Author of the Robot Proof Recruiter, Katrina Collier talks about tech as a humanizing tool for recruiters, biases, racism, and shares her incredible journey through the Talent Acquisition industry. No, AI will never do a recruiters’ job, not if we want done right anyway, but it can help save time and frustration.
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Max: Welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster and today I am delighted to welcome Katrina Collier. Katrina is the author of the Robot-Proof recruiter, which I think, it could be retitled-how to protect yourself against the chatbots or how to protect yourself against Talkpush, like the company I started. But that's just me being paranoid, perhaps. Katrina, welcome to the show.
Katrina: Thanks Max. I think that's the best introduction I've ever had. Please protect yourself from my business. That's not technically what's written in there. You know that. You've read half of it, maybe you've not gotten to your bit.
Max: So I read this book and it's a wonderful reminder to everybody that if you are working in recruitment, you're working in an extremely, I'm not gonna say tactile but extremely high touch human environments, which, if you list all the jobs in the world recruiter should be the last one to go almost, you know. The last one to be fully automated of the jobs that we operate today, like who wants to be hired by robots? I mean I don't know anybody who would put their hands up. I've seen a couple of case studies here and there, but actually I don't think employers even want to showcase that, they're not that proud.
Katrina: I know we talked about this before we came on. It's just like this book is very much aimed at people who are recruiting people who are in demand. So my whole background is IT recruitment. All of the clients I've ever had have been in IT or health in general it's been a few other things obviously, it's always those people who are to recruit. However, there are examples for high volume there and one of those is Yodel who is a courier company in the UK and all they recruit is drivers. Therefore, actually they can automate it. There is a chatbot on their site that pops up and goes through the process of can you carry a 35 kilo box? no you can't, tell WordPress yes you can proceed through, and they can actually get someone through the application, because they realized their recruiters were on line nine to five and applicants were coming in at 11 o'clock at night. So in that respect when it's the same role, over and over and over and all you really need to know is that they've got to claim a driver's license no criminal record, and you know, they're gonna turn up. Actually you can, but really for the rest of us. Oh my gosh, put a human in please.
Max: There is a recruiter and there is recruiters.
Katrina: Really and love it. Yeah, and actually if anyone's been following me on LinkedIn lately, I've started the college recruiter revolution which is because the clubhouse has appeared. It's just a conversation in the clubhouse. Yes, it's iPhone snobbery if you can't get on there. But the idea being that like please if you don't love this job that we do please leave the industry, because it's so important we play with people's lives. And I just think so often that's forgotten. Just like you said how we can automate when we play with someone's life which you know I take Max and I put him in the wrong job. He fails. Three months later is out the door. We're in the middle of a pandemic. What happens actually serious case of that someone last night we were on the kind recruiter revolution as I'm calling it was talking about the fact that actually he was hired, and then the person that hired him basically had a meltdown, and said I can't do this job I can't cope I can't bring on someone new right now I have to let you go. And he turned down two other jobs to take this job, has a pregnant wife at home and is now in the middle of a pandemic trying to get another job. And you're like, we can't do that stuff, we're playing with people's lives. So that's the book was off the back of that please stop saying tech can do what we do, it cannot.
Max: Well taking your example. I would say this person was put in the wrong job because we didn't do all the checks and balances and the psychological assessment and if we had done that if we've done the psychological profiling we could have identified a risk and mapped it against a bell curve and said, spotted something that the individual recruiter might have missed. You can be more thorough when you have an endless battery of tests available to you and you could just plug as many as you'd like.
Katrina: Yeah. Or it could be that actually this is an experience, none of us have ever been through before, so no amount of testing would have said that particular team leader was going to meltdown when having to homeschool having to work remotely having to manage your team remotely having to, like you were saying, you're an extrovert you can't wait to get out. I'm an introvert. I'm very loud and by the way if anyone wants to argue the case with me, those that are listening that know me. No, she's not. No, I really am. But I'm really happy in these four walls. I'm missing traveling, but I'm not missing it that much that I could, I could do this for another year or two, but other people are melting down because they're missing. If they've got a close family bond they're missing that so, I don't know I agree, it could have helped. But I also think. Yeah, it's a really interesting example obviously but.
Max: I can continue on this example and to say, well, perhaps this person was hired because the recruiter at hand only had five or six profiles to choose from. And because you can only invest so much time in sourcing. But, if you really ramped up to your sourcing and you use. Let's say social media and increase the pool of candidates tenfold or a hundredfold, then you could have eliminated a much higher portion of ice because well.
Katrina: Oh sorry, this wasn't about the person that was hired. It was the team leader that melted down and let the person they hired go. So they hired them and let them go in three days.
Katrina: But yeah, absolutely. I think I agree that we need to have a bigger pool of people that we recruit from, and we need to get the hell off LinkedIn. Like, everybody is on LinkedIn going after the same pool of people. Now, most regular people not recruitment, not sales not entrepreneurs not marketers. They're not on LinkedIn every day, like a message one of your mates on there who works outside the industry. Will they get a reply no but if you send them one somewhere else like messenger or WhatsApp, boom they reply. It's like, get off, go. I agree, get off and find for your high volume recruiters obviously you're like, oh my god, no more applications no. But for those that are seeking people who are in demand, please go. You know, go and ask the people in your business if you're in house, go and ask for candidates if you're an agency where are you, you know what social networks do you use.
Max: One thing that really got under my skin with the whole AI wave was there was 2017-2018, when you had all of those movies that came out, like Her, and Ex-machina, and a few others like the western TV show in virtual reality. Anyway, I ate all that stuff up. I really loved it, as entertainment but in a span of just a few years. It went from people asking me, oh you're creating a robot that interviews people? What a stupid idea? like nobody will ever do that to like in literally two years people, the question went from that to. Oh that's cool, can you robot tell if the candidate is lying, can your robots, you know, the expectation just inflated all of a sudden there was a complete change of expectation, and perhaps, your book was born out of a backlash right as a reaction to the inflation around expectations.
Katrina: Yeah. I was actually asked by Kogan Page who's the publisher, Katrina, would you like to write a book. First, if that doesn't happen so that literally blew my mind, and still blows my mind and sometimes I literally look at the book and god I can't believe I wrote this book. And then it was like, Oh my god, yes, we're going to write about this. Okay. Asa Bien. Right. Humans recruit humans; it's as simple as a requirement that's the case. And what we do is so important because we woo, and we use empathy and compassion and kindness and curiosity and all of that stuff to pull you through the process right. I don't believe technology can replace that. However, I wanted to go. Okay, so in this part of the process. This technology here, that puts the human first because it's supporting you, but the technology is supporting you. And it's freeing up your time to deliver a better human experience. And all the way through the book that's what I'm talking about. So in this particular part of the process I tried this, which would do this, which will help you have more time, again, to deliver a better human experience. And a few people that were surprised when they've read it and they go you talk about tech so much. Yeah, because it can help you. I'm not saying not to use it, I'm the biggest user of technology. I've been using it like I've been working at home for 11 years. So I've been using so much technology to deliver my business for so long, so of course I'm an avid user like everybody, but use the right technology. And on that it's like getting technology where a recruiter had input in creating it or created it, because they've done our job they understand what we do so they understand where we need support to save time and effort and frustration to deliver a better human experience and that's experience for the hiring manager who I'd like to call partner, because I'd like them to partner with us. Now the conversation, the recruiter, and the candidate is everybody so important.
Max: And enabling the recruiter to design experiences. I think that's the new role of technology. And so, you know, you can call it robots and not robots because I think robots is kind of a dangerous word because immediately people think Terminator. But think just a robot as in, you know, press button command begins, and then boolean search send a message, you still got a human at the wheel and increasingly technology companies that are doing well now are the ones where the human creates the loop, there's a human in the loop there's an opportunity to send personalized message and so, I don't, I actually specifically picked this area to work in because I thought we've got a ways to go we've got many years before. Yes, industry will be completely poof, disappeared. I don't think it'll ever happen.
Katrina: I don't think it'll disappear. But I think that then the recruiter can become more of a talent partner, become more of a, working more to understand what the business is proactively finding out what's the future of that business within your agency or in house, and really almost doing workforce planning, if you will, and pipeline building and all that kind of stuff. But the one thing that nobody at all, ever talks about when they're like AI can do sourcing for you AI can do your messaging all this kind of stuff. Nobody ever talks about a human's inability to write a CV or a LinkedIn profile. During this pandemic thousands of recruiters have lost their job and whenever I've had the opportunity to look at one of their profiles and provide some feedback which some have not wanted but they've got it anyway.
Max: Thank you.
Katrina: It means you have no achievements on your profile, you don't use the word recruiter you're not going to come up with a search.You spend your day looking at CVS and you have these really bad profiles. So for recruiters and sources and talent acquisition and whatever you want to call us cannot write their own profiles, or CVs, how are we expecting normal, regular people to do that. I shouldn't call them normal, regular people sit outside the industry.
Max: You can call them normal.
Katrina: It is a massive massive problem. What are we actually what data, are we feeding into these AI tools. And this has always been my issue with the sourcing buttons, it's like, what are you sourcing from because people can't write their profiles. Developers are the worst at writing.
Max: So, yeah, there's been a shift away from, the resume has had a bad name for the last couple of decades where people say do away with a resume and I tend to agree with that because I find that if somebody gives me a resume, I'll look at it for exactly three seconds to see if the person stays in the job for more than six months, you know. But then, the first thing I want to do is hear what they have to say. And anyway, I'm just.
Katrina: Your high volume recruiters are squirmed and gone. Yeah, no, I don't want to hear what I have to say I've got to get through 100 CVs every time, every hour.
Max: My high volume recruiters actually get to hear the candidates. If they want to, because we know we can collect with our robots voice and video, but I feel.
Katrina: Okay so I get like what you mean. So then, the issue is uptake. So the issue is, who's comfortable doing that. So you and I before we came on air, you went, I don't feel like I need to prep you will be fine and like no you don't because I have been talking on video for years, as someone of my generation so I've been talking about for years it's quite something. So it's like I'm really comfortable. I'd happily sit here and just talk to this screen and come across as normal. As most people like the second you put a voice video, they go eh ah. First of all generations of all age groups and that's the issue. So, I agree it would be fabulous, but then you've also got to get around the recruiter resistance, and then the old school hiring manager that I just want the CV, don't make me listen to something. You got somewhere to do, like I said, we're not going anywhere. We've got to overcome all these different resistances. I'm not saying it's not valuable. It's just whether you can get people to use it. Does that make sense? This podcast has now been deleted for insulting the host.
Max: No no no, it doesn't make sense from the standpoint of everybody's sending videos, spending time on Snapchat, spending time on TikTok, you know, what is the percentage of the population that does not record themselves on videos on a regular basis?
Katrina: Massive. What I do if you ask me.
Max: Here to great 20 to 30 year olds.
Katrina: Okay, so my nephew's actually asked my brother how old they are, isn't it embarrassing. They're 28 25, and they absolutely do not. They are there but they're not there. Because I wrote Happy Birthday to my oldest nephew in brackets so it I don't think you actually see this, and she said oh no I do, I just look like I never, and he said I see all your Instagram posts that he never does a video of himself, or video, oh I'm at a rock concert or I'm at a sporting event.
Max: Yeah, so granted, it's good to give them the options and then we do you know we tell them to video if you can if not something else is fine.
Katrina: And I think that's it, use it as part of the toolkit that I'm all for it. And if I was a job seeker, job seekers listening to this absolutely stand up. I mean I just follow up, send a video follow up, all that sort of stuff. Absolutely agree with you.
Max: What do you think about this technology that is coming from the higher views of the world which gave sentiment analysis on facial analysis on video? They've kind of toned it down in recent years because of some bad PR.
Katrina: I'll go with backlash about the bias in the algorithm.
Max: Something about the AI doesn't work the same on different skin tones, which.
Katrina: Oh gosh!
Max: Yeah so, I always thought that was, I mean I think I'm on your side on that one, that it was absolutely inflated, and that there's no value to it. But, and to your point, there were some early studies saying that some people are uncomfortable in front of the video not trained and they don't perform as well as they would face to face, and I've even met somebody who from the retail world in France, who does a lot of thousands of hires who told me.
Max: I know my recruiters are biased, I know that they're racist at some degree. Yeah. And, you know, as we all are. We all have different levels of racism in us. But when they meet someone face to face for 30 minutes. Maybe that'll kind of go away, you know like, the in person experience will make you realize that it doesn't matter, you know, because now you're listening you're looking in their eyes, and it's about content and not about what you see on paper, and in a way it's easier to express your biases in a hidden room where you're just flipping through resumes but in person it's harder.
Katrina: Yeah. Unfortunately, we are just naturally biased and everything that happens in our world. So if I go to gender bias. I was, I just recently did a piece of facilitation that where I work with HR talent acquisition and hiring managers to get to the facilitation discovers where all the blocks are and actually create some solutions, it's all design thinking around like what's going wrong with the recruitment, and they had a big gender issue,technology company. And interestingly, I won't tell you what like French hiring managers were thinking about female applicants. But being that you're from France, I'm sure you know what they'd be up against. But I was talking to people about generational stuff. So my mother was born in 1938, and in 1959, when she got engaged to her first husband, engaged. She had to leave the bank. She wasn't even married, and she wasn't pregnant.
Max: That's crazy.
Katrina: She was engaged. So you think about my eldest brother and sister who are boomers, who are looking at this kind of role model of, well you know mum does the cooking and the cleaning and the, you know, well did your mum worked really hard, but that was the role, and then there's the husband's role and mum gets paid less for the same job as now because that's just how it is. And we've sort of seen that. So even just to the gender bias and like every other bias that exists in our upbringing. This is what we've seen. So for us to sit up and go why should I that's not right, and some of it's subliminal sometimes it's women doing it to other women as well like when the market is put out something that's very putting people in boxes and we just had a big backlash here that the government put out a, stay home, keep your distance thing for COVID, which was like a nice something from the 1950s that literally had man sitting on the sofa women doing household chores and homeschooling. Yeah, oh yeah social media kicked off thank god social media in that respect, that it's like, so if you just think that, here we are, we're trying to get people in an interview to just change everything they've witnessed and heard as they've grown up and it's passed on. So, my parents would pass it on to my brother and sister and they've passed it on to their kids. Not intentionally it's just a thing to go okay right now you need to. This is on behavior and achievements, just ignore all of it's just hard, we're humans, we're flawed. But until then we can create algorithms that are not flawed which was the big problem with the hireview video tool. I'm sure there was a huge thing in the US about that, you're welcome to correct me if I'm wrong, but the algorithms can be biased because they were created by humans. It's like you have stuff going on.
Max: Yeah I think that, trying to address missed biases is a good intention. And I think that you know from a technology perspective, I want to minimize my liability, so I'm like, it's dumb it's not my decision. It's your decision. By the way, did you know that you're 20% more racist than your neighbor. If I could just inform the recruiter.
Max: Yeah, just around that stats like that and then let them self adjust, educate them.
Katrina: That's where the tools, the brilliant. That's where it's great. That's where you start going okay right we need to do something about this, what can we do and then there are options out there for people who are far more experts in bias than I am. I'm an expert in discovering where the problems are in your recruitment process. I'm not the expert in fixing it I'd rather you put in the experts to then fix. But it's that you know you're doing the same thing you're going Hey, are you aware in comparison to. And I think that's really important, and we have so far to go because the 1950s was not that long ago. If you think about, like, a lot of the racism and the gender biases all stems from around that time, it's not that long ago.
Max: And there are some of these biases that could be also by choice, you know, a group or company can decide I want a particular profile. And if we're not talking about profiles that are where adverse it affects their ability to to stay within the law. And of course, you're perfectly allowed to hire only beautiful people or only massive jerks. I mean there are no laws. Yeah, to regulate that.
Katrina: Yeah. You also get the, I call it the eye roll. So, you know, I run events here as well, sorry, ideas, when there wasn't any pandemic. I ran events here in London, because I can't see my screen when we're on a podcast. I've got my London view going on zoom. And I would work really, really hard to make sure that it was gender balanced. It was in house to consultant balance. It was like I've got everything, disability, ethnicity, everything I could possibly think of. I was putting a lineup that reflected the audience, that was always my aim and in some cities that was easier than in London, are harder than in London. But, you kind of saw myself and a few other event organizers have taken to calling out other recruitment event audience organizers. If they just have what we call the pale, like a pale male lineup, a metal, if you will, and they usually a boomer aged or male or white, or middle aged men.
Max: Of my age?
Katrina: You're not that old. Nice try mate. It's kind of a compliment, I think. And what happens is you will get the white boomer male he'll go, oh well then you're just being discriminatory against us you know we've got a right to be here it's like we've been heard for a really really really long time, and we're not saying you're not going to be heard. You might just have to wait a turn or two, but you get that exact resistance and that exact comment every time. And it's just like No. Does it really hurt if you've got a male and a female and you can wait one term and speak the next one. every time. So we've got work to do. I think it's really important that we look and go. Gosh, I really am just recruiting people like me. When was the last time I recruited a load of men for example I probably would be more inclined to recruit women. I may have a bias that way. Thank goodness I'm not recruiting at the moment. I have to check.
Max: It's very, very dangerous to start talking about our personal biases on camera. I'd rather not.
Katrina: I do when I react to people and I think it's because, and I feel very open about this I have, I'm a survivor of child abuse, I have done a hell of a lot of therapy and life coaching and I bring that into the mastermind that I've created off the back of the book as well. It's amazing. It all comes in. So I've learned to like to listen to that voice when I, and I react to somebody. And I do go, that's really interesting now am I reacting to their behavior or am I reacting to what they look like. And it's like, you have to really think about it, and I think most of us are just going through our day was far too busy to go. Oh, what are you thinking about Max, that's a bit strange. You know.
Max: Oh no, we don't have time for that.
Katrina: Yeah we don't have time for that we're too busy.
Max: How often have you read, and maybe even said yourself, and all you have to follow your instinct. Yeah, it would be extremely presumptuous of us to think that, you know, we should just switch off all instincts. It's like what you're saying I mean, when you're saying the robot proof recruiter. Yeah, if we decide to eliminate all biases what is left of us. There's almost nothing.
Katrina: Yeah, absolutely. Because at the end of the day where we are actually going from a hundred applications to one person that we actually have to. I know it's a balancing act. But I did talk about when I got to the interviewing chapter and I know someone called me out for this because I never said I was gonna talk about that, like you really didn't go into like what questions we should ask in an interview I'm like, No, because I'm a really bad interviewer. I will literally go with intuition. I like Max. He is lovely, can we hire him, that is. And so when I got to that chapter I focused purely on the technology side and how it could or couldn't help. And I was like, I didn't want to go into this is how you conduct an interview, but it was more about like you've done the interview, how to record the feedback or how to know how to use the tools to save your time.
Max: You're not selling this book well at all right. It has a ton of very practical tips on how to not just protect your career and future profit but also. Every step of the journey from promoting yourself, talking to the hiring manager, preparing your sourcing effort, everything. And you can tell, you know, decades of experience, poured into that.
Katrina: Yeah, yeah, yeah I mean I'm not joking about I'm a bad interview, but they. What I realized when I started writing this book was how different it was from when I started in recruiting, because when I started in recruiting the internet hadn't gotten the way technology hadn't gotten the way it was. I Max is in my database. I call Max and have a conversation with you about the role and you go, yes or no, no, it was easier. I didn't send you a message you look at me and God I want to talk to you. You didn't get inundated with all of the jobs that you could say it was like, the world has really changed. But what really got to me was when I realized, chapter five, that is all about the intake strategy session, that is the most crucial thing. If you don't get the right information from your hiring managers. If you don't get them to partner with you. If you don't shift your attitude so they do partner with you. All of the recruitment becomes really really challenging. And I think any recruiters who are working off a job description that they just got thrown via HR, that is three or four years old. They should be going to forget it, unless you're going to give me an hour upfront with the hiring manager, so I can partner with them properly to fill this role. Then don't do it, and that was that to me the whole crux if you get that wrong, then everything goes wrong after that, the interviewing, the pre boarding, the onboarding, the employee experience, the reputation of the company, and then it comes around in a cycle of bad reputation.
Max: Same for when you're building software if you're doing a project it's all about requirement capture. I've got a question I ask to every one of my guests so recently because it's emotional, and it's back to a time when you made a, terrible mistake, hiring mistake and identify the room, go back to those days, think about that person visualize that person, and share with us how you got there and how can our audience avoid making the same mistake you made at the time. Are you crying?
Katrina: No. I just literally can't think of having made a bad hire.
Max: Oh wow!
Katrina: I can tell you a different experience, which was not so I can remember the time I didn't give somebody feedback from an interview there was one person I've never given feedback to from an interview and I still feel bad about it. That one person. No, because it was never my, I was not the person making the hiring decision. I was interviewing them and shortlisting them, handing them to a hiring manager who made that decision. So, I've never had a chain. However, I worked at this IT consultancy which is really early on, and the search allergist just says in house I don't really talk about it because it's so toxic in the end. And I brought in people for this. It's quick, do you consultancy so it's really new technology they wanted people who've worked on billions of rows of data, it was, I was bringing people in all over the world. And they decided without any input from me to hire a sales director, and the sales director couldn't sell. And I watched the bench starting to fill up with these IT consultants and I watched the projects not being renewed and the COO was the narcissistic piece of poop. And when I was going. We're going to implode. We are going to implode. He fired me, and he fired the delivery director who was saying the same thing. And sure enough, that's what happens. And it was all because they hired the wrong Sales Director, they hired someone who couldn't sell, and then they didn't manage them properly. And it was absolutely heartbreaking watching the first year it was more than that, that I brought in from all around the world to London to work at this company, and to watching them one by one lose their jobs, was the most heartbreaking thing and then I wasn't even there, I was watching them from afar. So in that respect, I've seen how damaging it is, and how we play with people's lives. And if we get it wrong, my god did we get it wrong but when we get it right. Wow, I know I have somebody it's now I think 17 years since by chance I changed his life, and he will just message me periodically and go dude I'm still so grateful for you, you just put me on this career path and I love it. So we can do either side. So, yes, it is arrogant as you found that of me to say I haven't done that but I haven't because I've only been at the prescreening side.
Max: You didn't manage recruiters directly.
Katrina: Oh no I have. I think it takes a hell of a lot of self awareness to sit and go, I would be the world's worst manager. I am the world's best, I would not do it. I have no tolerance for it. I have the most incredible virtual assistant who basically self managers or that would be that literally is one person. She is fantastic. And this whole world that she's in Johannesburg. Sorry I think she's in Durban she's in South Africa. This is the world like it is. It is yeah no I could do that kind of robot but what I'm doing isn't like copy and paste stuff. She does all sorts of bizarre stuff for me. But I think it needs self awareness to know that.
Max: Thank you, Katrina and I, again, advise everybody who's listening to check out the robot proof recruiter.
Katrina: Can I just say one quick thing about it?
Max: Yeah. Yes, please.
Max: Where can people get a hold of you? and where can people get a hold of the book?, and I believe this charity is behind.
Katrina: That's what I just wanted to make sure I said yes. I have been to Africa and seen firsthand the work of hope for justice charity. They aim to end modern day slavery which impacts 14.3 million people around the world. And I guarantee there are people in slavery in your vicinity wherever you are in the world and it's a massive problem. And I donated the royalties from the robot proof recruiter to that charity and they're really struggling like everybody else's in this pandemic. So, every purchase not only will you get the most incredible book that has contributions from 74 of your peers around the world. You will also get to help end modern day slavery so I cannot recommend that enough. You can get it in all the usual places like Amazon, Kogan page directly, of course, you can get ebooks, you don't have to just get the paperback, personally, I grab both because you want to write one in New Zealand and quick links but I'm biased. And finally oh my gosh Google me, I'm everywhere. I'm very easy to find.
Max: I'm Katrina Collier, I'm very easy to find on Twitter and LinkedIn. We’ll put the links on the books.
Katrina: Yes, please. And if you're in the clubhouse come and join the con recruiter revolution, we have a chit chat might be a bit late for HR actually thinking of it, timewise but we're having fun with it.
Max: Awesome. And if you're a Talkpush customer and your favorite chatbot is starting to take too much room in your virtual virtual space. That's the book. That's the book you need to read to to fight back against the robot. I don't think it's a real fight, I think it's good enough for you for joining and looking forward to listening to your upcoming podcast.
Katrina: Thank you very much. Thanks Max.