In this podcast episode, Max shares insights with the CEO of TAtech, Peter Weddle, about how technology shapes the future of recruitment. According to Peter, recruiters need to learn how to leverage the advantages of technology in recruitment and constantly be aware of what’s out there.
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Max: Hello. Welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. I'm your host, Max Armbruster. And, today I'm delighted to welcome Peter Weddle, who is the CEO for the Association for Talent Acquisition Solution, also known as TAtech, which you can find on TAtech.org. Peter has been leading this association which gathers vendors, practitioners, and who is a real futurist as well. He has written some books on what the future holds for humanity and how to prepare our future generations for the impending rise of the machines. So, I'm excited to talk to him about some of the trends that are shaping this year and perhaps how to prepare not for the next year, but for our next generation of recruiter, how our recruiters are gonna look like, and what they’re gonna do 20 years from now? We'll have a bit of a discussion on that. Peter, thank you so much for joining.
Peter: It's great to be here, Max. Thanks for having me.
Max: It's a pleasure. And, always love your newsletter. I love your content. So, maybe we'll start with that. What is TAtech? And, how can people get plugged in?
Peter: TAtech is the trade association for the global talent technology industry. So, that means that our members span the spectrum from job boards and aggregators and job distribution companies to conversational AI solutions, programmatic ad buying platforms, recruitment advertising agencies, marketing companies. Basically, any company that uses technology to design, develop and deliver a talent acquisition product or service for employers.
Max: Okay! So, there's a lot to unfold there. But we're talking about basically the cutting edge of talent acquisition. And, I… you're based in Chicago right?
Peter: Actually, we're based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Max: In Connecticut. All right. Great. And the…but with a membership that is global. But, I think a lot of the investment is coming out of the U.S. right? That's really the hub of the TAtech industry.
Peter: Well, we do a number of things as a trade association but we're probably best known for our conferences. We certainly do one in called TAtech North America, but we also do one in Europe called TAtech Europe. And, that's for the whole EMEA region. And, I think it's safe to say that, yeah, there's a lot of investment, probably more money flowing into talent acquisition technologies and products than H.R. products largely. But, that's not only true in the U.S. now, it's increasingly true across Europe, particularly in the U.K. There's a lot of really fascinating developments of new companies springing up in Europe and in U.K.
Max: Yeah! Absolutely. I think actually that when it comes to recruitment, recruitment has more domestic localized elements. And so, you know, a lot of the leaders have come from Europe or from different parts of the world and then from India, and then they eventually make it to the U.S., which is the biggest market. So, it's quite an international community, I would say. But the capital certainly seems to be coming out of the U.S. in majority.
Peter: Well, we're very fortunate that we, as you mentioned earlier, we do have a global member base. So, we have the advantage of being able to look at not only new developments, but also where the current trendsetters in the industry are going into the future. And, we can look across all of those trends globally because, you know, the fact of the matter is that increasingly we have a global workforce. So, companies may be based in the U.S., but they're hiring all over the world and vice versa. Companies in India are hiring in North America and so forth. So I think it's important to recognize that, you know, geography is still important, but geographical barriers are not.
Max: They're coming down. Yeah. And, increasingly now there are some behaviors that are… I mean, whether you're in India or in the US or in France, you are witnessing how fast the world is moving,how fast things are becoming, the consumerization of just about everything. And so, that's going to affect, of course, the recruitment because the way consumers behave globally is pushing recruitment in the same direction, you know, in all corners of the world. So, yeah, it's a good fine balance between these local and global trends. But before we talk about the future and those…or about those trends, Peter, how did you…how does someone end up being the CEO of the TAtech? How did you end up in recruitment to begin with in talent acquisition?
Peter: Well, I was a partner in the Hay Group, so I… my roots are in the H.R. field. But, I got the entrepreneurial bug and bought a company called Job Bank USA in the early 90’s. This was pre-internet but we were arguably one of the largest companies to use computers to match people in jobs. And, about five years later, I sold that firm and fell into a gig writing a bi-weekly column for the Wall Street Journal about this new thing called the Internet and in particular the employment space online. And, I bought that basically until Murdoch bought or I did that until Murdoch bought Dow Jones. So, I got to go over the shoulders, meet and interact with all of the early players in online talent acquisition. And, by 2007, it just seemed to me that the industry had matured to the point where it needed a trade association and an organization to help set standards, to help identify best practices, to make sure that customers, employers were getting what they paid for those kinds of things. So, we launched TAtech in 2007, and the first thing we did was create a code of ethics because we believe, you know, that technology needs to serve the individuals that are using it, not the other way around. So, we really focused on that first. Since then, we've developed a whole range of products to help our members do something that is very simple, make more money at the bottom line.
Max: I admit to you and to our audience, I have not read the code of ethics yet but I'm going to do that as soon as our conversation is over. And, I am on board because I have read all of Asimov's work and I know that we have to set the rules early in the game before the machines take over. So, I am on board and yeah, it's amazing how far we've gone in those 20 years where…Well, 15 years you've been running the association, and to think where we were in 2007, right? Where it was basically the first SaaS companies like Taleo going IPO and success factors and early days of ATS. Do you…are you as excited today as you were back then about where this industry is going after all these years?
Peter: I think it's fair to say I'm more excited. You know, Kurzweil, the head of engineering at Google, has said that we will see 10,000 years of progress in the next 100 years because the pace of technology, technological invention, and innovation is accelerating. And I think, you know, it's hard to wake up on any given day, walk into the office and not find something new. So, our challenge as a species is to learn how to leverage the advantages of this technology, this development, and also preserve some space for our species so that we, you know, lead fulfilling lives.
Max: Mm hmm. Then, there are some concerns with the pace of technology being such that people can't keep up, that the jobs that are more menial and that do not require, you know, too much thinking. The non-thinking jobs are gonna disappear and be replaced by mechanical robots and yeah, I mean, there's perhaps a concern about whether there'll be jobs for all of humanity. And, I think you addressed that in the past in some of your book. I forgot the title. Perhaps you could reminded me what the title of that book was?
Peter: It's Circa 2118. So, it was written in 2018. And, what I was trying to do was to forecast the impact of technology in general but especially artificial intelligence 100 years later. So, 2118, Circa 2118 is the title of the book.
Max: And, to predict 100 years ahead is an impossible task, I think. But, you show, I mean, in 2018, we felt pretty confident there'd be no more truck drivers by now. They're still around. But certainly by 2100 that jobs should be replaced or automated, right? You would think… Can you make some predictions on what the job of a recruiter might be, you know, 10-20 years from now? You know, how that might be chopped off or changed and morphed into something else?
Peter: Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to begin with where we are now, because I think you said earlier and it's exactly true. We humans, all professions, including the recruiting profession, may well have surpassed our gulp rate in terms of taking all this new technology on board and using it effectively. And, I think one of the reasons that we are struggling is because we only address half the issue. You know, we are increasingly good consumers when it comes to buying tech products. We do our homework, we talk to our peers and experts in the field. We get a sense of, you know, what are the top two or three options similar to what we do when we buy a car and then we go out and we make a purchase. But unfortunately, that's where things end.
And with technology, particularly today's state of the art, that's when the challenge actually begins, because integration or implementation is the single most important and difficult part of buying a new tech product. And most recruiting teams today don't have the priority. They don't have the leadership attention, they don't have the budget, and they don't have the staff to really implement these tools effectively. And when that doesn't happen, you know, you get first of all, you get the recruiters who are upset because the product doesn't work as advertised. Sometimes it destabilizes the other products in the tech stack, and that makes their job even harder. You upset the IT department because you're complicating their lives. I mean, it just kind of cascades into this really unpleasant and oftentimes disappointing situation.
So, you know, I think that one of the priorities for the recruiting profession in the near term has to be how to get better at, how to acquire the skills and knowledge of technology implementation. Yeah! You want to be a good consumer about buying the stuff, but you also want to be a good implementer as well.
Max: Mm hmm. Yeah. I obviously completely understand the pain you're describing I mean, basically, the harder it is at the beginning, the better I sleep at night because it means that they understand the magnitude of the challenge, because there's a lot of change management that comes with it. And, it just changes people the way people work.
So, right now, we're in the middle of eliminating a lot of the first human interaction, which is the phone interview where you call a candidate and you do a first phone screen. My company is focused on eliminating that piece for the majority of the volume, and we're making progress. So, I feel like it's certainly…we're moving the needle. What are some of the other tasks besides that first phone screen that do you think are gonna disappear, you know, in the next 20 years? If you agree with my premise that phone screening will disappear.
Peter: Well, I think that we will, for the next 20 years, so for all four generations that are in the workforce currently, and maybe even Gen Z coming on board because we still have some baby boomers in the workforce for all of the extant generations in the workforce, we will continue to see hybrid kinds of interactions.
But for the kids and grandkids of the generations in the workforce today, I think they face a very, very different future. And, I think that recruiting is one of the fields where it's likely to be completely automated. It's not to say that what the humans are…human recruiters do isn't important. In fact, sometimes the most important tasks get automated. But, I think the fact of the matter is that technology, you know, I mean, right now, the way the paradigm is set up, you have…it's a bipolar distribution.
You either believe that technology, we stick our heads in the sand, technology is going to go away. There are just some things that humans do that machines cannot be taught to do. And, then there's the other extreme, which is terminators. And my God, they're going to destroy the human race.
There is a third way or a third path, and that is that we want to apply technology everywhere we can. And, at the same time, think about what kind of world that's gonna create. What are we going to do for the humans who will find themselves not only unemployed, but unable to be reemployed because there just aren't enough jobs to go around? And we need to begin thinking about that now, because it's going to cause a huge structural shift in society, in education, in the way that you and I spend our days. Well, not you and I, but certainly kids and grandkids can spend their days. Yeah!
Max: Yeah! The people who are the superstars now and who are driving, you know, the content and the media industry are gamers and, you know, sort of virtual characters with avatars rather than 3D faces. And so, you know, will we need to…Will recruitment still be human-led? You’re saying machines will do a better job at selecting who is right for the job.
Peter: Well, what I'm saying is two things. First of all, as more and more jobs in the enterprise, let's just talk about recruiting. As more and more of the jobs in the enterprise, not just blue-collar jobs, you know, robots on assembly lines, but increasingly we're seeing machines take over huge swaths of the professional workforce. As that happens, there will be less need for recruiters because there will be no human showing those jobs. So, demand will go down. And, you know, we already have examples of machines being evaluated by humans as being more empathetic, more understanding than their human counterparts.
There's a machine at a retired living community in France that goes around and attends to the people who live there. And that machine gets higher marks than the human attendance because it's there 24 hours a day. It always responds. It's been taught how to be empathetic in a way that the people appreciate, and that's a very rudimentary example of where we are going.
So I think, you know, I don't know about you, but I think the prospect of losing employment, not work, that's different. Losing the requirement for paid employment to have a meaningful life is a good prospect. But it means we need to think about, you know, a basic income for all people. I mean, these are the kinds of things that we kind of shovel under the rug and we don't talk about very much. But ultimately, if we really care about the future, we're going to bequeath to our kids and grandkids. We should be thinking about that stuff now because it is virtually inevitable that we're going to get to that point.
Max: I think you’ve taken us a little bit further than 20 years ahead, that we still have a couple of decades of, you know, filling jobs with actual humans but…
Peter: Well, and that's why I begin with, you know, let's worry about using the technology where we have today effectively. Let's implement it well, let's buy it well. Let's implement it well. Absolutely. And today's recruiters have nothing to worry about. They are not going to be replaced by a machine. So, yes, that's why I called my book Circa 2118. We are that's way down the road.
But today, you know, I think the other challenge that we have for people in recruiting is just being aware of what's out there. You know, it's very hard. If you'd go to an H.R. conference, the vast majority of the exhibitors are going to be H.R. Technology companies. They're much bigger, the much better funded. And frankly, H.R. pays much more attention to them. And talent technology is sort of relegated to second class status. It's sort of shoved off in the corners. And in my view, that puts the cart before the horse because, you know, you can't manage the human resources you don't have. So, the number one priority should be to buy talent technology and getting those people in the door, the talent that you need for the jobs that you have, and then worry about having the H.R. technology to manage them and develop them effectively.
Max: Amen. More money for the industry. I have to get behind that. But, I would say that I imagine a world, you know, many years from now maybe there won't be companies employing humans to drive trucks or to, you know, to build machines or even to provide health care services. But, they'll be a new breed of services that will arise that will require the inventiveness and creativity and the ability to multitask and the human sensitivity and almost, you know, sort of the soul, the soulfulness of a human to do to create and deliver them. And, they'll be a perhaps recruitment software to help those tribes build themselves. But I cannot …for the life of me imagine what kind of services they will be providing. I hope we'll still be busy. That’s all I'm saying.
Peter: Oh, I think we'll be very busy. But you know, I've written a book since Circa 2118 called The Neonaissance. It's a play on the term renaissance. Renaissance was a look backward. It was returning to the glory days of Rome and Greece. The Neonaissance looks forward. And, what it's all about is in a world where we've done two things. We've solved what humans need to do or can do or should do in a world where technology does almost everything for them. And we solve the climate crisis.
If we can address those two issues, then we are in a period called a new birth of humankind, which is how do we create fulfillment for humans, which is the one attribute that no machine and no animal can aspire to. How do we create fulfillment for humans in a world where you don't have to work for a living? Excuse me, you don't have to be employed for a living. And, you know, I think that's the future we have. I mean, I think it's gonna be a tough road getting there, but it's going to be a very exciting and fulfilling future. And, I believe in it so strongly that I'm giving that book away.
So, if people want…if you listeners want to get that book, again it's called The Neonaissance. It's on a website called onestoryforall.com. You can download the book for free. It's probably more than you've ever read several hundred pages, but at the end of the day, it says, yeah, we've got a tough road ahead of us for the next period of time with getting agreement about how we're going to solve global warming, how we're going to solve the impact of technology on the workplace and workforce. But, once we get through those challenges and that's the good thing, that's the thing one thing that humans are really good at, solving challenges. Then, we have this new period the Neonaissance to look forward to.
Max: I think humans are also pretty good at competing with each other And so, hopefully that does not end up in a nuclear war or in destroying all of our available resources and that we can compete on with paintbrushes or with other ends and create an artistic future.
But, I want to come back to Earth for 2 seconds and to our listeners who are in the recruitment space. And, I always ask this question, Peter. Think back to a time when you hired somebody and you made a hiring mistake. And walk us back through this mistake without giving names necessarily, but telling the audience, telling me what we can learn from that mistake and how can we avoid a similar one being made in the future?
Peter: Well, I'm living, breathing proof of the findings from a University of Michigan research study done a number of years ago. But it found that hiring managers are only 4% better than flipping a coin when it comes to picking the best person for a job opening. They get it right 54% of the time. And the reason they have such a miserable track record, it's because they don't hire the person who will perform best in the job. They tend to hire the people they like the best, the person who interviews the best and so forth.
And that's the mistake I made. I hired a person that I really connected with during the interview process. I had almost a visceral reaction at this person and I were really of two identical minds, and I was really swayed by the fact that I had this strong reaction to, you know, his outlook, his vision, his way of looking at the world. And, what I didn't do is pay enough attention to his skill set and to the kinds of talent he would bring to the job. He was great, you know, was a great guy and a great, you know, individual in the workforce. He just wasn't the right guy for the job I was trying to fill. And, I should have paid closer attention to what the job actually required because what I ended up doing was putting him in a position where he could not succeed and that was unfair to him, as well as unfair to the organization that I was representing.
Max: And it makes you wonder almost whether if you'd like someone, if you could answer in the affirmative the question: Would you hang out with this person outside of work? Maybe that's a red flag, you know, like, maybe you shouldn't be the one making that decision, that hiring decision. Because if this person is likable enough to you that you would want to see them outside of work, and how could you be unbiased?
Peter: Well, I know I'm going to get some pushback from the people who say, hey, you know, you want to have…you want to hire people who have sort of the same cultural mindset. And that's true. But in my opinion, that has to come second. First is, can the person do the job and perform at his or her peak? And then are there cultural fit with the organization? And, I reverse those.
Max: So, you're saying the right order would be… First, can you do the job and then maybe afterwards? Yeah, the cultural fit. Somebody just gave me on this show told me that it should be going the other way. You should first establish culture fit because if you have technical fit first, you're gonna completely ignore…If for some jobs where it's very difficult to get technical fit, job fit, then you'll be too skewed to ignore the cultural misalignment. So, I guess it depends on the ratio. Like if it's very, very hard to get an engineer and they fill the job, you know, they fill the job description perfectly, then you'll, you'll look past the cultural misfit.
Peter: Well, there's plenty of research that shows that would be a fatal mistake, because that person is ultimately going to end up either underperforming or leave, you know, within the first 90 days of being in the organization because they don't like it there for a whole host of reasons. But at the end of the day, I think no matter how tough it is to fill a job, you know, cultural fit is important. And, I think when somebody says, well, just focus on skills and because that's a hard job to fill, you know, kind of let the candidate slide on culture. I think what they're really saying is our recruiting process and practices are substandard and we are not adequately sourcing for this particular opening. So, I don't… I mean, look, there are plenty of… no matter how difficult the job is, there are plenty of applicants out there. Are they tough to find? In some cases, absolutely. But that doesn't mean they aren't there.
Max: Yeah! You can expand the search, especially these days, is when you don't have to hire in your vicinity for a lot of these specialized jobs.
Max: Now, I would end our discussion now, but since I'm talking to a technologist and we are talking about cultural fit, which is very hard one to nail down. What are some of the technologies that you've come across that you think are gonna change the way we establish culture fit? You know, what do you think works these days for matching a talent with a particular company culture?
Peter: I don't know that I have a good answer for that…
Max: …Maybe that's a question for ten years from now.
Peter: Well, yeah, I'm sure there are some technology products out there that help recruiters assess cultural fit, and I suspect that they are very helpful. I have found that cultural fit is a challenge in two respects, no matter what the products are. The first is, in some cases, not many cases, but at least in some cases, organizations don't have a good handle on what their culture really is. They have a culture. They have a good fit or a good fix on what they aspire to be in terms of culture. You know what the CEO says they're all about. But in terms of the genuine, authentic culture of the organization, they are too often clueless. And, that comes to the fore when you look at the distance between an employer brand and an employer's reputation based on review sites and so forth. That's where you see that play out.
The other is that when you introduce technology, not all technologies, but at least some technologies, you're going to change culture or you're going to at least disrupt culture. And, you need to think through how to deal with the change in things as simple as practices and procedures, but also, you know, in sort of the role of the recruiter. I mean, we've been talking about that a whole lot. And, as technology gets introduced, recruiter roles will change and adapt over time. And, you need to think about that in advance rather than after the fact.
Max: Mm hmm. Now, what is the culture you want to prepare for five years from now when your industry will be completely different? And how do you know what kind of… what's the composition of your team then? Of course, everybody who went fully remote has probably gone towards hiring more introverts, for example. And, I don't know if they did that precisely or it kind of happened organically, but probably a common trend.
Peter: Really? I had not heard that. And I would have thought exactly the opposite. You know, I'm an introvert and getting in front of a camera and talking to someone that I'm having a hard time reading their body language with, it just makes it that much more intimidating. An extrovert, I think, would flourish on Zoom. We introverts kind of cringe into the background.
Max: Well, I don't ask my engineers to switch on their cameras.
Peter: There we go.
Max: All right. Well, thanks a lot, Peter. And again, TAtech.org and the website again, the URL for downloading your latest piece of fiction.
Peter: Well, fiction, in fact, it's got 180 footnotes. So, it's not as if it's not well researched. But the name of the book is The Neonaissance and it's at onestoryforall.com.
Max: All right, onestoryforall.com. Thanks, Peter. Thanks for coming on.
Peter: Thanks for having me, Max. Appreciate it.
Max: And that was Peter Weddle from TAtech.org, reminding us that technology doesn't deliver on all of its promises in the short run unless we're very tight on implementation. But it usually goes way beyond our imagination over longer periods of time. And it's time to prepare for new generations and to think about the role of technology in an ethical context and in the future of mankind context. So, obviously I really enjoyed this chat. I hope you did too, and that you'll go check out his books and TAtech.org to become members of the association. Thanks for listening.
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