To be clear, there was already a technology skills shortage in the U.S. before the pandemic. McKinsey research at the start of 2020 found 87% of businesses were either “experiencing gaps now or expecting [to experience] them within a few years.”

In 2021, references to a ‘tech talent war’ are more common than ever.

Where people in relatively safe roles were perhaps reluctant to rock the boat during the pandemic, that risk is now largely gone. Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their current employer this year, according to Microsoft.

We’ve seen the hockey stick of recovery. We’ve seen organizations investing greater time and resources into digital and technology. We’ve seen growth in the number of new companies and startups targeting digital spaces. And we’ve seen technology companies in particular maintain or consolidate their financial positions, potentially having more money to spend on developing new products and employing new talent than they did before the pandemic.

All of these factors are leading many to up their digital game to compete.

Digital Influences in Hiring Practices

Organizations are using digital channels to show what life is like inside the company, providing a glimpse at ‘a day in the life’ of an employee, or to demonstrate their core values. The production quality of many of these digital facades is high, and is designed to attract attention from the highest-tier of candidates. The most desirable places to work are those using digital media to put themselves in the ‘shop window’ for talent.

But digital isn’t just helping organizations to sell themselves and their credentials. It’s also helping to sift through resumes and cover letters to create a shortlist, and — in some cases — to bring a human-like touch to recruitment processes that are otherwise often overly manual and operate as black boxes, where applications go in to never be heard of again.

This usually isn’t due to any ill-will on the part of the hirer. The company simply receives too many applications to respond to them all individually. Many unsuccessful applications have common issues, such as not being in-country or having relevant skills or experience. Digital systems can offer templated responses that a human wrote that can easily be sent to large numbers of unsuccessful applicants.

Other organizations also run recruitment through career portals that allow candidates to login and see where they are in the process. Offering this granular information to a candidate up front may give them a more positive impression of the company and of its digital capabilities.

So, digital is the future of hiring because it can transform overwhelmed recruitment processes, easing the burden on your People & Culture department, and allowing them to offer personable service and responsiveness at scale.

However, certain aspects of recruitment are simply not well-suited to machines. Learning where to draw that line is going to be critical to the success of many future recruitment campaigns.

AI and Automation Have Their Limits

While digital can lend itself to the candidate and applicant experience, we have to be careful with the amount of automation we use, particularly when recruitment is such a people-driven process.

In particular, a lot of decision-making in recruiting is around culture and fit. With many organizations working remotely or at least introducing remote flexibility, the ability to work independently but still be joined to a core culture is crucial. If you place someone who doesn’t fit, it will negatively impact the team and broader organization. You might even have to go through the whole process again to find a more suitable candidate.

It is still vastly preferable to meet a candidate face-to-face. If you’ve got your interview loops correct and you’ve got a good range of team, manager and stakeholder engagement in the interview, cultural fit, articulation and personality characteristics should all be evident. 

Together these facilitate the ability to come to a consensus as a group of interviewers whether this is the right or wrong person for the role. It’s no surprise that these cues may be harder for a machine alone to pick up on.