The future of recruitment: Technology or humans first?

Interview | Rudi Bauer, Chief Evangelist at StepStone


For StepStone, predicting and responding to labour market trends is essential. That’s why we’re deploying ‘Evangelists’ around the world, who closely follow the developments on the recruitment market.

We got the chance to pick the brain of StepStone’s Chief Evangelist Rudi Bauer about the future of recruitment, and the role of technology and artificial intelligence.

Companies will have to make the shift

Right now, finding good employees is difficult for many companies. How will this evolve in the coming years?

Rudi Bauer, Chief Evangelist at StepStone: “We have a huge problem in Europe. If you look at the birth rates in the past decades, you will see declining trends everywhere. At the same time, the amount of work to be done remains the same. The result is lots of vacancies, but a huge shortage of people. In practice, it will no longer be companies choosing candidates, but candidates choosing companies. It will be up to candidates to decide: “Do I want to work for this company? Does this company suit me, do we share the same values, do I want to contribute to this company’s objectives? This is a massive change, and companies will have to alter their mindsets. They will have to start thinking differently about themselves and how they put their business in the spotlight.”

So will employer branding play an even more significant role?

Rudi Bauer: “It will be a different kind of employer branding. Not the umpteenth interchangeable corporate movie with ping-pong tables, fruit baskets and hip interiors. No, companies will have to come up with more distinguishing content. They need to show the things that make them truly unique, which is usually the corporate culture, values, and objectives, and why they need people to help achieve those objectives. Incidentally, employer branding is only useful if it is sincere and if everything you claim is authentic.”

The holy grail of artificial intelligence

What else can companies do to attract and retain talent? Do they all need to start using artificial intelligence?

Rudi Bauer: “You can look at AI in two different ways. One group of people claims that AI is the holy grail that will solve all our problems. Another group, which includes me, believes that it makes no sense to use AI if it doesn’t solve any problems.”

Can you explain?

Rudi Bauer: “Companies, HR departments, or recruiters first need to examine the problems that crop up throughout their recruitment process. Issues such as do we offer a pleasant candidate experience, do we treat candidates appropriately and with dignity, and how do we treat our staff? Are we recruiting 100 people every year because 90 people leave?

Identify these problems and come up with possible solutions. If artificial intelligence can contribute to solving a problem, great, go for it! If AI is not the solution, you shouldn’t use it.”

Faster recruitment

That all sounds nice, but how do you see this in concrete terms? How can AI and technology help to solve specific recruitment problems?

Rudi Bauer: “Artificial intelligence can process a mountain of data at lightning speed. That allows you to speed up the recruitment process enormously and significantly improve the candidate experience. An example of this is candidates feeling annoyed by the lengthy recruitment process and dropping out. That is quite understandable, because nearly all other procedures on the internet, such as booking a trip, opening an account or making a large purchase, can be completed within just a few minutes. Automating various steps of the process (and at the same time reorganising your HR department) will make the process fast and efficient.





 “The ABC of a fantastic candidate experience”



Can you give examples of what can be automated in the recruitment process?

Rudi Bauer: “Send automatic mails to all applicants, containing the expected timelines and some additional information. This is not difficult, but very useful and pleasant for the candidate. Another easy one is to use a chatbot to answer frequently asked questions. The candidate will receive meaningful and quick answers, regardless of whether it is a person or a robot that provides clarity. This is where AI solves a real problem. The main goal is still to give the best possible personal experience and to make it as easy as possible for the candidates.



Job hunting is often not the greatest time in a candidate’s life.

Candidates are people with worries, fears, and emotions.

This is another reason why it is important to give them the best possible experience.



CVs are so boring

You just mentioned that a lot of employer branding is very interchangeable. Does the same not apply to applicants? Aren’t CVs impersonal too?

Rudi Bauer: “You’re right. We receive a great deal of monotonous uniformity from candidates too. It’s what most companies expect today. CVs are supposed to look serious and structured. But if you, as a candidate, create a much more personal picture of what exactly you expect from a job, we will be able to suggest jobs that are much closer to your needs – and AI may be a factor there.

For example, if StepStone notices that a candidate always looks at the distance between home and work first, we will show you the jobs close to his of her home first. And we will make sure that the distance is displayed with each vacancy. For another job seeker, we will show very different preferences. To be able to get this artificial intelligence to work, we need certain information about the candidates. This can be achieved by asking them brief, intelligent questions. We shouldn’t hesitate to gamify job hunting in order to turn it into a pleasant, smooth, tailor-made experience.”