as digital marketing, accounting, workplace collaboration and automation, product development, and R&D, the hiring process is yet to see the light of technological advancement in Bangladesh.

Most companies in Bangladesh have the following hiring process in place:

Vacancy announcement: Companies share a vacancy announcement on their social media handles (preferably the company's official Facebook page), official LinkedIn page, newspapers (online and physical), and other vacancy announcement platforms and groups (such as bdjobs, vacancy announcement in BD, and many others). In the announcement, companies invite candidates to apply with their resumes.

Application collection and management: Employees in the human resource departments go through every single resume and organise them in one place for the more experienced HR professionals to screen the applicant pool.

Manual resume screening and shortlisting: HR professionals go through every single resume (relevant and irrelevant) for the first layer of screening.

A company that has decent employer branding would attract at least 500 applicants for entry- and mid-level positions. Companies that have top employer branding, such as bKash and British American Tobacco (BAT), easily attract at least 1000 applications for the same levels.

Even the most efficient HR department would take 1-2 months to manually evaluate and shortlist that many applicants.

The HR professionals would use judgment and experience to identify applicants who are a good fit for the company and move them to the next round of assessment.

Candidate assessment with extremely basic tests: Some companies take a basic assessment exam that includes verbal and numeric reasoning and basic critical thinking questions. Mostly, the questions are taken from online test banks or GRE/GMAT exam papers. Most companies don't even take this basic assessment and move on to interviews.

Interview as a candidate assessment tool: HR professionals conduct interviews with the candidates to understand their capabilities and suitability for the position. These interviews are often subjective, non-scientific, and rely heavily on what the candidates say they can do instead of what they actually can do in real life. As a result, many talented candidates who can bring unparalleled value to a company get rejected because they could not impress recruiters in a short and non-scientific conversation.

Amjad Hossain Tushar, Territory Manager at Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd., mentions, "Interviews can't assess candidates' true potential. Companies need to understand whether my skill set can fit in to the work environment and culture. And unstructured interviews can hardly predict this."

Ashik Ur Rahman Udoy, former Digital Marketing Officer at bKash further clarifies, "Interviews depend on on-spot performance and confidence rather than job-related skills that impact overall performance."

Candidate onboarding: The company chooses candidates that "they think" will be a great fit and makes an offer. If the candidates like the offer, they accept it, and the company later onboards them.

This entire process is plagued with inefficiencies and is very time-consuming. Resume collection via email. Manual resume screening of hundreds of applicants. Non-scientific assessment of candidates. Interview as a tool to assess candidates. Candidates not getting a decision for extended periods, leading to severe anxiety and impacting employer branding. And the list of problems goes on. On top of these issues, even the very best HR departments take around a month to complete the whole process.

Ratnak Saha, Programme Assistant at Access To Information (a2i), shares his job application experience after graduating from North South University, "Before I joined a2i, I applied in a few companies. The worst part is employers don't inform candidates whether they've been selected or rejected. I went through a screening process for a company that lasted 2 months. After passing all the stages, I was not even informed of their decision."

Manzurul Haque, HR Specialist at Digital Healthcare Solutions, gives a take from companies' perspective, "Candidate experience of the recruitment process is pivotal to the employer branding of a company. As much as we want to do great things and ease everything for the candidates, practically it is very difficult to reach out to thousands of candidates efficiently with feedback."

The question here is: Is there a more time-efficient and overall better process? Absolutely, yes.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS): Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and scientific candidate assessment tools are helping companies streamline the hiring process and make it more efficient. In addition, candidates' recruitment process experience with these tech platforms is far better. Let us dive into how these platforms make the hiring process time-efficient and data-driven.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) platforms organise, filter, and manage candidates and streamline hiring processes. With the help of ATS, companies can get the applications on a user-friendly dashboard, filter resumes based on must-have criteria, and shortlist candidates in a few clicks. One can generate an application link and invite candidates to apply through that link. All the applications, including resumes, will get to a common dashboard. Application management and candidate shortlisting what takes companies two weeks to do can be done in two minutes.

Companies can use must-haves filters, such as desired background, years of experience, cumulative grade point average, etc.

In Bangladesh, companies like workd.ai and Kalke are some Bangladeshi startups that make candidate screening and matching efficient. Jahin Showic, founder and CEO of Kalke, mentions, "HR teams can communicate, conduct customised online assessments and leave notes in one place, taking the waiting game out of hiring. By removing the hurdles that cause bottlenecks in the hiring process, time to hire is often automatically reduced, which can save money and minimise vacancies."

Some reputed companies in Bangladesh are already using their platforms to a great extent of their benefit. Also, reputed companies such as Grameenphone, Daraz, and ShopUp, use ATS provided by international vendors. LinkedIn Recruiter is also a very powerful platform that reputed companies, such as Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd., BRAC, Foodpanda, bKash and Banglalink, use very often.

With ATS, companies can easily send rejection notifications to hundreds of candidates in a matter of a few minutes. Shahzeen Shams, an intern at Daraz, mentions, "Getting rejected is not an issue. What dissatisfies job applicants is not getting any reply at all. No candidate is comfortable with the unanticipated waiting time."

Scientific candidate assessment: Interviews have been the most widely used tool for most companies worldwide to evaluate candidates' technical and interpersonal skills. The effectiveness of interviews as a tool to assess candidates scientifically is highly questionable.

Quazi Tafsirul Islam, lecturer at North South University who teaches human resource management, elaborates, "As a standalone tool, job interviews are simply outdated. However, when used combinedly with other tools that provide more data points towards informed decision-making, interviews can still play a role."

In comes scientific candidate assessments to the rescue. An adequately structured evaluation of the skills required to perform the tasks in a role can easily give companies a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of candidates. It is no more about asking candidates whether they can use pivot tables in MS-Excel. It is about demonstrating in a practical setup whether they genuinely have the expertise to use pivot tables.

And such candidate assessments don't only focus on technical skills such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Tableau, PowerBI, Python, HTML, digital marketing, and hundreds of others. These assessments can also test candidates' soft skills, such as leadership, people management, critical thinking, negotiation, communication, and many others.

In Bangladesh, scientific assessment tools are few and far between. Bolstar, a human resource technology assessment centre, is among the first companies in Bangladesh to administer role-specific assessments. Starting from general roles, such as management trainees and field sales representatives, to specialised roles, such as full-stack developers, business professionals, and engineers, Bolstar allows companies the flexibility to choose tailored assessments.

Afrina Nazneen, officer, Culture and Employer Branding, Berger Paints Bangladesh Ltd., says, "Comprehensive assessment tools and tailored services enable us to get a clear and detailed view of each candidate's strengths, weaknesses, and scope for improvement." Rafia Noor, business development manager at Bolstar, further explains, "Basic analytical tests are fine but role-specific assessment is the best way to evaluate candidates. If a company wants to hire a digital marketer, a critical thinking test is good but a digital marketing test is better."

Another assessment tool is the gamified assessment, where companies test candidates through in-game performance. Talent Games, through Zunoks Consulting, provides gamified assessments in Bangladesh.

Are these platforms expensive?: Despite the apparent benefits of these tech recruitment products, the investment in these products must make sense for companies. The good news is these platforms are not expensive at all. And they provide a tremendous return on investment.

Depending on company size, recruitment budget, and specific needs, companies will definitely get a platform that perfectly fits their needs. Most importantly, most of these platforms offer free trials. HR departments can easily try out trials of multiple platforms to understand which platforms are perfect and provide the best value for money.

Md. Fahim Wali, founder and CEO of Bolstar, mentions, "We have seen companies speed up their recruitment process at least three to five times. In addition, the number of wrong recruitments significantly decreases, contributing to recruitment ROI immensely."

What next?: Incorporating relevant data to make the very best calls in hiring decisions is crucial. And this is not the future anymore. This is the present. Technology will revamp most of the manual processes and make them more effective and efficient. Surprisingly, the hiring process has not seen the levels of tech infusion that other operations have.

ATS and scientific assessments will only get better over time. More companies in Bangladesh will use these technologies very soon. These technologies will enhance candidate experience and trust in companies' hiring process and ensure utmost fairness and transparency.

However, these technologies are not here to replace HR Professionals. These technologies will act as enablers for HR Professionals. These will only help the decision-makers make the right call, reduce the manual effort required in hiring and allow HR departments to focus on other vital areas of human resources, such as employee training and development, retention, performance tracking, health, safety, company culture, payroll management, and others.

Automation of hiring is inevitable. The real question is how fast companies will adapt.

Samuel Mursalin is a lecturer at the Department of Management of North South University. His areas of interest include Entrepreneurship, Corporate Entrepreneurship and Marketing of Startups.

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