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The Skills Economy is changing the way organizations identify and evaluate job candidates. One thing is clear: The traditional resume is no longer adequate. In our five-part mini-series, we explore how the resume of the future will help companies win the war for talent. Check out part onetwo and three.

Today in the U.S., over 39 million adults own a smart speaker, according to a 2018 study from NPR and Edison Research. Whether it's Amazon's Echo or Google Home, the devices are making users' lives easier—65 percent of respondents said they wouldn't want to go back to life without their voice assistant.

Most people give Alexa or Google Home simple commands such as, “play music," or “remind me to call my sister," but the steady development of artificial intelligence suggests that these bots will soon have much more advanced use cases—and human resources might be one of them.

As AI gets better at natural language processing and data-parsing, voice assistants will have the ability to shoulder more complex requests and generate more accurate responses—and they may be responding to some of HR's most pressing questions and concerns (including, who should I hire? and are any of my top performers unhappy here?). From candidate sourcing to vetting to hiring, it's likely voice will play a major role in helping HR teams draw valuable insights from the personnel data they have access to and take action.

Opening HR's Black Box of Data

With digital technology on the rise across industries, most HR departments have access to more data than they've ever had previously. Still, many organizations struggle to collect good data and make use of it in a productive way. According to a 2017 survey from Deloitte Research, only 8 percent of companies report that they have usable data, while just 9 percent report having a grasp of what talent dimensions drive their businesses.

To combat this, 56 percent of those companies said they will focused on leveraging digital and mobile tools to improve their HR departments this year—meaning access to more, better data. And a portion of those companies are already beginning to invest in AI solutions as well. Armed with better data and AI-powered assistants, organizations will be able to extract insights more efficiently and effectively than they were able to when using applicant tracking systems (ATS) or other digital tools. Plus, with voice, rather than having to manually search, teams could simply tell the system: “Find me a data scientist with five years of experience and a concentration in healthcare."

The same goes for internal data that HR teams have access to as well. Say your team has an opening in the London office that you need to fill, and while you've posted to the job board, you'd prefer to have an internal hire move over. You could ask the system something as complex as, “Who's over-performing, under-compensated and wants to move to London?"

Identifying Strong Candidates Pre-Interview

In addition to drawing insights from existing data, voice technology can be used to screen candidates based on the way they speak. When a person closes their eyes and listens to someone talk, they automatically imagine how that person looks—maybe their word choice makes them sound assertive or hesitant, for example. Artificial intelligence can be trained to pick up on the same cues.

If a candidate uses more active verbs (I did, I can) versus passive ones (I was told to), they might be a more attractive candidate. Likewise, someone who uses more positive language is likely a better addition to the workplace than someone who uses negative language. AI and natural language processing also help make computers better at detecting lies than humans—and studies show a majority of candidates lie about themselves during job interviews.

This application of voice technology is already in practice in the industry, with several companies offering solutions to detect voice inflection and word choice. Consumer products company Unilever, for example, uses video screening technology to help cull entry-level hires. The company told Deloitte that the system has helped them reduce the number of candidates recruiters need to interview for the job.

Improving the Candidate Experience Overall

Voice technology is also poised to play a major role in making the hiring process better for the candidates themselves. As many in HR will tell you, it's a candidate's market since there's a high demand for skilled workers, which means a seamless hiring process is critical. One way to improve? According to research from CareerArc, 60 percent of candidates surveyed said that better communication (during and after the application process) would make their experience better.

Bots could be the key to improving and scaling communication. While today some companies use online chatbots to answer candidate inquiries, in the future, a robot could not only field questions but also help interested job-searchers find the most relevant opportunity on a company's site. Rather than getting a PDF file, candidates could receive a voice-activated offer letter. While this application of the technology is likely the most distant, it could go a long way toward making potential hires feel valued by the companies they apply to, even if they don't get the job, and make them more likely to apply again in the future once their skills have advanced. What's more, in a consumer's market, news of experiences will travel: Research suggests 72 percent of candidates have shared a negative application experience with someone online or directly—likely discouraging others in their network from applying to that company. With AI assistants controlling for positive experiences, the candidate pool is broader.

As companies enter a new skills economy, it's more important than ever for HR teams to be able to find, vet and hire strong, skilled candidates to keep the business growing and competitive. Voice activation will likely be one of a myriad digital tools necessary to do so.

For more about how the hiring process will look in the future, check out the Resume of the Future at http://hr.cornerstoneondemand.com/navigatingthefuture

Photo: Creative Commons