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Can Recruiters Be Robot-Proof?

Katrina Collier, professional recruiter and author of "The Robot-Proof Recruiter," thinks employers can effectively battle the bots of automation and maintain job security as we drive into the 21st Century. Oh, really?

We'll just have to see about that as Collier takes on Chad & Cheese, who are infinitely slurping from the bottle of robotic Kool-Aid. She surprisingly holds her own, as everyone comes out of the ring a little more black-and-blue, but still standing.

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Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, flash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Oh yeah. What's up? Robot proof your recruiting.

Chad: Robot proof your ass. This is what it is. It's that time kids.

Joel: We're talking to an actual human who wrote an actual book on paper and stuff.

Chad: Yeah. They still do that.

Joel: So we're super excited today to introduce Katrina Collier. Katrina, welcome to HR's most dangerous podcast.

Chad: Katrina and the waves.

Joel: Walking on sunshine today.

Chad: Walking on sunshine.

Joel: Katrina is the author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter. Has Katrina said anything or she just so shocked.

Katrina: No, I'm too busy laughing. There was singing, I wasn't expecting singing.

Chad: There it is. A Survival Guide for Recruitment and Sourcing Professionals. Katrina, give us a little bit about you. Who the hell is Katrina Collier?

Katrina: That is a very long and complicated question.

Joel: What are you? Her therapist? Jesus.

Katrina: Yeah. I have been in the recruitment industry since 2003. Like everybody else, of course, I didn't

Joel: Oh, newbie.

Katrina: Sorry, newbie, yeah. Just for 16 years. I didn't plan to ever be a recruiter, but I saw this little advertisement in the paper, yes, a newspaper, and I thought, oh, I can do that. Then I came out around the recession, 2008, 2009, and thought, oh, I'm going to start training. Everyone's appearing online, why don't I just teach how to source on social media? Way too early. Then went in-house for a period of time, proved to myself I could do it. Then from January, 2012 up until about 2018 that's what I was doing. Then Kogan Page asked me if I would like to write a book and it absolutely blew my mind that I was asked. The little inner child came out like, "You're going to let me write a book?" But I was also very aware

Joel: It was that 50 grand advance, right?

Katrina: No, no. Yeah. No. Joel, is this why you haven't had a copy yet?

Joel: Because everyone gets rich writing books, I hear.

Katrina: No, I have to buy my own copies of the book.

Joel: Which is why I didn't get one, apparently.

Katrina: That's why you didn't get one. I might send you one later though, if you're lucky. If you behave. But, one of the questions I'm sure you're going to say is, who the hell do I think I am to write a book? And that was exactly it. I thought there's one thing to be training sourcing, well, sure, I have to be doing it, but I haven't recruited for a while. I pulled in 74 voices from the industry to help me to back this up with lots of hands-on opinion and that made me really proud of it.

Joel: Nice. Well, name drop. Drop some names so people can relate to some of the experts that you talked to.

Katrina: Well, talking because of experience, of course there had to be the Mr Gerry Crispin. Shannon Pritchett wrote the forward, bless their cotton socks for doing that. Oh, I'm having to look at the acknowledgement, there are so many. There's a few [Crosstalk [00:04:02.28]

Joel: Jim Stroud's in the way.

Chad: Oh, yeah.

Joel: Of course, Jim's in there, but there's tons from Europe as well. Yeah. But I also wanted to make sure that I've got European recruiters and I got some from back in my home country, from Australia in there as well. So it's a really global book. I also wanted to get the job search sites. I've got Hannah Morgan in there, for example, she's really well known. So there's some names that are known, like Tris Revill and there'll be others that you're like, I don't know who that is.

Joel: That's okay.

Katrina: Because I wanted it to be global, as well.

Chad: In that theme, what's the biggest difference between a recruiter from the UK and a recruiter from the United States?

Joel: About 30 IQ points?

Katrina: Well, other than we speak English properly, no kidding, what is the biggest difference? I would say, if you took a look at the way recruiters are perceived from an agency/in-house perception, I think the agency recruiters here are looked down on a lot more than the staffing are in the US. I think there's slightly more respect for recruitment in the US.

Chad: Really?

Katrina: I know that's a really strange answer to your question, but

Joel: More respect in the US. All right.

Katrina: A little bit more respect for what staffing do than what happens here. And I think that's unfortunately because of the cowboy attitude of the minority, has created that. But we have all the same challenges, inmails, spam, email spam, spam, just spam.

Katrina: When they came to me and said, "Do you want to write a book?" And I sat there having a little like, "What?" Because I'm so blunt, right? I'm so sick of the BS out there about, well, we have a sourcing tool that uses AI and we can just replace you. I'm like, but you're sourcing from someone's ability to write a resume or a profile and people can't do that. So how can your AI possibly do that? You have so much noise around the technology can just automate everything you're doing and you're just going, people don't want to talk to robots now. In the supermarket, they go to the human over the self checkout a lot of the time, you see that all the time. There's still tellers in the bank, even though there's an automatic teller machine. I'm going, "Someone's career, are we going to give our career?"

Joel: All the research and feedback we get is that job seekers like chatbots, because they're not dumped into the black hole of the resume database. So

Katrina: But that's when the applicant has applied. So they've got into. Where you see recruiters being replaced is a lot of the sourcing side and getting someone to actually apply, reaching out to people. For example, I talk about Ben Gledhill and Yodel with the chatbot they've got on their website, which is awesome. You go there and they're always recruiting courier drivers. It's, "Can you carry boxes, 30 kilos?" But you're, "No, I can't." So you're out of the process. And it will step you through the application as a chatbot. That's when people arrive, keeping them engaged and giving them the clarity and the certainty, which I talk about all the way through the book. Use the technology to give clarity and certainty, not to replace the human touch. In that respect, absolutely, I would want to talk to a chatbot then, but I wouldn't want to talk to one when I'm just getting in touch with someone about their career and whether they want to change jobs.

Joel: So you agree there are some levels of recruiting that are not robot proof?

Katrina: Yeah.

Joel: The entry, the first walking through the door application stuff?

Katrina: Yeah. I do think so, and I don't think I'm ever going to change my opinion on that. It's a career, right? If you look at ... I think it's even harder in the US because of your health insurance.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: Yeah.

Katrina: Therefore, people are more reluctant to change shops. So you've really got to woo them. [Amy Miller’s just changed jobs, they wooed her for a year. It's a big thing to change jobs. I just don't think that you can just get someone's attention with a spam email via a robot and start chatting with a chatbot at that point.

Chad: And that's where I would say, it's changed with the job market. It used to be, we had a much longer span, but because of the job market being so hot, it's much easier to jump from job to job because you jump from one piece of healthcare to the next piece of health care. And yes

Katrina: Okay.

Chad: That is an issue that we have here in the US obviously, but when it comes down to engagement, I really believe that systems can provide more relevant contents, possibly to humans to be able to share and/or just directly out to candidates better than just humans can. That's not scalable for a recruiter. Right?

Katrina: Yeah, I get that. If you're looking from a content marketing point of view, definitely. And where I was really talking about it. So, nothing ... And you're talking about that black hole as well. Nothing annoys me more than, you apply for a job and either you get nothing or you get that auto responder that says, "Gee, thanks to your application, the talent acquisition team might be back in touch with you, but more likely your resume just went in the bin."

Chad: Right.

Katrina: You get that, right?

Joel: Yeah.

Katrina: And I'm always saying to people, for a start, there are tools that you can use that will send a GIF, they'll send a text message, they'll send something much more exciting and say, "Katrina Collier, here's my email, here's my phone number, I get overwhelmed with applications, I might lose you and not mean to, can you chase me up if you don't hear from me?" A really real human approach. That's automated, the response bit, but then the human, it feels like they've got some clarity and certainty of who they're dealing with and then they can get in touch. Now, everyone goes, "Oh my God, I'll get overwhelmed." No you won't. Because it'll be like one in 100 people who get in touch, because the average person also wants to hide behind technology. You think of our finds and how we've got them within reach, but yet we ignore text messages and we ignore WhatsApps and emails and everything, even though our phone's right there.

Chad: Candidate centric recruiters beat robots.

Katrina: Yeah.

Chad: That's in the book. The big focus here for recruiters and becoming robot proof, is really being more human. Right? Because tech can't be.

Katrina: Yeah.

Chad: Tell us a little bit about that. Just from the candidate journey standpoint, because it's not scalable for a single human being to try to personally get in touch with 100, 200 plus candidates per req. Right?

Katrina: Yeah.

Chad: If you have a req load of 20 to 30 reqs, which is pretty fucking high, that's not scalable.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: It's not sustainable. So how can recruiters beat robots in this kind of scenario?

Katrina: I wrote the book for recruiting people who are highly sought after. I didn't write it for high volume and I'm really honest about that in the beginning of the book.

Chad: Okay.

Joel: I've not done high volume recruitment, so I can't possibly understand what that's like. If you have 20 to 30 reqs and they're all completely different, you have a really different problem going on in your company. Either you should have more staff or you should be wondering why the hell you've got so many requirements, but that's another whole conversation. But I would rather that you didn't send one to 200 emails or InMails that are going to get a very low response and you actually sent some quality messages that would get a response by landing exactly where the person is communicating, which might not be LinkedIn, which is the one everyone tends to overuse.

Chad: Right.

Katrina: And you're going to get a higher response rate. You should be aiming for 80, 90% response rate, not mass, 200 people and one replies. And unfortunately that's what people do.

Joel: So the message to the kids is don't get into high volume recruiting because that's the threat. Go out and recruit doctors and engineers and people that are in really high demand. Is that the message?

Katrina: No, that's not the message.

Joel: No?

Katrina: No. I'm just saying that's my experience. I've always been in tech recruitment, so there's developers, like here in London, where there's five jobs for every developer, that's my experience. I've written the book from that angle and I've been honest about it. Where you have to make a huge effort to get someone's attention because you're at a bit of ... You haven't read it Joe, because Chad. I don't talk much about the actual messaging itself because I'm more about the, do you look worthy of someone's time. Does the company look worthy of someone's time? How do you come up under scrutiny, so that if I actually get your attention, you want to talk to me because I'm getting so overwhelmed with messages that are those bulk messages that the robots can send

Joel: That's fine.

Katrina: That I'm ignoring them. Hopefully that makes more sense.

Joel: Yeah. I'm just curious about the threats. As a recruiter, obviously I think high volume is one that is something to pay attention to because that's being attacked by automation and AI and everything else. I think the other thing that I want to talk about is the burgeoning gig economy. Yes, we're seeing gig with driving, we're seeing gigs with service industry and things like that, but we're also seeing it with

Chad: Developers.

Joel: Healthcare and nursing and things like that. I'm just curious about your ... Yeah, developers. I'm curious about your opinion on the gig economy and how much of a threat that is to the future of recruiting human to human.

Katrina: Just more from a company point of view, I suspect it's going to have a little rant, that's a little rough topic, I'm not answering your question. I'm not sure how many companies have actually woken up to the fact. Absolutely, go Collier, don't answer the question. Dodge. I don't know how many companies have woken up to the fact that they're losing knowledge workers, I'm going to say in the 40's range. Because like myself, and I could name like 50 of my friends who've all taken their knowledge, left the company and are now working gig because of course, we've got IR35 come in here, so we've got to be careful how we contract. So we're all doing lots of different bits of work, but we won't deliver that knowledge back to any companies that don't look after their people. That's why we left, we've come out. It's that age group where the boomers are going to retire, and this beautiful Gen X age group sitting in the middle won't be there to take those senior manager roles.

Joel: Nope.

Katrina: I know I'm not answering your question, but as far as a threat for a company's recruitment, I think there's actually a big problem there that most companies have not woken up to yet. They're so focused on boomers retiring and millennials apparently job hopping.

Chad: Yes.

Katrina: They're just basically doing what a normal 20 to 30 old would do, but they've kind of forgotten about this. And a lot will go and use the technology really confidently to be able to have that flexibility. Like I sat there this morning walking my dog so I didn't have to sit in traffic.

Chad: You've said it and I think I actually I read it in the book and I've heard it all over the place, recruiters are lazy. Is that one of the ways not to be able to defeat the robots, is not to be so damned lazy and not to lean so hard on LinkedIn?

Katrina: Yeah. I think it comes down to curiosity, and I don't think you can teach that. So if you want to be a lazy, high-volume, sorry, I'm not saying high volume recruiters are lazy by the way, but if you want to be a lazy recruiter and you just wanted to use technology to do bulk messaging and have a vaguely successful life, yeah great. But I think that the curious and the proactive are the ones that are really successful, and that have high response rates and high volume. They'll be curious enough to go, okay, I'm trying to get in touch with Chad, so let me look at his profile. Let me go off elsewhere. Where else is he chatting? Oh look, he's over on Twitter, maybe I'll send him a tweet or DM. Oh, he's on Instagram, maybe I'll send him a message there rather than using the mainstream. They'll go and become known to you.

Chad: Right.

Katrina: They'll interact with you. I don't know how you teach this curiosity, I feel like I just naturally am curious, and it's one of the things I want to address this year, is how can we make recruiters more curious and want to be? So that they want to look and delve a bit deeper before they go, "Hi, want a job?" Where's your buzzer when I need it? I need your buzzer. Thank you.

Joel: Less lazy equals more successful. Wow. We've really broken some ground today.

Katrina: Well, it's not horrible thing to say, it's true.

Joel: No, it's just obvious. It's everything.

Katrina: It is obvious.

Chad: Well, yeah, it is, but yet we still have lazy people working for us and it's just

Joel: Not on this podcast.

Chad: And doing podcasts. I think one of the biggest issues, and I think actually plays into the book very well, is the lump of labor fallacy, right? So the lump of labor fallacy all is really predicated on, oh my God, jobs are going away. The jobs generally don't go away, the skills you need to do that job evolve. Right?

Katrina: Yeah.

Joel: The fallacy is jobs aren't going away. What's happening is they're evolving.

Katrina: Yeah.

Joel: What I read in this book actually aligns very nicely with really the remedy to this whole idea of, there aren't going to be any jobs. Well, there are going to be jobs, you just have to be able to move and evolve with the jobs. Can you tell me how does it help recruiters understand how they need to evolve?

Katrina: I think it's because I go back and I just remind people about the human side of what we do. That it requires empathy and it requires listening skills and all these kinds of things that we seem to forgotten a bit while technology has gotten the way.

Chad: Well I think you're forgetting one big word though, it's adaptability.

Katrina: Yeah.

Chad: We can't do things today the way that we did five years ago. Hell, the five months ago. Right? I think when you talk about, in the book you start talking about becoming robot proof, the center theme has to be adaptability because if you continue to be lazy and lean on LinkedIn and don't adapt, then your fault.

Katrina: I had a very interesting situation with say, in-house versus agency situation.

Chad: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Katrina: Everyone will remain nameless in the situation. This specific person sent a LinkedIn inmail on the 10th of the month and on the 30th of the month the person finally replied, because they finally went into LinkedIn and they finally saw it and they finally thought, oh, how can I reply? She then sat on it for eight days and then received the resume in from an agency recruiter and all she was concerned about was whether she would pay the fee or not pay the fee. And I kept going, "But what were you doing for the eight days? Why didn't you get in touch with them? You had eight full days to get in touch with them, what were you doing?" "Oh, I just stopped paying this fee." But you left the guy hanging, the guy's sitting there wondering why you're not interested. I know he took 20 days to reply to you, that's because people don't use LinkedIn. They've turned off the emails that auto send when you send an inmail.

Chad: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katrina: He finally came in and saw your message and then you left him sitting for eight days, it shows you're not interested in talking to him. He's thinking you're not interested. And it was really interesting. I'm anti people's reliance on it.

Joel: Is it fair to say you are anti-LinkedIn?

Katrina: Get off it. Just get off it.

Joel: Okay. And what advice do you give to recruiters to get off the heroin drip?

Katrina: Hey, I'm old school, I'd say pick up the phone. I would certainly call first and then I would be emailing or texting if I have the cell or the mobile, but I would be getting directly to them. SMS has a 98 or something like that response rate, so I'd be aiming there. I'd be doing all the naughty stuff. I like the double tap texting and leaving voicemails with their favorite song, playing in the background. All the stuff I've picked up from these awesome recruiters over the years.

Joel: Do you think LinkedIn has been bad for the profession of recruiting?

Katrina: Yes.

Joel: Do people rely too much on it and get away from the tried and true? Yeah. Okay.

Katrina: Yeah. Which is LinkedIn's marketing. I've gone into hospitals over here training the recruiters in there and they're like, "Oh my God, saw this LinkedIn recruiter license." And I'm going, "So how many nurses are on LinkedIn?" And there's just silence. Because they've just spent 200 million pounds, I know, my outs are in the question area, but they've just spent like 200 million pounds or dollars getting their LinkedIn recruiter license, so they don't want to hear that.

Chad: Let's pivot away from LinkedIn for a minute, they've got enough of our time. Let's talk about interviews because we are seeing that technology can interview just as well as a human being. As a matter of fact, there are actual research studies that show that a recruiter's "gut" is not reliable, and an algorithm is much more reliable than a human being's gut. What do you think about that? And how does a recruiter pretty much robot proof against that or do they not? Because interviews suck anyway, so just screw that and leave it to the robot.

Katrina: First and foremost, did you that HireVue got into a bit of trouble over their algorithm during the video interviewing?

Chad: That was because of their facial recognition stuff. If you take away the facial recognition stuff, because that's a total diversion. You take away that the facial recognition stuff and you just focus on the actual data that's being compiled, that's what I'm talking about.

Katrina: I still feel it needs to have an element of both. Maybe if you're in the high volume and you're using it as an initial starting point, great. I didn't write about that in the book though. I talked about the technology that could support you during interviewing. So things like recording phone calls, Madison snippets off to the hiring manager rather than write it all out and send it to them. I didn't want to go into the bias side because I feel the algorithms are biased anyway because they're created by humans and we are all naturally biased. I personally think at the current time, both sides are flawed.

Joel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katrina: Whether we're going to get to a point where it's not in the future? I hope so, It'd be lovely for all of the candidates. I do see, where I think it's great, certainly again, going back to tech recruitment where people can play games and get away from their CV or their resume altogether is brilliant because again, we can't write them, but that's sort of the initial phases rather than you still going to get to an in person at some point. Again, I'm kind of dodging the question.

Joel: Finish your thought there.

Katrina: I'm kind of dodging the question in a way because I just don't think I have the expertise in that space.

Chad: I don't have a PhD but I have an opinion so therefore I say it on podcast.

Joel: Katrina, thank you for joining us today.

Katrina: Thank you.

Joel: For our listeners who want to know more about you and/or buy the book, where should they go?

Katrina: You can of course, buy the book at Amazon, but if you don't want to go to Amazon, which some people don't, you can buy it directly from the publisher, which is Kogan Page or if you come to, I've got some other links to some other places where you can buy it on the website as well.

Chad: Yup. And the book is, The Robot-Proof Recruiter: A Survival Guide for Recruitment and Sourcing Professionals.

Katrina: Can I just add something quickly?

Joel: Sure.

Katrina: All of the royalties from The Robot-Proof Recruiter, I can't pronounce my own book. Can I have a EHHHH. All of the royalties go to Hope for Justice charity, which aims to end modern day slavery, of which 40.3 million people are currently impacted and actually a lot of companies probably have.

Joel: Wow. Good for you.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: I would have been much nicer to you if I knew that.

Katrina: No, don't be nice to me. I don't like people to be nice to me. I like people to be direct and honest with me.

Joel: That's exactly right. You're on the right podcast then.

Katrina: Absolutely.

Chad: Excellent Katrina. Thanks so much for joining us. We out.

Joel: We out.

Katrina: Thank you for having me.

Tristen: Hi, I'm Tristen. Thanks for listening to my stepdad, the Chad and his goofy friend, Cheese. You've been listening to the Chad and cheese Podcast. Make sure you subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss out on all the knowledge dropping that's happening up in here. They made me say that. The most important part is to check out our sponsors because I need new track spikes, the expensive shiny gold pair that are extra because, well, I'm extra. For more visit

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