The war for talent in the digital age

Consider this mind boggling fact: the smartphone you hold in your hand is more powerful than the computers that NASA used to first send man to the moon in 1969.

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The technological change in not just mobile devices but sensors, artificial intelligence and robotics is happening at an exponential rate and affecting how we live our lives more than ever before.

" The digital revolution has spawned the innovation of new tools that have been designed to evaluate massive data sets which in turn allow organisations to identify highly sought after talent.”

In the 50 years since Gordon E. Moore – the co-founder of Intel – formulated his eponymous law,  meaning processor speeds, or overall processing power, for computers will double in capability every 18 to 24 months, a new, technological, industrial revolution has taken place.

And like the last industrial revolution, it is fundamentally changing the nature of work – the rise of the gig economy, the automation and digitisation of work, the availability of information and the ease of working across geographies. Posing the question: what are the implications for the way talent is recruited and managed by organisations?

Use a firm handshake and ask lots of insightful questions

This is the kind of advice that would usually be bestowed upon me before attending a traditional job interview if it were say 15 years ago. Usually this kind of counsel would have been imparted verbally by a manager or someone with more seniority in the organisational pecking order.  

Compare that with the tips I received for setting up a successful digital interview just over a year ago (included in an information pack sent to me via email): check Flash Player is enabled on Internet Explorer, ensure your microphone and webcam are functional, complete a test via Skype. This was for a role within New Ways of Working (NWOW) at ANZ, the bank’s shift to an agile operating model.

The digital interview

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click….

I must have clicked the ‘Do another practice question’ button on my laptop a dozen times, each of my responses directed to the unseen hiring powers-that-be floating in the ether, all the while gazing at my own face (which looked suspiciously similar to a deer in headlights) reflected back by the webcam.

So why was I gazing into my own face rather than that of the hiring manager? (Which also raised another pertinent question – do I still need to make good eye contact?)

What exactly is the rationale behind large organisations abandoning traditional face-to-face interviews and developing structured interviews that ask candidates to respond via webcam to pre-recorded questions using video chat software?

According to a 2016 report by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic et al., digital interviews increase standardisation and allow hiring panels and managers to watch the recordings at their convenience.  

This is something that is extremely helpful in bulk recruitment scenarios.  Many hiring managers going through NWOW were required to watch as many as 250 digital interviews in order to fill the positions within their teams.

This would just not be physically possible if it were a traditional interview scenario.

The report goes on to say “Moreover, through the addition of innovations, such as text analytics and algorithmic reading of voice-generated emotions, a wider universe of talent signals can be sampled. In the case of voice mining, candidates’ speech patterns are compared with an “attractive” exemplar, derived from the voice patterns of high performing employees. Undesirable candidate voices are eliminated from the context, and those who fit move to the next round”.

Old methods, new tools

We live in the digital age where we are told “data is the new oil”. The digital revolution has spawned the innovation of new tools designed to evaluate massive data sets which in turn allow organisations to identify highly sought after talent.

New methods have been developed that are disrupting and advancing the talent identification industry at a mounting rate. And each of these new methods corresponds to a well-established talent identification approach.




Is it clear organisations are facing unprecedented levels of change. And it is change that has enhanced the availability of data and forced us to reconsider the way talent is selected and developed. But what is there beyond the promise of automated talent systems?

 In the words of Josh Bersin: “High impact HR talks about how, beyond automation, the big topic in business today is productivity. We are now working on agile, team-centric organisations, and we are overwhelmed with too much to do. Can we build HR software that really improves productivity and helps teams work better together? That’s the next challenge”.

Melissa Currie is Visual Production Editor at ANZ bluenotes.


The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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