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What Garry Kasparov Can Teach Us About Talent Acquisition

For years, computers posed little competitive threat to the world’s elite chess players. In a 1985 event, grandmaster Garry Kasparov put up a 32-0 record against his computer challengers…simultaneously. Twelve years later came his 1997 defeat to IBM’s Deep Blue, which represented a symbolic inflection point in computing power. Not only can computers more quickly calculate the various iterations of a chess game (10^120 to be exact) than humans, but they are also less likely to suffer from human shortcomings, such as fear of retreat. We are now at a point at which a $50 computer game can easily defeat the best players in the world.

Fortunately for mankind, that’s not the end of the story. Something very interesting happens when humans and technology operate in sync. We’ll let Kasparov explain what happens when brains and machines complement one another in chess tournaments:

The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.

The implications of this insight are significant for talent acquisition on two levels. First, we argue that technology companies could benefit from deeper human involvement to complement technology and engender customer success. Second, we argue that talent acquisition efforts today are woefully bifurcated into pureplay technology matchmakers and low-tech mom-and-pop recruiters. On both levels, there are opportunities to blend “man and machine” in ways that can make organizations more effective.

Bringing the human element to the technology industry

Leaders can become so enamored with the potential for technology to disrupt industries and markets that they can forget to honestly test whether there is product-market fit to begin with. This week, the Wall St. Journal published an article on the coming of age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From facial recognition to driverless cars, AI will clearly be an increasingly meaningful part of our lives. But the article also offers a warning. Organizations like EnerNOC made bet-the-company moves on AI’s potential for disruption, but didn’t heed warning signs from customers that they were not nearly ready to cede control over mission-critical functions to the “machine.”

This is but one of many damaging errors that can result from an inadequate human complement to technology. We often see a bias towards hiring developers and data scientists without sufficient strategic resources to guide product development and ensure customer success. Of course, early stage companies are nothing without defensible technology. However, organizations that hire armies of developers at the expense of thoughtful strategic resources do so at their own peril. While successful pureplay technology companies can be the most scalable businesses, it will behoove tech companies to 1) invest more in corporate strategy and product marketing to align product development with core customer needs and 2) invest more in strategic deployment and customer success teams that will help improve NPS and inform future product direction, and 3) ensure that technical and strategic functions work holistically together in service of validated customer needs.

Bringing technology to talent acquisition

While high-growth technology firms are disrupting every industry imaginable, technology’s role in talent acquisition is still in its infancy. The clear majority of recruiters use generic, 3rd-party platforms to track applicants and LinkedIn’s nascent tools to source candidates. On the other hand, most talent-focused tech startups operate as glorified job boards, lacking the human component necessary to truly understand client needs and align talent against those needs.

In 2016, Talent Response rolled out our talent acquisition platform, which benefits our consulting firm and growth-stage technology clients in several key ways:

  • Video content to help candidates tell the story behind the bullet point – and highlight DNA in addition to experience

  • Faster identification of relevant resources by the Talent Response team – particularly for projects with short lead-times

  • Ability to leverage the power of referrals across our 20K-strong network of professionals

Our platform has been a powerful tool to enhance our high-touch offering, but it is just a start. Just as computers can help strategic chess grandmasters make better decisions, so too can technology help decision makers manage implicit bias in making hiring choices (see facebook’s guidance on managing bias in hiring). Machine learning should be a valuable tool to hone in on the talent featuring the right DNA, experience, and motivation for a role.

Technology will never – and should never – displace human judgment and strategic guidance in making hiring decisions. But there is opportunity to make better, more efficient decisions around talent acquisition. Talent Response is intent on leading that path forward.

What’s next?

Consulting firms and growth-phase technology companies: Contact us to learn more about the ways in which our high-touch + high-tech talent acquisition solution can help you meet growth aspirations.

Consulting and technology professionals: Join our curated library of talent to access roles across 30+ boutique consulting firms and high-growth tech firms.

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