There is a ghost hanging around recruiting: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) changes recruiting fundamentally. In a few years, personnel management will be completely automated. Some technologies – such as “bots” and “big data analysis” – are used already today from job posting to onboard hires into companies. Others are close to, such as the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). To summarise, they all belong to the subject of “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) or “Cognitive Computing”. Meant with this are all technologies for the automation of intelligent behaviour and machine learning: The goal is to replicate human-like decision structures. Computer programs are created or programmed to learn to handle problems independently.

Machines are just better recruiters

For some of you, this technological development might be scary. But be assured it can hardly be stopped. The background is the growing pressure in recruiting: Vacancies have to be filled fast and sustainable. To achieve this, candidates and job positions (and not just company culture!) have to fit as perfectly as possible, this means “matching” is crucial. Intelligent systems with their ability to precisely process gigantic amounts of data in a short time already offer numerous application possibilities today such as:

Bots: Most of them are computer programs, which largely work automatically on recurring tasks. They do not necessarily count towards artificial intelligence, but there are also those who “learn”. This means that they can independently generate “knowledge” from “experience” and thus act intelligently. For example, recruiters or HR managers can use bots, to have questions been answered by candidates.

Big Data Analysis: Perfect for campus recruiting. Many larger companies have organized programs at colleges and universities to recruit and hire students. With the technologies for processing and evaluating huge amounts of data, it is possible to recruit many graduates directly from the university. With Big Data Analysis you can exactly determine which person with which grades from which university fits with which open positions.

Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR / VR): The different technologies in this area generate a virtual world and allow the user to perceive themselves as part of it. Anyone who thinks that this is something for future labs is wrong: International companies are already using AR / VR for interviews, where potential employees are sent the familiar AR / VR glasses and thus they look around virtually in the new working environment before the interview. We are not far away from “Beam me up, Scotty”.

Speech Recognition: Speech Recognition systems need a minute of speech to determine the personality. The decisive factor is not what is said, but how it is said. This technology can also be used during a telephone interview (with the permission of the candidate). If that scares you – it’s getting even worse.

Facial Action Coding System (FACS) or Video Assessment: Based on a psychology-based coding method for describing facial expressions, the technology is currently used primarily to combat terrorism. One and a half minutes are enough to determine the personality of 43 muscles in a person’s face. Adding eye movement, gesture and tone of voice. The perfect personality match is close to be completed.

Automated Matching: The “dating for jobs”. We rely on intelligent systems when it comes to finding partners for life. The technology works just as good as when it comes to finding the right candidates: feedback is provided to both parties, recruiters and candidates. Benefits of artificial intelligence in recruiting No matter how these technologies are evaluated, the fact is: artificial intelligence has the potential to solve current recruiting challenges:

  • 73% of job seekers are passive job seekers: For humans, it is hardly possible to find these, for machines, however, already possible (2017: LinkedIn study).
  • Top performers have a new job within 10 days: With AI, the recruitment process can be greatly shortened.
  • Machines are unbiased: Computers make their decisions neutrally, without the unconscious bias typical made of humans. Emotions only come into play during a personal interview.
  • Create equal opportunity through intelligent pre-screening of applications: Pre-screening the applicant, especially in a D&I setting  (e.g. by softfactors) can give each candidate a equal opportunity. (Soft-)skills and a candidate’s potential can be mapped beyond a traditional CV.

Rethinking required: Good matching needs assessing soft skills

To realize the full potential of AI in recruiting, companies need to rethink the way they recruit. Recruiting is currently still based on the CV (education, experience, skills, etc.). This is like driving a car through the rearview mirror. Companies learn where the person went to school and what work experience they have gained. That’s important – but it’s not enough for a really good matching. The key lies in the soft skills, such as professional and social competencies, skills, interests and values. Besides the facts recorded in the CV, soft skills are an essential part of a good match. Artificial intelligence allows to include all this data. The recruiting process will become qualitatively better, faster and more efficient.

Will recruiters soon become Ghost Busters?

Intelligent systems and artificial intelligence bring positive impulses to recruiting: The roles of the recruiters of tomorrow will change massively. The focus shifts to skills in which computers and machines are clearly inferior to us humans: in a good discussion in the interview and in general by the “human touch”. In conclusion, Artificial Intelligence enables us to be more humane in recruiting – and not just in 2030, already today. Are you ready to be a Ghost Buster?

By Reto Ruegger

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)

It’s here: the full Diversity & Inclusion recruiter!

Implementing diversity & inclusion (D&I) in the workplace elevates your business to the next level. Reduce bias in your recruitment process, hire the candidate with the best matching competencies, thanks to a full D&I recruiting HRTech solution as add-on to your ATS.

The Zurich based HRTech innovator softfactors launched its latest addition to their softfactors recruiting suite ready for HRTechCongress in Amsterdam: a diversity & inclusion recruiter utilising a core screening engine purely focusing on the competencies of the candidates. No CV, no gender, no name, no age, no religion, no race – just the competencies and match to the job. True diversity & inclusion. (Download Whitepaper)

Are you taking D&I serious in recruiting?

Research by Forbes, Howard Business School and The Economist suggested that companies following a true D&I strategy have a number of direct business benefits e.g.

  • Business growth
  • Higher earnings & return on equity
  • Increased sales revenue growth
  • Better ability to serve clients

The benefits of D&I are clear – but to truly execute it, you have to rethink your recruiting process and tools. Still, most hiring process bursts with bias, as human beings interact  with other human beings. When we discuss bias, we typically think of the “obvious” sources of bias like gender, race and age, but many other unconscious biases influence the way we evaluate a candidate:

  • School bias
  • Beauty bias
  • Affinity bias
  • Conformity bias

The goal of diversity hiring is to identify and remove conscious and unconscious biases that could lead to hiring candidates based upon other criteria than the best matching competencies. This can best be achieved using an unbiased recruiting tool, but also needs awareness amongst recruiters and hiring managers.

How can an automated screening and assessment support your D&I recruiting process?

The new softfactors diversity recruiter module neutralises the candidate information to present the recruiter with only the information necessary to assess the candidates competencies and the match to the job in question. It offers multiple levels of D&I process depths with several D&I recruiting tools:

  • D&I screening process
  • D&I reports
  • D&I assessment solution
  • D&I candidate compare features

And the good news is: it works with any ATS (i.e. Workday or SuccesFactors) with an availble API. Come and visit softfactors at HRTechCongress in Amsterdam from October 22 – 24, 2017, Stand 527. And get a free D&I recruiter demo or trial version its cloud services.

Download a comprehensive, free whitepaper on D&I recruiting by Lucy Dubin, PhD, and Christer Balle here.

Hard Data on Soft Skills – Softfactors Competency Index™

People analytics can measure what was considered unmeasurable before – soft skills. Technology has given us the tools and techniques, and this is what we do at softfactors AG. Our tests measure competencies in key areas through a series of fun, intuitive, interactive and quick online activities. We have combined self-description, with ability testing and behavioral assessments.


What Soft Skills are mostly required in today’s Jobs?

Delivery, Collaboration, Drive and Communication are becoming more and more important in today’s jobs. While Communication is on everybody’s list, the high score of Delivery and Drive are definitively somewhat surprising. At Softfactors we measure and observe competency trends, using our set of 25 competencies. They are grouped into 5 categories: Dealing with People, Interpersonal Skills, Dealing with Business, Thinking Skills, and Personal Qualities. The Softfactors Competency Index™ looks at all competencies by function (i.e. marketing) and role (i.e. senior expert or team leader). And the picture – not surprising – holds a list of commonly used skills that are important for the 21st century. The top 4 competencies and their detailed facets are:

  1. Delivery
    Completer and finisher, know how to organize people and activities, figure out the processes necessary to get things done, know what to measure and how to measure it.
  2. Collaboration
    Build consensus among colleagues, peers and clients, recognize the business concerns and perspectives of others, identify shared interests and common ground, focus on issues and interests instead of people or positions, gain others’ support for ideas, proposals, projects and solutions.
  3. Drive
    Strength of will, take initiative, dynamic and assertive, good stamina, identify what needs to be done and do it before being asked or before the situation requires it, ambitious.
  4. Communication
    Listen well, ask pertinent questions, arguments are business-like and substantiated, pass information on to others, express clearly in conversations and writing, identify and present information or data that has a strong effect on others, encourage debate and not afraid to end it and move on, deliver tough messages with sensitivity.

To our surprise, the “doer” attitude that helps foster “Delivery” has been somewhat stronger than Communication, which we expected to be the most popular competency in our Softfactors Competency Index™. Together with the competency “Drive” the picture gives a strong “can do” attitude of the worker in the 21st century: making things happen seems to be a key element over all competencies.

Which Competencies are important for leaders?

For leadership positions (Managers, Executives and Managers of Managers) the picture looks somewhat different. The top 4 competencies for leaders are:

  1. Leading People
    Set direction, establish focus, decide on action, assign responsibility, delegate appropriately, mobilize commitment, provide motivational support, empower others, develop others and manage performance.
  2. Communication
    Listen well, ask pertinent questions, arguments are business-like and substantiated, pass information on to others, express clearly in conversations and writing, identify and present information or data that has a strong effect on others, encourage debate and not afraid to end it and move on, deliver tough messages with sensitivity.
  3. Decision Making
    Break down problems into all facets, define the root causes of a problem, generate a range of solutions, weigh pros and cons of options, use lessons learned, make decisions with limited or unclear information, easily explain the rationale for a decision.
  4. Business Responsibility
    Integrate executive direction into decisions and actions, align products/services/actions with the organization, monitor resources, seek ways to reduce costs, adhere to internal control procedures and standards, actively uphold company regulations and policies.

Basis of the Softfactors Competency Index™ are the data of hiring organizations using the Softfactors recruiting suite. Analyzed were published jobs primarily in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the UK in 2016. Watch this space, we are going to monitor and publish more data about soft skills as they become available. We will be reporting them in the Softfactors Competency Index™.

Download our white paper “Putting Soft Skills at the Heart of Recruiting” here.

Want to demo Softfactors? Go through a candidate experience here.

Source: softfactors | smart digital recruiting

50% Hiring Cost Reduction through increased Quality and Speed: The Nord Stream 2 Project

The Landfall of the Nord Stream Pipeline in Germany

Nord Stream 2 AG is a project company established for the planning, construction and operation of the Nord Stream 2 twin pipeline to transport natural gas from Northern Russia to Europe. New hires were needed for multiple business and technical functions. Nord Stream 2 wanted a data-driven, comprehensive, time saving process that would result in candidates who could immediately fit into their high-speed, international culture and who would produce results on Day One.

Interview/Hiring Ratio of 4:1

With softfactors, Nord Stream 2 soon learned that softfactors’ methodology reflected current research conducted by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation showing that job success depends on a combination of technical knowledge and soft skills. They realized that soft skills were valuable factors to consider.

Smart algorithm do the workload

softfactors’ selection tools use an algorithm to compare the job requirements to each candidate’s profile. Candidates interested in a job complete an interactive online application. All candidates are screened on overall fit, traditional variables, and soft factor elements drawn from interactive exercises. The result is a scientifically rigorous list of pre-selected candidates – both suitable and unsuitable – based on a combination of competencies and foundational and technical skillsets.

Saving 20 hours interview time per position

With the front-end sourcing and candidate screening steps handled by softfactors, Nord Stream 2’s HR team was able to concentrate on in-person interviews and collaborative assessment discussions with the hiring managers. It brought down the interview/hiring ratio to 1:4. The number of interviews for hiring managers was reduced by over 50% because of the pre-match of suitable candidates to jobs.

Download the full study here
Nord Stream 2 AG – Facts and Figures
Time Frame for Recruiting 9 months
Online Applications through Softfactors ATS (very specialized jobs) 2’500 applications automatically screened
Algorithm assessed as suitable 450
Hired (filled) positions 45
Hiring/Interview Ratio 1:4,3 (normally 1:10)
Time saving for hiring managers and HR (2 people in interview) 810 hours

About Softfactors AG

Softfactors AG is an HR Tech Startup based in Zurich Switzerland. The recruiting solution measures and compares both resumes and soft skills. It looks at qualifications, work experience, social skills and personality of applicants and compares these with the requirements of the job opening, using a set of competencies and pre-defined job profiles.

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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: Are Soft Skills Winning?


The whole debate about soft skills versus hard skills sounds like a relatively modern debate, right? Not at all. The debate has been raging for many years – as far back as last century even. In 1918, Charles Riborg Mann, a physicist, engineer and civilian adviser in the US War Department, published research that discussed the importance of soft skills versus hard skills in engineering disciplines.

Within the study he asserted that: “personal qualities such as common sense, integrity, resourcefulness, initiative, tact, thoroughness, accuracy, efficiency and understanding of men are universally recognised as being no less necessary to a professional engineer than are technical knowledge and skills”.

Research by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center built on that 1918 study, leading them to conclude that only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge. What does the other 85% come from? Good, well-developed soft skills of course.

So the debate about soft skills versus hard skills is nothing new. However, thinking tends to fluctuate over which skills – soft or hard – are most important when hiring. At the moment, the swing is definitely towards soft skills and it has been going that way for some time.

Why? For starters, there is the undeniable fact that hard skills date very quickly now. What was relevant and required five or even two years ago is soon redundant. Skills and knowledge regeneration is constant and employees need to have the right mindset that enables them to keep learning, keep developing and keep moving forward.

As a result, employers place less importance on what employees already know. They want to know what employees are capable of in the future, what their aptitudes are and how well placed they are to apply the skills needed today and the skills needed tomorrow.

It’s all about agility. It’s a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that we live and work in and if organisations are to be agile, as they need to be, then they need agile employees. And being agile requires employees to have a whole host of personal attributes that fall into the soft skills category – flexibility, adaptability, creativity, dynamism, connectiveness, emotional intelligence and so it goes on.

There is lots of research that says that these are the skills that employers want now and will want even more in the future. A survey by Talent Q, part of Hay Group, for example found that nine in 10 employers think graduates with soft skills will be increasingly important as globalisation continues to gather pace. But those graduates are already in high demand – 81% of employers say they face strong competition for graduates with people skills.

A report carried out by Grant Thornton, a professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms, shows just how much value is placed on soft skills in the modern workplace, even in a profession that is all about numbers. The report, called ‘The Evolving Accounting Talent Profile’, said this in its executive summary: ‘Today’s CFOs find that technical skills are a necessary, but not sufficient, competency among accounting professionals. As they and their staff become more engaged in organisational decision-making, soft skills such as critical thinking and communication are increasingly important”.

Another report, this one carried out last year on behalf of McDonald’s UK, called ‘The Value of Soft Skills to the UK Economy’, states that soft skills are worth over £88 billion in gross value added to the UK economy each year, underpinning roughly 6.5% of the whole economy. That figure is expected to rise considerably over the next five years. The report predicts that by 2020, the annual contribution of soft skills to the economy will have grown in real terms to £109 billion and to just over £127 billion by 2025. Soft skills are worth a lot.

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10 Tips for Putting Soft Skills at the Heart of Hiring


It’s all very well to say ‘Put soft skills at the heart of your hiring process’ but sometimes people need a little help knowing what to do and where to start. Here are my 10 top tips to help you really make a success of using soft skills analytics in your hiring process:

1. Take the time to really think about what kind of personality you need

What kind of personality, skills and person do you need? This helps you know what to look for and the candidates to know if they should apply or not. Some organisations have hundreds of people applying for just one job, but the job descriptions can be so bad that lots of those people aren’t right. Then hours are wasted sifting through CVs and running tests, all because someone didn’t set the right profile at the beginning of the process.

2. Highlight those soft skills when designing the job description and advert

Make it clear what you are looking for. Ensure candidates can see what kind of personality is needed and what competencies are needed. Try to oming empty phrases such as “great team worker” If you copy the job description from the competition on a job board – rethink point 1.

3. Don’t just look at the here and now, in terms of skills

Look at a person’s potential – do they have the right soft skills (good motivation, initiative and communication skills, for example) so that they can grow into a role? Are you hiring for potential and attitude?

4. Think about how the candidate will fit, personality wise, with the rest of the team

Do they fit well to their future manager? Will they make a good cultural fit in the organisation? These are important questions and if you have three great candidates, how they will fit in with their colleagues and boss could be the deciding factor. A good screening software helps you here.

5. Really look at the candidates

Don’t just look at what you want and need. Always keep in mind that there’s a person on the other side. Employer branding is so critical these days and making sure candidates have a good experience, whether they get the job or not, is an important part of that.

6. Be more human than resources

Technology should allow you to have more time to devote to what is most precious and important, so have systems in place that help you to focus on the human stuff, rather than just processes. HR has become far too process driven – onboarding people, processing CVs, etc. Let systems do this because they actually do it better than humans can. Then HR can focus on the human side of HR instead. We still need quality interviews, for example.

7. Make interviewing people who are not a good fit something of the past

With softfactors, you should only be interviewing people who are a good fit. And good fit means not only skills, education and experience but also the right personality, competencies, motivational drives, etc. At softfactors, we have found that a soft skills pre-screening and assessings reduces the amount of time spent interviewing by 50% or more.

8. Give candidates feedback about their fit early

It is part of ensuring there is a good candidate experience. With softfactors testing, candidates receive near instantaneous online feedback about how the test went. Especially younger applicants (not only generation Y – but also) are expecting a direct, immediate and personized feedback.

9. Combine data with gut feeling at interview

Don’t rely on just one, but both together – data and gut feeling. At the end of the day, it’s a person to person thing. And an interview is often a shining performance for one or two hours (on both sides) so using data for your interview helps you detect and read a person – along with your great interview skills.

10. Use the information you have gathered for onboarding and development

Don’t let it just go to waste once the hiring decision is made. People development can start with hiring. The software highlights a person’s gaps, their strengths and weaknesses. This enables organisations to formulate development plans for new hires at the very beginning of the employer-employee journey. Onboarding starts with pre-screening and people development too: that is why we developed softfactors.

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Soft Skills Analytics: Five Measures of Impact


There are several ways that organisations can and should measure the impact of hiring for soft skills. After all, you want to know if it’s working, where it’s working and what the benefits are to the organisation.

Improved speed of hire, candidate selection, quality of hire and retention are all benefits that can be achieved by hiring for soft skills and all of these benefits are measurable. Indeed, at softfactors, a Swiss HR Tech company, we already measure some of these benefits and will soon be measuring all of them.

Faster speed of hire

Let’s start with speed of hire. This is as it sounds: we measure how long it takes to get a new hire on board once the recruitment process has started, from start to finish. It’s very easy to measure and the results should be significant. Many of the companies that use our screening tools have reported halving the recruitment time from three months down to one and a half months. In one instance, we hired a communications specialist for a company in just four weeks, from posting the job advert to issuing the job offer to the candidate. Being able to speed up the time to hire is particularly important for business critical, strategic and senior roles.

Identify better candidates

Improved candidate selection is another major benefit and what this refers to is the ability to identify strong candidates and screen out unsuitable candidates early on. Our soft skills analytics give hirers a really good, detailed understanding of the aptitudes, personality traits and motivational drivers of candidates. This enables hirers to weed out those who might otherwise have made it through to interview and only select a handful of really strong candidates.

By only inviting promising candidates to interview, hirers enjoy significant time savings. Consider how long it takes to set up and prepare for interviews, conduct the interviews, assess candidates afterwards and then feed back the information. If a hirer is only doing that three times, instead of five or ten or 15 times, that’s a substantial efficiency saving in terms of time and resources.

A better candidate experience

It also makes for a better candidate experience. Interviews require candidates to invest time and energy as well, so better to only select those for interview who stand a good chance of securing the position.

We can also provide hirers with data on where the good candidates are coming from – is it LinkedIn? Facebook? Monster? Organisations can use this information to target their recruitment efforts more effectively.

Improved quality of hire

Proving an improved quality of hire is perhaps the hardest benefit to measure. However, conversations with line managers and anecdotal evidence can be useful here, plus other measurables, such as time to competency, how well a candidate performs in a role and how long they stay.

Increased employee retention

Retention is something that we plan to measure soon. If there’s a good candidate-job-manager-organisation fit, then we would expect candidates to stay longer within a job and to progress up through the organisation.

Screening that leads to better retention rates is certainly something that a lot, if not all, companies would be interested in. As one senior investment banker quoted in the Financial Times article said, soft skills tests that can accurately predict the likelihood of candidate staying and succeeding in a role “would be terrific”.

This last benefit takes a bit longer to measure, because the tracking takes place over a longer period of time. But it can all be done and can show hirers the several clear benefits of testing for soft skills.


So, in conclusion, there are several ways that organisations can and should measure the impact of hiring for soft skills. In fact, it would be very unwise not to do so with the current available technologies.

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