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Is technology dehumanising recruitment?

I was a young boy when the 56k speed modem entered my family’s house. I remember that day like it was yesterday – we all felt like we won the lottery!

My father, who worked as a journalist at the time, was the proud owner of an Apple Macintosh computer. The Internet literally transformed his life and, even though back then the Internet’s speed was very slow and tardy, it meant everything to him. He used to patiently wait until the beeping sound of the modem went silent to get connected to the outside world. He used to write his editorials until late at night and, sometimes, he even stayed up until the early hours of morning in order to send them out to various news journals. This form of connectivity was as valuable to him as a plot of gold and, without it, he would have been a lot less productive.

Fast forward to today, technology has evolved in mind-boggling ways! It has transformed the lives of people in many ways and has given them the tools to extend their networks and form cyber relationships. Social media websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing and others are now seriously affecting our ability to interact and communicate with one another – there are so many examples, but my favourite one is “send me an email”. Paul Booth, PhD, an assistant professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, believes that ‘there has been a shift in the way we communicate; rather than face-to-face interaction, we’re tending to prefer mediated communication. We’d rather e-mail than meet; we’d rather text than talk on the phone’.

That said, we might have thousands of connections on LinkedIn for example, but how many of them have we actually met face to face? With how many of these individuals have we built strong relationships which enable us to see their true personality and character? Unfortunately, our interactions on social media tend to be weak ties. We don’t feel as personally connected to the people at the other end of our communication as we do when we’re face to face.

When it comes to recruitment, social media websites and electronic CVs are truly useful for many reasons but, they are simply an artifice which fails to denote the person behind the writing. It is impossible to deduce a person’s personality and determination from a CV or online profile. They might reveal someone’s academic and work achievements but they’re likely to be poor at revealing a person’s true character. It’s much easier to really get a sense of a candidate’s personality when you meet with them face to face and yet, too many recruiters rely on emails or telephone interviews to measure whether a candidate is suitable or not for a role.

By themselves, someone’s past achievements and IQ cannot predict culture fit, executive competence and corporate success. Moreover, it has been scientifically proven that, when it comes to success in the workplace, a person’s character can be more important than their IQ.

Sarah Mackenzie Ross, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at University College London, believes that whilst IQ is important for determining the rough ’ball-park’ role someone might find themselves in, once in their chosen profession, personality, character and integrity are the main predictors of success. Those people who are goal driven, motivated, determined and resilient in the face of failure, who have good social skills and are emotionally stable fare the best.

Studies have found that people who show ’true perseverance’ - i.e. keep plugging away despite failure - and those whose personality traits show that they are able to work towards long term goals rather than short term gratification, predict financial and personal success more than IQ, class or financial background.

At Investigo we value the importance of face to face meetings with both our clients and candidates. We embrace the changes technology has brought to recruitment in the past few years and we love how it allows us to communicate with others more quickly. But, we also try to never forget that clients want to work with people they can relate to. As we have found on many occasions, a CV may help a candidate get an initial interview but, employers will always go with the candidate who can demonstrate the qualities I’ve outlined above.