Written by Nathan Hewitt

Hiring automation: It’s Time To Use Your Words

This Recruiter Says How You Write and What You Write Can Tell an Employer a Great Deal About Your Fit.

Barbara Hyman believes the most important skill for people looking for a job in the post-COVID world will be the ability to write.

“People who think clearly, write clearly,’’ says the chief executive of the artificial intelligence-powered recruiting firm Sapia, which judges its candidates on the most basic of skills.

The firm, which has big-name backers including Myer family member Rupert Myer, former Aconex founder turned venture capitalist Leigh Jasper, fund manager Dion Hershan and former JB Were partner Sam Brougham, gives every job candidate a first interview by asking them five text-based behavioural questions on their phone that take around 20 minutes to answer.

Then the company’s predictive models assign a “suitability” score to each candidate using over 80 features extracted from their responses and the system specifically precludes the use of names, gender and age to determine the recommended shortlist, removing unconscious bias from the recruitment process.


The company’s technology has already been used by 400,000 candidates looking for roles in retail, healthcare, customer service, hospitality, contact centres and graduate and trainee roles across 34 countries.

Its clients include Qantas, Bunnings, the Iceland Group grocery chain in the UK and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.

But Hyman says her biggest target client in the post-COVID world is government.

She believes the economy can only be sustainably reactivated through large-scale job security and that requires redeploying existing skillsets to meet in-demand industries.

“This requires a sophisticated and scaleable solution to find jobs for those whose industries have been decimated by the pandemic and have no jobs to return to. Our solution can immediately activate these job seekers into the new economy, steering them to the jobs they will be good at, she says.

She claims if the government activated this sort of technology for a range of growth industries the economic and social impact would be unprecedented.

“In a healthy economy, the cost benefit in Australia alone is $1bn net benefit (cost) for every 100,000 workers that get back to work one month earlier through reduced welfare payments and increased consumer spending. That is significantly higher when accounting for government subsidies as a result of COVID,” she says.

“A big part of getting back to work is the confidence and the mindset. We are exploring different avenues to allow people to use our chat bot to find their true role in the new economy. This is the vision we are trying to sell to government – you have your own personalised career coach that helps you find the ideal role.”

Hyman said one of the company’s big-name backers Rupert Myer, the chair of the Australia Council for the Arts and an emeritus trustee of The National Gallery of Victoria, had given her “amazing introductions” into the government and university sectors.

“When I came into the business in February 2018 it was running out of money. I had to get a bunch of the existing investors to support me,’’ says Hyman, a former chief human resources officer at REA Group and a human resources and marketing director at Boston Consulting.

Her data science leader at Sapia is Sri Lankan-born Buddhi Jayatilleke, who has a diverse background in machine learning, software engineering and academic research.

The firm has raised $4m in the past 2 years, including bringing in Australian global recruitment and talent management firm Hudson as a strategic investor last year.

“That gave us credibility because the number two recruitment firm in the market believes in what we are doing,’’ Hyman says.

“Whether you like it or not, there is enormous amount we can learn about you in 200 words. Just the very fact we don’t use any secret or behavioural data, you have to build trust from the beginning with your candidate. The completion rates are 95 per cent, the engagement rates are 99 per cent. But the key point is when we give you back your feedback. It is effectively a public service we are performing with this feedback.”

One of the firm’s initial backers was Rampersand, the venture capital firm which has a focus on early growth stage tech businesses.

Rampersand co-founder Paul Naphtali says the firm invested in Sapia for its ability to put data at the centre of a company’s people strategy.

“It’s a massive challenge for a start-up to aggregate the data and build the algorithms that can identify an individual’s suitability to a role quickly and accurately. It was a bold and ambitious plan from the beginning, and Sapia is now well on its way to becoming that data-centric engine,’’ he says.

“The company started with working to turbocharge the recruitment process by quickly identifying the right talent for the right roles.

“It’s taken time to build the tech and the data sets, but it’s paying off as a number of Australia’s leading companies now have Sapia as a default part of the process.”

He says the firm is now entering a new phase “where it also powers internal people management as well as for job seekers, which is obviously very relevant in the current environment”.

Recently in London Sapia was awarded the TIARA Talent Tech Star which honours the businesses globally in the talent acquisition industry.

Source: DAMON KITNEY, The Australian, October 30, 2020

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Are your hiring practices costing you customers?

Hiring with heart has always been important. A recruitment process is often a customer’s closest contact with your brand promise.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic damage will result in [double] your potential customers applying for roles and straining your already stretched recruitment teams. Many organisations are asking themselves are our hiring practices costing us, customers?

Maybe a better question would be how many customers did we lose from that hiring round?

The link between candidate experience and customer loss has long been considered.

Here are interesting findings noted by Ph. Attraction in 2016:

  • One in four British jobseekers have either entirely stopped purchasing (12%) or purchased less (11.5%) from a brand because of a negative candidate experience
  • 75% of 16 to 24-year-olds say they had applied for a job at a company where they were an existing customer
  • 86% of in-house recruiters believe they deliver an “exceptional candidate experience”, yet 37% of job seekers believe they are more likely to win the Lottery than receive detailed job feedback from their next interview
  • 1 in 4 believe candidate experience more revealing about brand culture than customer experience
  • 29% of job seekers would consider becoming a customer of a brand if they had a positive candidate experience
  • 15% of workers would immediately switch to another brand if they had a positive candidate experience when applying for a role at that company

There’s a great read on Virgin Media in the 2020 Candidate Experience Playbook.

Solving candidate experience helps mitigate the potential loss of customers.

In Australia, just one of Sapia’s clients received over 150,000 applications for 10,000 roles in a single year. Unfortunately rejecting over 140,000 potential customers. A poor hiring process could cost them 35,000 customers a year.

This became a catalyst for change. Investing in Sapia:

  • Each and every applicant is interviewed
  • Every applicant receives accurate detailed, individual feedback and coaching
  • Candidate satisfaction with the application process hit 90%

How many customers are you losing in bulk-hiring?

Here are the two big reasons to prioritise improving candidates’ experience in 2020.

Join the movement

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

You can try out Sapia’s FirstInterview right now, or leave us your details here to get a personalised demo.

Have you seen the 2020 Candidate Experience Playbook?

If there was ever a time for our profession to show humanity for the thousands that are looking for work, that time is now.  Download it here.

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How to assess, choose and use the best talent assessment tools

In recent years, a flood of pre-employment talent assessment tools has come into the market.

From automating initial candidate interviews to conducting online skills or personality testing, these tools help recruiters look beyond the CV to find the best candidates for every job.

In today’s competitive world of work, recruiters and hiring managers want to be sure that every decision is the right decision. As competition between companies for the very best talent has increased and as more candidates apply for fewer roles, just filling a role is no longer an option.  Reviewing CVs and assessing candidates is time-consuming and costly, and recruiters need to be confident that they are delivering value to their clients in both costs and the quality of candidates.

That’s why recruiters and employers alike are seeking ways to take the guesswork out of the process in identifying talent who will be the best fit for the team, work most productively and stay in the role longer. 

In this guide, Sapia explores the types of tools available, the insights they can provide and how they can benefit your business. We’ll also provide some guidelines for helping you to assess which tools could deliver the best return on your investment.

Why use talent assessment tools?

Pre-employment assessment of candidates is, of course, the very reason that recruiters exist.

Talent assessment tools have been developed to help make that process easier, faster and more cost-effective. The tools leverage technology to more accurately identify the best talent for a role and predict their fit and performance in that organisation.   

The benefits of candidate evaluation software can include:

  • Go beyond the CV – Leverage technology to focus on skills as well as things such as cultural fit, aptitude, cognitive abilities and more to identify candidates “most likely” to be successful.
  • Increase productivity – Spend less time on manual screening and more time on higher-value briefs and candidates.
  • Decrease costs – Automated processes can reduce the costs of manual talent review and assessment, dramatically reducing overall hiring costs. Redirect savings to investments in people or technology.
  • Remove bias from the process – Data-driven tools can take unconscious bias out of the assessment equation to focus on skills and fit. Sapia’s Ai-enabled text interview automation platform, for example, offers blind screening at its best to help build workplace diversity. 
  • Build deeper talent pools – Use technology to extend your reach to more candidates. The best tools integrate with your applicant tracking system to seamlessly run hiring processes and build ‘ready to go’ talent capabilities.
  • Fill roles faster – With the ability to screen more candidates in less time you can confidently begin interviewing sooner.
  • Be successful – With the right talent assessment tools working for your business, you are more likely to achieve the best talent outcomes every time.
  • Improve the candidate experience – Provide an engaging and enjoyable experience for candidates.  Some tools including Sapia’s platform automate personalised feedback that is always appreciated by candidates.
  • Know what candidates want – Using data to understand candidates, their motivations and their expectations can help managers be better prepared for onboarding. Building profiles of successful candidates will also provide insight for the next similar brief.
  • Make hiring decisions with confidence – Objective evidence and data-driven findings can help make every decision a better decision.

Types of talent assessment tools

The wide range of available talent assessment tools can be generally grouped into three areas of assessment: Work behaviours; Knowledge, skills and experience; Innate abilities and attributes. 

Some tools may focus on a single attribute such as coding abilities or English competency while others can combine a range of tests and interview capabilities within one platform.

Once the requirements of a role are understood, the right tools can be chosen to assess those competencies.

1. Learnt knowledge, skills and experience assessments look at candidates’ specific job knowledge, qualifications and work experience. Assessed against the agreed capabilities required for the role, these assessments can be an extremely accurate and effective predictor of a candidate’s performance in the role. Some tools may focus on specific sectors and roles  – eg sales, HR, health, hospitality, programming, engineering – while other platforms will cover a range of these with tests that can be customised to specific requirements

Some examples:

  • Job knowledge assessments: This type of test measures specific areas of knowledge or skills – often technical – that are considered minimum requirements for a role. 
  • Skills assessments: Through mobile-driven text conversations, video interviews, multiple-choice quizzes or even online ‘games’, job-specific and general work skills or soft skills can be assessed.
  • Coding assessments: There are many tools designed specifically to test and assess candidates’ coding abilities and technical skills. These assessments can be used at the screening stage to filter candidates or during later interview stages where full-scale coding challenges could reflect actual work or challenges the candidate would encounter as an employee. Tools can be a platform and industry-specific.
  • General skills: Tools can also address general work skills such as literacy and numeracy, basic typing and data entry, ability to follow instructions, and more.
  • Work behaviour assessments:  observe actual behaviours and simulations that match and help predict real on-the-job requirements. Job simulation exercises and work sample tests give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and skills. They allow employers to assess job-specific skills and analyse candidates’ capabilities in decision-making and prioritising, multi-tasking or their ability to work under pressure. Tasks can be highly customised to specific responsibilities of the role and of the organisation.

2. Innate abilities and attributes assessments focus on traits that are not job-specific such as personality, interests and cognitive abilities including problem-solving, logic skills, reading comprehension and learning ability. These universal human traits have proven to be effective indicators of job performance and cultural fit. Softskill testing: Tools can be used for talent evaluation across a range of qualities and personality traits such as teamwork, sales ability,  good judgement, integrity, curiosity, impact, ownership and independence.

Some examples: 

  • Automated Interviews: AI-driven platforms can automate interview processes and provide a better experience for recruiters, hirers and candidates alike. Platforms like Sapia’s automated text interview can provide a true advantage, especially at the screening stage for large volume recruitment briefs such as customer-facing retail or service teams. 
  • Candidate ranking:  Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, many assessment tools will analyse results to grade and rank candidates.  Rankings around different criteria can save time and provide the confidence that you are focused on the right candidates.
  • Cognitive screening: These tools provide insight into how candidates think, solve problems and learn. Insights can help hirers understand future management needs to prepare and support new employees to be successful in their role.
  • Integrity assessments: Assessing attitudes and experiences relating to honesty, reliability and trust.
  • Psychographic screening: Insights into a candidate’s personality, values and interests can help assess their fit within a team and within an organisation’s culture and values.
  • Bias-free screening: Unconscious bias removed from the process so candidates are assessed on their skills and decisions are not influenced by a candidate’s gender, age, ethnicity and other personal credentials that do not affect their ability to do the job. Sapia’s mobile-first, text interview platform is an industry leader in blind interviewing.

10 questions to help you choose the best talent assessment tools 

Saving time and money, filling roles with better quality candidates. That’s the key reason talent assessment tools are indispensable across the recruitment industry and in every employment sector. But with the plethora of tools available, how do you decide which ones are right for your organisation? Which talent assessment tools will best contribute to your success?

Before you invest, Sapia’s talent assessment tool checklist can help:

1)  What do you need to know?

As an experienced recruiter, you can probably already recognise where your talent assessments sometimes fall short or you think they could be better. The data insight that can support your recruitment and hiring processes will be different for everyone and will vary according to:

  • industry or sector specialisation
  • experience level of candidates – entry-level to management and C-suite roles
  • qualifications, skills or personality traits required for roles
  • nature of brief–  specialist technical roles or large volume team roles

When you know what you need to measure, you can start narrowing your search to identify the tools that can give you what you’re looking for.

2) How will the findings be presented?

Consider the format and depth of the feedback that different tools can provide. Is a numerical ranking of candidates sufficient or will in-depth analysis, comparisons and recommendations better serve your needs?

3) Do assessments support the hiring organisation’s brand values and strategy?

Consider whether the tools positively support an organisation’s employment policies and practices such as workplace diversity and inclusion, language or numeric competencies and minimum skills requirements.

4) Do tools remove bias from talent assessment?

Removing unconscious bias from the talent assessment process is a priority for organisations looking to improve workplace diversity and inclusion. While a text-based chat platform (such as Sapia) can effectively take bias out of the equation, video submissions bring the opportunity for bias front and centre of the process.

5) Do the tools support the interview process?

Few, if any, hiring decisions should ever be made solely on the basis of talent assessment tools rankings or findings. Make sure tools can provide meaningful data that will enhance the interview process. Many tools will help identify areas that should be explored further in the interview process and even suggest questions to help shape the interview.

6) How will the tool integrate with existing systems?

The best tools will integrate with your existing systems and processes and with other tools. You want to be sure that you can combine data from different tools to create meaningful reports and records. Tools that integrate with your existing ATS (Applicant Tracking System) are likely to deliver the best savings in time and effort.

7) What will candidates think?

Every candidate deserves a fair and positive experience, whether they are successful or not. Choose tools that are easy and engaging to use, appropriate for the role and tools that will enhance, not undermine, your employer brand.

The best tools also deliver value by allowing candidates to provide feedback on their engagement with tools after the assessment process.

8) How do I find out what tools are best?

Ask your industry colleagues for recommendations and search the web for reviews and guides like this one that can help you navigate a very crowded market. When you think you’ve found the tools that will work best for you, your clients and your candidates, ask vendors to show you how their assessment tools can deliver with a personal demonstration or even a free trial.

9) Have you analysed the costs?

You want to be sure that your investment will pay its way. Take the time to consider the value of the candidate feedback or assessment of different tools will provide. Many vendors provide online calculators to help you estimate the return on your investment.

10) Do the tools support best practice?

Talent assessment tools can provide objective, measurable insights that other more traditional recruitment methods can’t provide. But technology has its limits too. Make sure that a positive candidate experience remains a priority – nobody wants to feel discriminated against or feel embarrassed or violated by intrusive personality testing. 

Make sure also that in focusing on one key skill or trait, you’re not missing a candidate’s true strengths. In short, don’t use your talent assessment tools as the recruitment tool, use them in conjunction with all the other methods, tools and skills in your recruitment toolbox.

The Buyers Guide to Navigating Ai Hiring Solutions

Leveraging objective data to augment decisions like who to hire and who to promote is critical if you are looking to minimise unconscious preferences and biases, which can surface even when those responsible have the best of intentions.

The greatest algorithm on earth is the one inside of our skull, but it is heavily biased. Human decision making is the ultimate black box.

Only with data, the right data alongside human judgment can we get any change happening. And clearly, what your employees and candidates are now looking for, is change. We hope that the debate over the value of diverse teams is now over. There is plenty of evidence that diverse teams lead to better decisions and therefore, business outcomes for any organisation.

This means that CHROs today are being charged with interrupting the bias in their people decisions and expected to manage bias as closely as the CFO manages the financials. But the use of Ai tools in hiring and promotion requires careful consideration to ensure the technology does not inadvertently introduce bias or amplify any existing biases. To assist HR decision-makers to navigate these decisions confidently, we invite you to consider these 8 critical questions when selecting your Ai technology. You will find not only the key questions to ask when testing the tools but why these are critical questions to ask and how to differentiate between the answers you are given.

This guide is presented by Sapia whose AI-powered, text chat talent assessment tool has a user satisfaction rate of 99%.  

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Does video hiring productise bias?

In recent years, we have all wisened up to the risk of using CVs to assess talent. A CV as a data source is well known to amplify the unconscious biases we have. A highly referenced study from 2003 called “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that white names receive 50 per cent more callbacks for interviews.

However, during COVID, we reverted to old ways in a different guise. 

HR substituted CV as a data input with video interviews. 

This isn’t a step forward.

Video hiring productises bias. It actually enables bias at scale.

It leads to mirror hiring – those who look and sound most like me. Instead of screening CVs in 30 seconds now, your team is watching 3-minute videos, so recruiting takes longer, and it’s exhausting.

Video platforms are being challenged in the US (EPIC Files Complaint with FTC about Employment Screening Firm HireVue) for concerns over invisible biases that may be affecting candidate fairness given the opaque nature of those algorithms. Facial recognition systems are worse at identifying the gender of women and people of colour than at classifying male, white faces. This year IBM openly pulled out of facial recognition, fearing racial profiling and discriminatory use, partly due to the questionable performance of the underlying AI.

How did we substitute one inferior and biased methodology with another that’s arguably even more biased? 

We get that at some point you and the candidate need to meet, although no rule says you need to see someone to hire them. That’s just a bias (much like the bias pre-Covid) that you need to see someone at work to know that they are doing the work. 

Blind hiring means you are interviewing a candidate without seeing them or knowing what school they went to, the jobs they have had. It’s a real meritocracy in that it’s fair for the candidate – and also smart for your organisation. 

If you are hanging your hat on the fact you just finished bias training- research has shown consistently unconscious bias training does not work.  

While we have all been dutifully attending it for years, the truth is the change factor is zero. 

At a recent event attended by academics and data-loving professionals –whilst there was a welcome recognition that humans are more biased than Ai, and despite hearing that Wikipedia lists more than 150 biases we humans have – the majority of the audience still believe the impossible: that we can be trained out of our unconscious biases. 

Algorithms are better at dealing with biases

The Nobel Prize winner Dr Daniel Kahneman prescribes an algorithmic approach as better at decision-making to remove unconscious biases. He claims “Algorithms are noise-free. People are not. When you put some data in front of an algorithm, you will always get the same response at the other end.”  Also, see why machines are a great assistive tool in making hiring a fair process, here

We know your inbox is flooded with Ai tools with each proclaiming to remove bias and give you amazing results and it’s tough to discriminate between what’s puffery, what’s real and what you can trust. 

 If your role requires you to know the difference between puffery and science, then read this. Buyers Guide: 8 Questions You Must Ask.

The 30-second due-diligence test that every HR professional should be asking when presented with one of these whizz-bang Ai tools is this:

  • No data scientists in the team = not likely to be based on Ai
  • No research available even under NDA to substantiate the method of assessment being used = pseudoscience or science that’s flawed if the company is not prepared to share it 
  • No regular bias testing to review = the Ai is likely to be biased in application 
  • Data used to training the models is 3rd party/ social media data = high risk of bias. 

 It’s critical, in fact, it’s a duty of care you have to your candidates and your organisation to be curious and investigate deeply the technology you are bringing into the organisation. 

We have to be careful not to think that all AI is biased. AI is based on data, and that data can be tested for bias. ‘Data-driven’ also means transparent. Testing for bias, fairness and explainability of AI models is an active area of research and has advanced a lot. If built with best practices, AI can be used to challenge human decisions and interrupt potential biases. In the end, hiring is a human activity, and the final outcome should always be owned by a human.    

If you want to know more about the research that defines the Sapia approach, look here

If you want to know more about our bias testing, look here

Have you seen the Inclusive e-Book?

Making inclusion an HR, not a PR priority.

It offers a pathway to fairer hiring in 2021. In this Inclusivity e-Book, you’ll learn: 

  • How to design an inclusive recruitment path. From discovery to offer and validation of the process.
  • The hidden inclusion challenges that are holding your organisation back.
  • How to tell if Ai technology is ethical.

Download Inclusivity Hiring e-Book Here >

Get diversity and inclusion right whilst hiring on time and on budget.

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