Imagine this scenario: You are selected to the job interview based on an algorithm. You have received several e-mails from the company updating you on the process. And finally there you are sitting across the robot, answering tough interview questions. Your responses are being recorded, analyzed and compared with the other candidates, reducing biases. After several days you receive an update with a personalised feedback of your interview. This time you were not selected but regardless, the process was smooth and surprisingly, more human than with most of the humans. Somewhat ironically, technology has become a mean to humanize recruitment processes. Startups such as TalentAdore and TeamTailor have been front-runners in the matter by appointing technology a new recruitment partner that treats the candidates with the respect they deserve. TalentAdore is a Finnish startup whose mission is “to bring human touch back to the recruitment” by the means of their cloud service. This virtual recruitment assistant helps you through the whole recruitment process from start to the end. Similarly Swedish TeamTailor provides an all-in-one solution in the form of an attractive career site personalized for each client. But why does any of this matter for us?

Startups being knowledge intense organizations, recruitment of the right people is crucial for vitality of the company. Studies show that attracting the brightest talent results into a significant increase in productivity, especially when hiring for high-skilled jobs (Aguinis & O’Boyle, 2014). Therefore when a startup is selecting its employees, it should do it with a caution. Contradicting the common assumptions, selection of the right candidate is far from being an easy task. Firstly, labor costs constitute a large chunk of companies’ expenses, resulting into the fact that a poor choice might haunt the company for years. Secondly, humans have various biases hindering our ability to see the candidates clearly from an objective viewpoint. Besides attracting the most talented people, recruitment processes influence the reputation of the company. Imagine being in the shoes of the candidate who carefully crafts an application letter, customizes his or her CV to fit the company, contacts the organization and if invited to the interview, takes time to prepare and attend the interview. Oftentimes these applicants never even hear back from the organization. It is important for companies to show appreciation towards these prospective employees by treating them fairly. Even if rejected, the candidate might hold a positive attitude towards the organization and wish to apply again in the future when the recruitment process is handled with a high degree of professionalism.

Drawing from this, it is fair to argue that human resources matter for startups. Still it is shocking to see how undervalued HR is a function and the attitude that “anyone can do it” persists. As a result, selection has been left to the hands of persons with insufficient understanding of the discipline and the gap between researched knowledge and everyday practices remains wide. To bridge this gap, startups such as TalentAdore and TeamTailor tools have managed to take an advantage of scientific knowledge to a larger extent than majority of contemporary companies. Although I am not (yet) suggesting that selection should be completely delegated to technology as is the case in the opening paragraph, I believe that there are valuable lessons to be learned from these two startups. Here comes six lessons to enhance your startup’s recruitment practices:

1. Attract with your company culture

Considering that your startup is likely to be unfamiliar to many, it is essential to sell your company culture to the prospective candidates before they even apply. The service of TeamTailor enables a company to create a customized recruitment platform. Regardless of the website you are using, the recruitment page should represent your brand. What is it that you do? Who are your employees? What are your values, mission and vision? Use pictures, videos, colors of your company and testimonies to make the page more attractive. When provided with an extensive amount of information about the company culture, the candidate is better suited to analyze whether they would like to work for you. Selling the company culture starts from the website but also expands to the other recruitment practices such as interviews. Both the company and the job applicant are equally trying to figure out whether there is a match or not. Interview being often the first touch with the company, it is vital to give a good impression of yourself when hoping to attract high performers.

2. Make responsiveness your priority

Imagine that the candidate has put a significant amount of work into the application procedure but never even receives a single message back. This will assure that the candidate will have a negative connotation with your company, therefore is unlikely to use your services in the future and might even spread the world into his or her network. Thus responsiveness should be your priority. Knowing that answering everyone individually is time-consuming and requires resources, the programs of TalentAdore and TeamTailor have solved this issue by automatization. These programs can send candidates automated status messages throughout the process. Handling the recruitment process in a timely manner also assures that the competitor does not quickly scout the talented applicant right in front your nose. Recruitment really is worth investing your time on.

3. Know the factors differentiating high performers

In order assure the vitality of your startup, the recruiter should aim to distinguish high performers from average ones. Although this is difficult, there are some tools to make it more manageable. TeamTailor’s scorecard function allows the evaluation of candidates on the chosen personality and skill aspects. Depending on the company culture and the specific position being filled, it is important to carefully consider the attributes evaluated in candidates. But what does science know about high performers? First and foremost, companies should aim to hire intelligent individuals. According to O’Boyle et al. (2010), intelligence accounts for 30 percent of individual differences at work place, making it the most significant factor. Besides fluid and crystalized forms of intelligence tested with intelligent quotient (IQ) test, also emotional intelligence (EI) influences leadership effectiveness (Mikolajczak, Balon, Ruosi & Kotsou, 2012). Moreover, the study conducted by Barrick, Mount and Judge (2001) demonstrates the importance of conscientiousness and emotional stability for company’s performance. Conscientious people are self-disciplined, dutiful and value achievement. Emotional stability on the other hand measures one’s ability to remain calm under pressure and stress. Knowing this and the needs of the organisation, the startup is able to hire candidates that are high performers and well fitted to their organisation.

4. Ask structured behavioral and situational questions

TeamTailor’s recruitment platform allows the company to insert questions as part of the application form. These questions could measure for instance the candidate’s suitability in relation to the overlap between the values of candidate and the employer. The research conducted by Taylor and Small (2002) demonstrates that behavioral and situational questions are the most reliable question types. Behavioral questions measure candidates past behaviors (“Tell me about a situation where you tackled a problem”) and situational questions represent fictional situations (“How would you respond to the customer complaining about the quality of our product?”). Situational questions measure applicants’ knowledge and skills but behavioral questions also access one’s motivation to use them in action. Furthermore, structured interviews are more reliable and valid measures compared to unstructured informal interviews. Although these types of interviews can act as a great way to measure cultural fit, they might however result in hiring more homogenous workforce, which can consequently lead to groupthink and decreased creativity.

5. Evaluate candidates on a scale

To minimize the influence of human biases, candidates should be evaluated on a similar scale. This way evaluation of candidates is more systematic. Both TeamTailor and TalentAdore offer a scale to make comparing of the candidates consistent and easy. This also links to my prior point – know what you are looking for in a candidate. When interviewing a candidate with several people, it is also convenient for all the interviews to have their own score sheet. Afterwards you can compare the score sheets to assure your independence as evaluators.

6. Nail goodbyes

Rejection is often an unpleasant experience for both the company and the candidate but it does not have to be that way. Considering the efforts candidates have put in, it does hurt to be turned down. The worst possible practice is to disappear into the thin air, leaving the candidate confused and disappointed. It should be high in priority to acknowledge the candidate of the results. In order to “nail goodbyes”, one should also provide a sufficient feedback and reasoning behind the rejection. One of the most fascinating features of TalentAdore is its personalized candidate feedback function. In the matter of 10 seconds a recruiter can send the rejected candidate an email demonstrating the strengths and pitfalls of his or her interview. This practice will make your company to stand out and boost your reputation. In the future the candidate is more likely to apply again, recommend you to others and maybe even purchase your services.

Demonstrated by these two brilliant startups and research, technology can indeed act as an enhancer in recruitment. However the eagerness to use these platforms should derive from the core of the company, which has understood the importance of human resources in today’s knowledge society. Although these technologies potentially speed up the processes, there is a valuable lesson to be learned beyond efficiency. Humans are not merely means to an end and should not be treated as such. A lot of successful companies have understood this idea, including Google and SalesForce, and have implemented this vision in their recruitment practices from the early days of the company. As Steve Wynn once stated: “Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our businesses”. Thus, we should give HR discipline the appreciation and attention it deserves.