Can A.I. and the web predict your soft-skills?

People claim all kinds of soft-skills on their resumes. They find themselves to be very creative, with excellent English skills, killer presentation capabilities, while being a top problem-solver and of course a self-motivating team-worker...

How much of that is true? Recent studies with recruiting firms show that 53% of resumes contain lies and errors about their skills.

Which is why it is not very surprising that 91% of recruiters manually check candidates' online footprint to verify their claims from their CV.

 

But is the assessment of Soft-Skills really important?

Yes say 4,000 recruiters and HR professionals interviewed for the Linkedin Recruiting Trends Survey 2017, where Soft-Skills Assessment was placed as 2nd most important trend for 2017.

Also our own informal survey in 2016 with executives from Stepstone, Freelancer, Hays, Adecco, Randstad and Xing revealed the same: assessing soft-skills is a key need for the recruiting industry.

Why is that? To quote a CEO of a German Mittelstand firm:

"We only know how to assess hard-skills but we mis-hired 100 people last year who weren't able to communicate well, present to clients or work in a team."

 

 

Recruiters and Hiring Managers use an array of tools to measure soft-skills:

1) Resume

The good old resume is on its dying leg, with over half of them containing lies and errors. Even if correct, they only give a mini glance at someone and will never reveal enough information to assess hard- and soft-skills of a candidate.

2) Tests

There are many online tests that predict personality and soft-skills. The main (and huge) drawback is that candidates have to take and re-take them again and again. In a recruiting world that calls itself as being in a 'war for talent', especially in the IT-skills, this is not a tool that a talented engineer wants to go through 4 times a week.

3) Interview

The 'Gold-Standard' of skills assessment is now often replaced with video interviews, sometimes already with pre-recorded video interviews. While such pre-recorded videos are great in terms of time-savers for candidates, they really show a well-rehearsed side of them.

The in-person or live interview, is of course still how people like to make decisions with their 'gut'. Having hired over 50 people already in my career though, I learned the hard way that relying on my gut from interviewing people isn't a good indicator of how they will behave in the job. I am sure there are great recruiters and HR people out there who can make great decisions about soft-skills from interview, but I think the vast majority of hiring managers (in SMEs), get influenced by people's showmen skills and interviewing skills.

4) Assessment Center

Using Assessment Centers to role-play roles in teams and observing candidates over a day isn't a bad idea, but they are very costly and time intensive for candidate and hiring firm.

From my own experience, I took part in 2 assessment centers in the summer of 2000 for the same firm: Accenture. The first was for an internship and I failed the Assessment Center miserably because I behaved like myself - which was apparently too much of a bully for Accenture (ooops). In the second one just 2 weeks later for a full-time job, I just sat back and contributed meekly. And not being met got me the job offer...

5) Reference Calls

Checking people's skills in calls with former employers (should) be standard practice. But even if companies actually do them, such calls often just reveal glowing, generalized statements as most employers are just happy that person is off their payroll.

5) Online Footprint

With every day and week there is more and more online content about people on the web. Our presentations, tweets, likes, answers, patents, jobs, they all become more and more transparent and a real true measure of our skills.

Especially the analysis of our online footprint for indicating our soft-kills. We can analyse your English skills from your public content. We can determine if you are really a problem solver by your activity on Q&A sites, competitions or patent sites.

In a famous study from Cambridge University on using Facebook 'likes' to predict personality, their A.I. was able to more "accurately predict the person's personality than a work colleague by analysing just ten Likes; more than a friend or a cohabitant (roommate) with 70, a family member (parent, sibling) with 150, and a spouse with 300 Likes."

That is the power of AI combined with the web footprint of candidates. Its not scary, its actually the fairest way to assess skills.

* * *

By Simon Schneider

How A.I. will replace the resume

It's amazing how the recruiting world is still operating in legacy mode while the rest of the world is in full swing using A.I, voice and blockchains to create better services.

In recruiting we are basically still using a very old format to convey trust in skills that was conceived in 1482 by Leonardo da Vinci: the CV.

Hiring managers are often using gut feeling and subjective criteria to make hiring decisions. This often leads to bad outcomes, especially when the CEO decides to rush hiring decisions for the short-term gain of scaling quickly and meeting today's customer demand.

"I have mis-hired 50% of my 200 new hires from last year" CEO of a German Mittelstand firm

But nowadays we are seeing signs that the recruiting world is rapidly changing and using technology embedded in the hiring process. There are the 3 underlying trends that enable that and foster using A.I in recruiting:

  1. Rising gig economy

Already 34% of the US workforce is on temporary contracts and freelancing. This equates to about 100M professionals in Europe and the US alone who are looking for short-term projects that can be located anywhere in the world. This means many more people are looking for shorter projects and companies looking for short-term solutions for projects, hence increasing not only volume but also the required speed to hire such freelancers.

2. Growth of online signals on skills

We also see a growing rise of professionals signals on the web for each one of us. Each digital footprint is growing every year with people's online ratings, blogs, certificates and other signals about their skills and projects that can be found on the web. Already 52% of recruiters check manually the digital footprints of candidates, but that takes too long and isn't standardized and comparable (yet).

3. Trusted systems

We have come a long way since 1995 about trusting transactions with total strangers over the Internet. This has led to increased trust not only in online-transactions with people but it has spilled over in trust in systems themselves. We let Google tell us the right answer to our searches, we (will) allow cars to drive us without a steering wheel, you converse with Siri on your commute to work and allow Netflix to tell us what movies to watch.

In a few years, we will allow A.I. to analyse our own skills (and gaps) and recommend what MOOC courses to take and which jobs will help our career path best. A.I will match us correctly to the right project and gigs and also takes into account the culture of the companies that is hiring. Creating the perfect match in a micro-second.

Allowing machines to analyze your skills is not scary, its actually empowering the skill workers who aren't relying on social connections to get a job.

How employable are you? Your Employability Index can answer.

What makes you employable? How do you compare your skills against your competitors along the various dimensions of employability? Well, you must be wondering what employability is.  It is the future of hiring and finding the right jobs. Yes, the future of work is here: your Employability Index shows your skillset and enables you to match with the right job and assess skill gaps.  

In the old world, you have your 4-year degree and then you work in average +3 years for different employers, crafting a bit of prose about your career on a piece of paper: the resume. The time of the static online CVs is over given that we are in a dynamic interconnected work environment where workers switch jobs in average less than 2 years or not even go the employee route but rather become full-time freelancers. Already 34% of the US workforce is on temporary contracts and the trend for this gig economy is rising.

Employers and recruiters these days have a very specific list of requirements that they are looking for in a candidate and they demand skills-driven profiles of candidates, not chronological tales of their last 20 years on earth.  

But how do professionals and freelancers find out how well their skills match job roles? And how do they know if they have any crucial skills gaps they should focus on closing with some online courses, or learnings or on-the-job training? 

The Employability Index of Zyncd is solving that problem: we enable professionals and freelancers to consolidate all their skills, online profiles and work achievements from around the web in one combined skills-profile. Your skills profile measures your level of skills and also calculates an Employability Index based on your skills and what recruiters and employers are looking for. You instantaneously know if you have a good chance at getting a call back on a role/gig based on how closely your skills match with job-requirements. Furthermore, Zyncd will recommend which skills you should improve and where you lack depth and you can right away find ways to improve your skills by enrolling in an online class on Coursera, or learning from peer-discussions or attending event or reading books/articles about that subject.

 

So, are you ready to assess your Employability? Zyncd makes all the small things count – every little action you take to practice or improve your skills boosts your Employablity Index.

 

 

Why pensioners are ‘unretiring’ and joining the freelancing economy

Recently, Chris Farrell wrote on the HBR that the gig economy will benefit baby boomers more than the millennials. This is not surprising at all. With the rise of gig platforms and shared economy, we can anticipate a large number of retirees getting back to work as freelancers.

When we think of freelancing and the gig economy, most of us think of young professionals who work on a laptop out of a café in Berlin or LA. But there are more and more retired professionals who are joining this freelancing world either because they want to have to in order to make ends meet or they want to keep doing what they love and enjoy. 

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

According to a statistic published by JPMorgan Chase Institute, the percentage of seniors on labor platforms and capital platforms are 28% and 11.5% respectively. Yes, the boomers are already participating and contributing actively to the sharing and gig economy and it is likely more will join soon. Many retired people want to stay active, earn some money but also yearn to have freedom and flexibility to see their friends and grand-children.

My father for instance retired 2 years ago as a physician in Germany after 35 years of owning his own doctor’s office in Munich. He enjoys spending time seeing art shows and his two grandsons. But he also has some private patients that keep him busy for a few hours a week. He wants to continue helping people with the hard earned skills that he practiced all his life and it is great that he can stay active and earn some extra cash. 

 

A few months ago, I was in a taxi in London (yes not an Uber, not sure why that happened?) and was driven by a 70-year-old Englishman. He was fantastic; sharing stories about London and its landmarks that was more insightful than any tour guide I had in London. “Why did he keep working?” I asked. He likes it he said. It keeps him young and useful.

I believe part of this phenomenon of un-retired pensioners has to do with a much increased health and life expectancy that hasn't been matched with societal norms. For one generation, it was normal to work until 65 and then you’d spend 5-10 years walking in the park and feeding birds. Nowadays, there is even a University of the Third Age where pensioners start learning new skills and languages. My wife Federica has taught there and she loved their curiosity and willingness to learn new things. 

 

But there are also reasons of necessity that drive elderly people back to work. One acquaintance of my family had to go back to work as a secretary at the age of 67. She found a part-time gig at a law firm and is temping there. She is happy but it wasn't her choice but rather bad circumstances of divorce and a bad saving plan that forced her to look for jobs and gigs.

But whatever the reason, I am always amazed at the wealth of knowledge and skills that these pensioners bring back into the business world by solving technical competitions on InnoCentive or being a part-time doctor for the town, or guiding young entrepreneurs in their business growth.

 

We need you ladies and gentlemen.  It is the best time to unretire.  Continue sharing your wisdom, knowledge and skills. The world certainly needs it!

The birth of my sons forced me to join the gig economy and I am loving it

Becoming a mother is a transformational moment in every sense. Of course I knew it but some of the changes really took me by surprise. The change in the course of my career was something I was not prepared for.

I have a Bachelor and Master degrees in Communication. I worked for +5 years for London’s inward investment agency and in 2013, I started my own Language training company, focusing on teaching foreign languages using acting and theatre methods.

But the births of my two sons within a 2-year period changed it all.

My dream of starting my own company or finding a great full-time job vanished overnight despite all the help of my husband, our families and kindergarten. I know there are many women who find a way to balance two kids and a fulltime employment well. However, for many of us, it can be very intensive and exhausting. I was suddenly in the middle of mountains of diapers, walking around the house with a baby in arm from 2-3 am every night and learning about children diseases and googling for advice on baby foods and so on. There was simply not a brain cell left for the first 9 months after my firstborn’s birth to spend on work related thoughts. The few moments of sanity I had left I spend on advising my husband on his startup company.

 

After I survived the initial crazy period and I adjusted to the demands of motherhood, my desire to learn and work came back fast. I applied for a few fulltime jobs but their time requirements quickly led to the realization that I just couldn't join the workforce fulltime with one kid who came out of the nursery at 3 PM and me being pregnant with the second one already. Add the typical weekly/monthly sicknesses of kids to that and I would have been out at least an additional 2-3 days a month to care for my sick child. Seeing how my husband struggled putting enough hours into his startup to make it work, I also quickly realized that working on my startup company had to be put on hold. I do not resent this. But it was a sad decision and for a few days, only the smile of my baby boy could make me forget about it.

 

But then something happened. I stumbled upon some great articles about the rising gig economy. I recalled how some of my friends who entered freelancing recently were loving it.  Of course, freelancing is my answer, I thought. I made up my mind immediately. I enrolled in a 4-weeks course in Rome to acquire a teaching certificate and then started as a freelancer at a Munich teaching company. I am now teaching a few Italian courses a month that fits my timeline and I can balance my two kids time requirements with the on-demand jobs that I apply for.

 

Turns out I am not an exception. A recent study by the US Freelancers Union found that 53% of the freelancing economy is comprised of women. The old economy was a man’s world where +40 hours/per week of physical presence in the office were a minimum requirement to get promoted. It was a time where after-work drinks and networking was key to build the relationships to get into the good old boy’s club that ran most companies. And years of experience counted more than the actual skills a person had. Well, not anymore!

 

The arrival and growth of the gig economy helps women to win in this new workforce revolution where skills count, freelancing is normal and you don't need to put in useless hours in the office to get ahead. Already 34% of the US workforce is on temporary contracts and the trend is rising.

 

In this new world of freelancing, skills are the most important asset companies are looking for. More and more jobs will require concrete skills rather than a full-time presence in the premise. You will get hired based on your skills and how well you deliver and not who you know or go to after-work drinks with. You have more flexibility in terms of work hours which is great not just for moms but for everyone. Another upside is that you don’t have to deal with the traditional expectations of the old work place.

Plus, you can work remotely with diverse employers from different countries or cities and expand your horizon. Good communication skills will be very important since you are not meeting your employers every day. Women may fare better here since women are said to be better communicators than men in general. Best of all, you manage your work volume so you can actually have a good work-life balance.

 

One important aspect of the gig economy is fierce competition which means we need to be smarter in how we show our skills. It’s time we start exploring new ways and tools to better manage and build our professional reputation. It’s crucial that we present our knowledge and experiences from the biggest to the smallest in order to get noticed. A dynamic CV is needed which consolidates and presents every experience which contributed to our skills and knowledge. The Zyncd platform is one great example of a tool to help you manage and build your professional reputation. You can use it build and synchronize your skill profile across various networks, find jobs or gigs, build meaningful connections and also allow you to identify skill gaps so you can work on gaining new skills to boost your employability.


So ladies, while trying to change this old-enterprise economy from a man’s world into a woman’s world, let’s also work towards owning the next version of the future of the workforce. And dear men, don't worry, we are much kinder bosses anyways, so we will let you go home early when we rule this new workforce world.

 

By Federica Miazzi

Freelance Language Teacher, CEO of Language-On-Stage and mother of 2 boys

 

 

BOTH RECRUITERS AND JOB SEEKERS AGREE: THE CURRENT CV IS NOT DOING ITS JOB

When you ask freelancers what they need for more successful careers, they say, ‘I want my skills to stand out more.’. And if you ask recruiter/hiring managers what they are looking for in an application: they mostly say ‘verifiable skills’.

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

If you look closely, they are both talking about the same thing. Freelancers do not call it a need to ‘verify’ their skills, because they know they have those skills and that’s what they are offering. Even if they are not quite proficient, they know they will manage to deliver the work they have to. The only catch is how to grab the attention of recruiters or how to stand out among the hundreds of identical applicants. Freelancers want to find a way to make their past achievements, ratings or feedback from past projects, certifications, courses etc. to look better and represent their real capabilities when they are applying for jobs or projects.

On the other side of the table, the recruiter is thinking: “we received 34 applications, 12 of them are great. But now how do I actually check and verify that the candidate is actually an amazing SEO specialist and not just on paper? How can I trust that the skills on the resume is an accurate reflection of the candidate’s capabilities?”

To answer these questions, currently, recruiters can only call references, or dig their way through 15 online profiles of the candidate, or read some of their content/blogs somewhere on the web or give them a live test in their office.   

So, in a way, both sides of the equation are looking for the same thing: how can we better show the real skills? One side talks about showing and selling their skills better and the other side seeks for concrete and verifiable skills.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one click solution to this? Just how much effort recruiters can incur on researching on the candidate’s skills, right? It would be amazing if job seekers, be it freelancers or full-time employees, did not have to tailor their CV to each new job and could show all of their skills in one open platform.   

Well, Zyncd’s smart CV for freelancers and young professionals helps both sides. We allow professionals to combine all their online profiles, achievements and ratings from their digital footprint in order to show their real skills in a more objective and powerful way. At the same time, employers get a verified profile of a skillset based on peer evaluations, certificates and verified achievements.

Learn more.

APPLYING THE 10,000 HOURS RULE IN PRESENTING YOUR SKILLS BETTER

How long does it take for anyone to become an expert in a field? Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his 2008 acclaimed book ‘Outliers’ that professionals who put in 10,000 hrs of effort, practice and learning into a skill, will become true experts in it. While he drew some criticism from a few researchers who took his rule a bit too literal, the overall logic seems to make sense: becoming accomplished in any field requires a tremendous amount of effort put in over a long period of time.

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

Let’s not go into detail of whether a heart surgeon needs 13,542 hours for him to be a true expert or whether an SEO expert just needs 3,833 hours to be a leading expert in his field. That is impossible to say and depends on each profession and individual talent.


What is clear though is that no one fell from the sky being an accomplished heart surgeon or digital marketer. Each profession requires skills, knowledge and practice, demonstrated and acquired over extended periods of time – mostly years.

What should count towards those 10,000 hours? At first look, we may think it is just education and work. But other small but important actions that we take improve our skills and demonstrate them should also be taken into account. We learn and practice our profession daily in small doses.  Let’s take Paul – a Change Management expert working for a large firm as an example and consider some of his activities that are contributing to his skills development.

  • He subscribes to magazines and journals in his field which he reads at least for 2 hours every month.
  • He attends at least 2 conferences a year about change management spending at least 20 hrs in such lecture rooms.
  • He recently gave two presentations about ‘Change management for digital transformation’ at a conference. He spent 2 days researching, preparing and editing it with feedback from his colleagues.
  • He also regularly writes articles on the company’s blog about innovation, engagement and change management which reaches up to 1K people and receives up to 50 ‘Likes’ or ‘Upvotes’.
  • He also took a MOOC from Coursera as he wanted to learn about emerging practices and theories. 

Each one of these actions by itself is nothing to brag about. Each by itself you wouldn't add to your resume as a line on your CV. It’s too small to count. Wrong! Yes, it is too small to make your headline on your CV, but it really should count because you are demonstrating and practicing your skills as well as learning and acquiring knowledge.

It's these small pieces that really got us going here at Zyncd. We believe any small chunks of learning and practice should count towards your expertise and your career prospects.  

We invite you to start making all these small things count! Learn more here

CAN SOMEONE PLEASE KILL THE OLD, USELESS CV ALREADY?

The digital age needs a new resume that consists of your real skills and verified capabilities to lower the rate of miss-hires.

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

I am 33 out of 47…

As in me having hired 47 people in my career so far with 14 bad hires. I have learned one thing: resumes are useless.

Yes, they truly are a useless waste of paper (or PDF electrons). They are just a dressed up shop window someone wants to present themselves with a bunch of brand names and embellished skills and experiences. They actually reveal more about someone’s writing skills than their technical skills which I learned the hard way.

So after a few bad hired in my first startup company, I created a small online test that I made up and before any interview I asked the shortlisted people to do that test, which consisted of 3 questions only. The first one was an excel/logic test, the second one about analytical capacities and the last one about their writing and creative skills, all do be completed in 60 minutes at your home PC. Nothing special. You can take a look at it herePart of the trick was that it was a bit difficult to complete this test within 60 minutes, so I always wondered if people would try to complete all 3 on time, go over time or just do 2 questions well.

There wasn't really a perfect answer to the test. But looking back, the amazing thing was this: everyone who did this test well (and who also did a good interview later) ended up as a superb addition to the team. However, every time I skipped the test (for instance, because the candidate was referred from a trusted friend/recruiter and I felt it would be too silly to ask him to do this test), or when I hired someone based on a good interview alone despite bad showing in the test, they turned out to be a bad hire.

Fast forward to my current company: same story. Initially we hired programmers and relied only on their CV. OMG, we did fail horribly and we had to let go these people within 2 weeks. But when we used Github or Stack Overflow as our online reference to check for these guys, we had a 100% rate for choosing the right people.

I am convinced there are enough signals out there online about a candidates’ skills and capabilities that beat the old school resume every time. Yes, every time!

The old resume was built for a world in which you had 2-3 employers in your career and a university degree made you already stand out. Nowadays, everyone has at least one Masters and hops from job to job in this growing gig economy. There is no sense anymore to list your 14 jobs from the last 5 years as I am not calling each for a reference.

As as WSJ article about Dr. Sundararajan’s work at New York University’s Stern School of Business predicts: “Over time, your portfolio of accomplishment, digitized and available across the platforms you’ve provided through, may be like a detailed next generation resume (…)”.

Employers like me, want an easy and credible way to check that you really possess the skills you claim. You should reuse all the tests, certificates, degrees and jobs you have done already. I am not saying get rid of your past, quite the contrary: use your demonstrated skills and show them to me in a credible way. Then I will hire you as I know I can trust in your skills 100%.

RIP old CV, welcome digital resume of skills!