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Early talent acquisition — securing talent at volume

Early talent acquisition — securing talent at volume

When candidate applications pile up, the quality of decision-making goes down. How can we make early talent acquisition choices that benefit the business, promote DEI, and reduce the pressure on recruiting teams?

The pressures of early talent acquisition

Working on early talent acquisition can be hugely exciting. But it can be high-pressure, too.

We can expect early talent applications to peak at certain times of the year — around graduation time, for example. And yet the sheer quantity of CVs and cover letters can be overwhelming to get through. 

High volumes may be anticipated in some roles or industries (music, sports, and fashion are favored by Gen Z today). While others can find themselves suddenly inundated as a result of recent media interest, or popular TV shows in fact.

Volume is only half the challenge

It’s not just the volume — it’s having the time and/or resources to sift through those applications to find the best talent.

As anyone who’s been confronted by 200+ leads for a single position will tell you, as interest in a job surges, your stress levels follow suit. You may find yourself wondering how you’ll manage the process without making snap, irresponsible decisions.

We know we shouldn’t filter applicants by searching for Ivy League or Russell Group educations, or any other (arguably biased) parameter. That does no favors to your business or the candidates you’re selecting from. But streamlining the selection process without heuristic shortcuts adds time and complexity — unless you have the right tools.

So before we unpack how to process early talent applications even when they are stacking up, let’s look at the risks that a volume of candidates presents…

Too many candidates, not enough vacancies

Having a huge pool of applicants to choose from sounds like a recruiter’s dream — until you’ve lived it! How did we get to a place where the number of applications far outweighed the number of open roles?


Competing for talent versus competing for jobs

The job market has changed dramatically as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While companies used to compete for high-potential talent, today presents a very different state of affairs indeed.

In the US, 6.9 million people are looking for jobs (as of March 2021). And in the UK, it’s 2.2 million. This is too many for organizations to take on right now. 40% of companies say hiring freezes are helping them recover from pandemic upheaval, and it appears that no one is impacted more than early talent.

In research conducted by Headstart in Q4 2020, only 13% of companies made more early talent hires in 2020 than they did in 2019, but 55% reported an increase in applications during the same period.


Can your recruitment process cope with the demand?

HR managers and recruiters can be time-poor and over-stretched. Often, they’re under (or wrongly) tooled, too.

Can our existing processes filter large numbers of applicants in a way that makes sense for the role (and doesn’t rely on discrimination)? Do they even help us to find the best candidates while eliminating bias?

The answer to those questions may well be “no”.


Why traditional selection tools aren’t fit for the modern-day

What tech do you rely on for early talent acquisition: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), “resume bots”, or the like?

On one hand, these tools are useful when processing applications at scale. But most iterations do more damage than good. That’s especially true when it comes to early talent acquisition and DEI, as we found out in our research study: Racial Bias in ATS Technology: A Case Study on Cutting Black Bias by 18%.


The issue with ATS and early talent acquisition

How can we auto-scan for relevant keywords when a candidate is applying for their first job? They simply won’t have the “Previous experience” write-up required to break through. And what use is it to compare college/university degree scores in the context of COVID and mass disruption to the education sector? 

There’s a significant “achievement gap” emerging within graduating cohorts.

🗯 Students have suffered learning loss as a result of closed college campuses and poor quality online teaching. They’ve not been able to access vital work experience in closed-down sectors like cafes, restaurants, and retail stores. 

And, as is too often the case, certain demographics — namely Black and Hispanic grads — are worse hit than others.

Tools that select the “best” candidates using traditional metrics just aren’t cut out for the challenge facing early talent acquisition today. So how can HR and hiring managers be better supported when facing high volumes?

Getting early talent acquisition right in 2021

Can a high volume of applications be an opportunity for businesses, rather than a burden? 

We’d say so.

A broader data set gives us a greater chance of removing bias from the selection process. We can compare candidates using a wider spectrum of contextual characteristics — better still, we can do so in a way that scales seamlessly as more and more applications come in.

A reliable, accurate way to manage applicants at volume

Headstart makes it easy for HR managers and recruiters to screen candidates and manage early talent acquisition in an ethical, efficient manner.

It does so using a unique ‘Match score’ feature — assessing candidates via qualifications, work experience, exact or relevant skills and background, producing one, single metric that illustrates their potential. A candidate score of 98% suggests the applicant is an extremely good fit for the role and would perform well given the chance. 

What will be of particular interest to diversity-minded leaders is how this ‘Match score’ is produced: in the context of a candidate’s life. Headstart uses socio-economic mobility data to highlight candidates who have performed exceptionally compared with expectations. 

This is essential for minimizing unconscious bias and letting an applicant’s true potential shine through. It’s especially important when dealing with early talent acquisition, too.

What really matters to your organization?

What value do we place in where an applicant got their degree? In 2021, universities we think we should look to for the best talent, aren’t always the highest potential places (read more about that here).

🗯 And getting a job as a recent grad should be about what you can do, not who your parents are or where you grew up — you have the power to influence that.

Ask yourself: would you rather fill an entry-level role with someone who knows what hard work is, even if their education history doesn’t show that in the traditional way? Raw talent doesn’t always come in predictable packages. And when we rely on technology that sifts through high volumes by judging backgrounds and lifestyles, then we risk missing out.

Inclusive hiring at any volume

Traditional ATS technology simply won’t cut it in diversity-driven workplaces. Hiring managers and HR workers looking to bring the best early talent into their teams need to find another way.

headstart ats recruitment software for early talent teams

Headstart’s recruiting platform brings together the at-scale capabilities of ATS technology while ensuring candidates are analyzed fairly — letting their true potential shine through.

Armed with accurate ‘match scores’ for each role, you never need to worry about hasty decisions or biased selection: the data is right there for you to look at.

Start using a smarter solution to diversity hiring at volume.

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