December 13th 2021
By: Jean-François Labre

The Search for Talent: A Conversation Rather Than a Process

It is no secret that recruiting and retaining employees is difficult today.

Indeed, in the midst of a labour shortage, the job market is now dominated by job seekers. However, the term “shortage” is misleading because, with a few exceptions, a job posting still generates a good volume of resumes even though the vast majority of candidates do not generally match the profile required. Therefore, the reality is that there is a shortage of skilled labour.

A new situation is further disrupting this market: the “big resignation”, i.e., an endemic tendency of workers to leave their jobs to obtain better conditions, to anticipate a retirement project or simply to change careers. As a small consolation, if we exclude early retirements, an employee lost for one is an employee found for the other.

So, what can we do to hire and retain the employees that will help us thrive? 

Part of the solution lies in the paradigm. Even today, recruiting is done BY and FOR HR. This means that the candidate experience is neglected, or at the very least, not given the attention it deserves. In other words, the current management of recruitment processes uses tools and practices that primarily meet the needs of the human resources function.

A new approach is needed that focuses on people and organizations, rather than on the needs of a single function.

What is this approach?

Well, it is first and foremost a conversation between the organization’s stakeholders (managers, colleagues, clients… and HR) and with potential candidates.

How to “Converse” With Talent

While we can criticize old-fashioned human resources practices, we must nonetheless point out that they were once an appropriate response to a context of abundant workforce. These practices were part of a system of tasks that allowed the human resources consultant (HRC) to be productive and efficient.

Today, it would be better to be able to analyze and discuss in depth with candidates to validate whether or not the fit is good and go beyond the information (partial and subject to interpretation) presented in the job posting.

Unfortunately, this approach is unrealistic, as the volume of work is simply too high… unless we look at automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

AI can be defined as a system that (1) has algorithms complex enough to allow it to process a high volume of data from multiple sources and (2) is able to learn from that data processing to (4) make routine decisions (an error has little impact) or (5) present information to support strategic decisions (an error has a large impact).

A Pivotal Period

We are living in a period of transition. In the same way that the 1980s saw workers on assembly lines being replaced by robotic arms, and in the same way that the 1990s saw postal communications being replaced by electronic documents, we are now in the era of AI-driven automation of the human resources function.

Is it a science fiction scenario? In fact, AI has already taken over many aspects of our lives, especially in the field of marketing, through the synergy between social media, online ads and shopping platforms. Moreover, many marketing terms and practices are used in HR, such as the candidate “pipe” and “employer brands”.

Now, all we need to do is continue borrowing from the marketing approach and apply the techniques used by the likes of Facebook and Amazon to attract and retain new customers through a conversation with AI.

In fact, this conversation can be broken down into six segments that correspond to the life cycle of the employee experience.

How to Use AI to Recruit?

For example, applying should be possible with a cell phone and not with a master’s in office automation. The AI-powered system must be able to take the candidate’s information and transform it into a quality format for recruiters, whether it is through the retrieval of the LinkedIn profile or the voice synthesis.

Then, the program must be able to analyze the application and ask for clarifications to the candidates, if necessary. The AI is even able to change the quality of the process from time to time. For example, if a web posting is rarely viewed and only for a few seconds, while another is highly viewed and consulted, the AI can propose corrective measures, which is the notion of learning mentioned above.

Subsequently, the system will continue to support HRC and managers in the other phases of the talent conversation, through automation.

Examples for each phase include:
  1. Attraction: Generation of “leads” and an increase of views on the career site.
  1. Recruitment: Facilitate and improve the quality and format of applications. 
  1. Integration: Ensures that the administrative component is completed, which leaves time for the HRC and managers to integrate the new employee. 
  1. Development: Supports a greater capacity to know the needs, interests, and motivations of employees in order to match them with the needs of the organization.
  1. Engagement: In addition to development data, AI adds a layer of information, notably via surveys, to target practices that will generate more well-being and productivity.
  1. Separation: AI can reanalyze accumulated data to improve practices with existing employees as needed. Also, thanks to social media, the organization and colleagues now remain much more present in the lives of former employees. AI can therefore integrate the information inherent in these relationships to generate “leads”, which completes the process by bringing us back to the attraction phase.


While some aspects of AI can be intimidating, it cannot replace the interpersonal skills that HRC possess. On the other hand, AI excels at analyzing large amounts of data and performing repetitive tasks in an intelligent manner. AI is therefore an ally for HRC, as well as for organizations and candidates, because it optimizes the process of finding the right person for the right position. 

Jean-François Labre
Jean-François Labre

M. Sc., CRHA, Consultant in Talent Management