Talent Acquisition

The Six Second Scan: It’s Not as Bad as You Think

When I started my career at Virgin Interactive in the early 90’s, my job was to search through media and find coverage of the organization. This was before the Internet was ubiquitous; I cut out clippings from print publications to determine how Virgin and its products were featured in relation to the competition. It was an arduous task–but I became quick.

I could soon scan a 100-page magazine and find a relevant clipping illustrative of how Virgin compared to our rivals. I knew market trends and the conversation surrounding Virgin’s top competitors. From a quick scan, I could glean a wealth of information.

This was invaluable training for the life of a recruiter. Traditionally, this has been a major component of a recruiter’s job: scanning through applicant’s resumes in order to find one who’s the perfect fit. Given the hundreds of applicants vying for any particular position, the recruiter must be fast: one study found that, on average, a recruiter may spend only six to eight seconds on an initial resume scan.

For the job-seeker, this can be disheartening news. What’s the point of spending valuable time crafting a resume that accurately represents your experiences if it will only be in front of a headhunter’s eyes for less than a tenth of a minute? A job-seeker must have a resume packed with meaningful keywords if it’s going to garner a second look. For instance, an applicant seeking a CFO position may sprinkle his resume with keywords like strategizing, compliance, P & L management, profit, etc. to stand out from the pack.

However, the onus is not solely on the job-seeker. An intuitive and emotionally intelligent recruiter is vital to the seeker-position matching process. If a resume is missing the “buzziest” keywords, yet otherwise showcases a breadth of experience and clues that the candidate possesses the needed skills (whether or not he’s mastered the current keyword lingo), a recruiter can read between the lines and identify aptitude. This honing in on potential talent, where it may not be as obvious, takes practice. It takes time to develop intuition, in the same way, it took time (and lots of it) for me to scan through magazine after magazine looking for coverage of Virgin.

The bad news is that sometimes qualified candidates fall through the cracks. The good news: artificial intelligence will soon play a major role in the recruitment process. We are in an era where there is more data available on individuals than ever before. The future of recruitment will involve artificial intelligence aggregating data across social media platforms in order to identify desired candidates, and to “woo” these candidates to organizations, perhaps before a candidate has even decided to leave his current position.

It’s fascinating to contemplate coming changes to the field, and something I talked about in depth with Raghav Singh, Director of Analytics and Reporting for Korn Ferry Futuresteps. He predicts that in the very near future, the sourcing function of recruitment will be almost completely automated.

Which begs the question: if sourcing candidates will soon be removed from a recruiter’s job description…what exactly will the job of a recruiter be?

As deep learning systems remove much of the tedium from the recruiter’s role, she will be able to focus on more human-centered tasks: less scanning piles of resumes, more development of talent. Because of this, it’s more important than ever for a recruiter to develop all the professional aspects of herself: to become a proficient marketer, and a strategizer, and human resource professional, and whatever else is called for.

This coming shift is good news for recruiter and job seeker alike. As focus shifts away from the resume and all-important “six-second scan,” artificial intelligence will allow the recruiter to make more authentic connections between seeker and position–which will lead to happier employees and companies.

About the author: Caroline Stokes is the founder of FORWARD and The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter podcast and training platform.

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