We recently sat down with Gerard Mulder, CCO at Textkernel, to pick his brain about the importance of semantic search, how firms are struggling with big data, the next big trends and challenges for the staffing industry – and more.
As Chief commercial officer and co-owner of Textkernel since 2005, Gerard Mulder has helped build up Textkernel to the international company it is today. Gerard is passionate about recruitment innovation and technology. He understands the needs in the market and together with his team, they work on building technology for the future of global recruiting.
First things first. What does Textkernel do?
Semantic search, or studying the intent and contextual meaning behind words, is at the core of what we do. Employers and job seekers often use very different words or phrases to describe the same thing when they type in a search box, write job descriptions or build their resumes – which presents a problem. Our matching technology overcomes these differences and pinpoints what the user really means in order to give both parties the best search results. This is how we’re able to do things like automatically suggest the most relevant profiles in a client’s resume database based on a job description. “
As CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson says, “Textkernel is closing the communications divide between recruiters and candidates by helping them speak the same language on the back end.”
Technology is continuing to change talent acquisition as we know it today. What would you say are the biggest staffing trends for 2016?
1. Understanding big data — not just collecting it.
The whole staffing business is more and more data-driven. Or better said, we’re building up more and more data, but with limited capability of actually using it. Everybody’s talking about big data or semantic search and match, but no one is really using the data they’ve built up themselves.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s really hard to get the data from the system into something they can use right now that actually leverages that value – because staffing firms think about it, they usually think about having to change their entire back end. With Textkernel, clients have realized they don’t have to change their ATS – because we can integrate in their current systems. Firms can take their systems into the 21st century without having to make major changes or redo their infrastructure on the back end.”
2. Automation of many processes.
The clients of staffing firms are putting out their job requisitions, and staffing firms need to respond to that, but it’s a very difficult process because as a staffing firm, you know you’re competing with many others. You may not even be talking to the hiring manager or recruiter, so you need to do a lot of sourcing work and make investments with an unsure outcome. A good of example of this is job requisitions that come in through a VMS, or vendor management system. We can add a lot of value by opening up the data firms have and automatically matching job requisitions to their candidate database. This way firms can automatically pull and recommend good people from the data that they have already invested in.”
Mobile is not a new trend, but it keeps on being the topic of conversation – and now, with more and more candidates online and mobile, it’s more important than ever that staffing firms that aren’t mobile-optimized change their processes. The great thing is that you don’t need to overhaul your website to make your job postings mobile-optimized. Textkernel’s one-click mobile apply helps firms instantly access a previously untapped market of candidates.”
4. Better candidate experience.
Candidate experience and mobile are two very related topics. Today, firms are collecting more data — but they should not forget the candidate. Giving candidates a good experience is what enables you as a staffing company to place them, especially where there are skills shortages in the market. Good and efficient technology will actually enable you to have more time for relevant candidates.”
If you want to provide candidates with a great experience, you need to be relevant and personalize the interactions they have with you. You don’t want to call or email someone for a job they’ll never be interested in. The same applies to your customers, who you want to be able to provide with high-quality candidates. This is also where technology can really help. “
For instance, I use — like most people – Google, because the technology is so great and it works. It feels like a personal experience. That feeling comes from Google providing such good technology. When technology is that good you will use it; it’s seamless. Similarly, good technology will open doors for you with candidates and customers. And conversely, if you’re not using tech in the right ways, you’re going to lose out on the best people and customers.”
6. Searching your own data first.
No more than 10-15 percent of recruiters actually start sourcing for a job requisition by using their internal database. The No. 1 reason we hear? It is too difficult and it does not return relevant results. Still, internal candidates are the candidates recruiters know infinitely better compared to any new candidate they will first have to find, let alone get to know. So much of the value of staffing firms is in their databases – but if they can’t search their database, they’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.
In the end, a staffing firm is only as good as their capability to quickly fulfill job requisitions. Opening up the data from the people you collect is really the key to leveraging all the investments you’ve made in the past.”
What are the three biggest challenges facing the recruitment space right now?
How are you going to more easily find candidates you can place? They’re hard to find. Remember that good technology should not only help you find the right candidate; it should also give you more time back in your day to address challenges like skills shortages with candidates and clients. Likewise, it means you must leverage the skills of the people in your database.
Next year we will launch Jobfeed, a lead generation tool for staffing companies in the U.S. It will enable staffing companies to match their candidates to the actual demand in the market, based on skills, experience and many other concepts.”
Margins in staffing haven’t really been going up. The need to make processes more efficient using data is definitely something that’s challenging for the industry – but in order to be successful, firms need to make this a priority.”
It’s a bit of a threat to the industry when tech becomes so easy and mainstream. We make it as easy as possible to find the right candidate and build a good internal database, but that also gets offered to employers. A lot of companies are doing more in-house. Many corporate recruiters are starting to source candidates themselves. In order to stay ahead of the game, staffing firms need to use tech to differentiate themselves, enhance their ability to attract and find good candidates, and provide an additional level of service than corporations that are doing everything in-house.
If staffing firms don’t do this, they’ll soon be overtaken.”
Textkernel’s customizable modules can be integrated as building blocks into any process or platform. Find out more about what Textkernel can do for you, and learn more about CareerBuilder’s software solutions.