Spotlight on Innovation

Traditionally, Spring and Fall are prime time to attend HR and Recruiting industry conferences for those of us eager to learn about future trends, best practices and innovation. Themes may vary from year to year but what stays the same is the hard work that conference organizers apply to differentiate their events. As always, the challenge is to provide relevant and actionable content while balancing an exceptional sponsor, exhibitor and attendee experience.  This year, I saw considerable innovation in the conference session format itself at several events where I was invited to speak, lead an expert panel discussion or attend. More on that follows at the end below.

As far as takeaways related to new tools and practices within recruitment itself, here are the top themes related to innovation gleaned from the more than half a dozen conferences I attended in 2016:

  • Increasingly, recruiters are utilizing robust talent acquisition data analytics and business intelligence dashboards to drive significant recruiting performance improvements and cost reduction. This involves investing in tools and technology to manage and provide meaningful interpretation of the data. Tools like, ERE Benchmarking and appear to do some pretty cool things related to talent acquisition metrics dashboards and are worth checking out.  Google docs and Tableau Software seem to be the preferred low cost option for those on a budget but, if you are considering either, I’d recommend seeking advice from a consultant on how best to set them up to meet your needs.
  • The future of online recruitment advertising is shifting away from traditional paid job postings on standalone job boards as pricing models are moving toward pay-per-performance models.  Examples include pay-per-click ( and or pay-per-application (, ). These job aggregator sites utilize backfill job posting and programmatic online job advertising to drive highly targeted candidate traffic to job postings and leverage sophisticated data analytics to predict the budget needed to fill a specific role. Employers should use these sites with caution when there is a need to control where openings are posted and who may see them, i.e. for a confidential search.
  • Passive candidate sourcing and engagement tools are getting smarter and enable recruiters to more quickly identify and engage candidates currently employed by target competitors. The newest generation of tools like ( and scan the web for bios, resumes and contact information found on various social network profiles, company and event website pages and create standardized talent profiles rich with personal information.  Recruiters can then access a database of candidate profiles containing personalized talking points to engage the candidate in a conversation about something other than a job opportunity.  A West Coast newcomer,, automates this process by extracting an employer’s ATS data and appending numerous data points it finds online in a similar manner to create a more complete profile.  Once the dataset has been thoroughly updated, the system then updates ATS data directly on a regular basis  – saving hundreds of hours of recruiter and coordinator time manually researching the info online.  Sites like take a different approach by networking hundreds of professional association career sites together so that your jobs can get maximum exposure to highly targeted, passive industry professionals.  For organizations with in house executive search functions or sourcing teams, investing in these tools provides access to millions of passive candidates, many whom would not be found via a typical Linkedin search.
  • Technological refinements now allow online video to be search engine optimized to rank content 53x higher than text only content online.  Video can significantly increase applicant volume and quality when used to showcase your corporate culture, provide a realistic job preview or to promote specific opportunities by embedding job videos in text job postings and email campaigns.  Video used as a screening tool can cut interview travel costs and accelerate hiring decisions when candidates are asked to record a video of their answers to a few key behavioral prequalifying questions.  Companies like,, and offer a variety of innovative video solutions to promote your jobs, prescreen candidates or engage passive talent for future needs. In an emerging trend, many ATS and CRM vendors are now embedding video into their technology platform, minimizing the need to integrate a standalone solution.
  • New, very cool “bots” will help you win the war for talent. Employers are increasingly investing more in high touch candidate recruitment practices, processes and technology solutions like, which uses chatbots to automate a high touch candidate recruitment and initial pre-screening experience. As we all know, technology alone needs some level of human interaction to make it work.  Lou Adler has long touted that creating a high touch candidate experience starts with the recruiter and depends on how consistently he/she applies high touch practices to the recruiting process.
  • Creating MIND SEARING, MEMORABLE experiences is the key to a winning culture and exceptional candidate experience.  Employers often highlight their culture in terms of their historical evolution of an idealistic view of what they want their culture to be, but not necessarily what it actually is today. This point was driven home at the HRMAC conference by speaker Jim Knight of Rock -N-Grow Talent. He defines culture as “people experiencing the present”. Knight states that by creating
    “Mind seering, memorable experiences” for employees and candidates, the culture IS that experience.  Chris Hester of Capital One, a multi-year Candidate Experience Award winner, states that the key to a great candidate experience is to treat every candidate the way you would want to be treated, consistently. Chris asserts that “defining the candidate as the customer, not the leadership team, hiring manager or recruiter” is critical to getting everyone aligned with the right behaviors and decisions to ensure an optimal candidate experience. Lastly, according to Hester, employer measures of recruiting performance should focus on quality of candidates if you want to minimize the risk of sacrificing the candidate experience in order to hit a misaligned speed or quantity performance goal.

Finally, one hot new trend I witnessed at these conferences is how selected, high energy breakout sessions are being run. At two of these events, content was delivered in fast-paced 60-90 minute sessions (appropriately called “Ignite Sessions” at the Recruiting Trends and Prism conferences) involving multiple speakers who share a focused “high impact” topic for five minutes each. The presenters’ goal is to share a unique perspective and a few key tips or actionable takeaways.  The catch is that the speakers have to present content that is being shown on 20 self-advancing slides in a manner that is engaging and impactful.

I found that these tended to be among the most well attended sessions and received consistent, positive feedback when compared to other traditional formats.  Which leads me to believe that this format will likely define future conferences in an age of short attention spans, and real time information exchange via social media sites like Instagram (sharing stories through photos) and Twitter (sharing real time news and information in 140 characters or less). The sessions certainly captured the audience’s attention,  leaving no time for attendees to check work email or text a candidate lest they risk missing the golden nugget of insight being shared by a speaker.  For the presenters, the session format offered a unique challenge to put their public speaking skills to the ultimate test. I aptly re-named the format “Speaker Olympics” after being asked last minute to fill in for an Ignite speaker session cancellation at the PRISM conference I attended in May.

To read more about some of the top innovation themes I gleaned from each individual conference I attended in 2016, please continue reading below:  

April 2016: ERE Conference
May 2016: PRISM International Conference
September 2016: TA Tech – The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions Providers
October 2016: Chicago SHRM’s Annual Conference
October 2016: Wisconsin SHRM Annual One Day Conference
November 2016: HRMAC Summit
November 2016: Recruiting Trends Conference

Carl Kutsmode

About the Author

Carl Kutsmode has over 20 years expertise in talent acquisition transformation — assessing and optimizing corporate recruiting capabilities for greater efficiency and performance.

More About Carl Kutsmode