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The Past, Present, and Future of Talent Acquisition

Feature Article | April 17, 2018 by Mike Hofer

Talent acquisition has gone on an accelerated journey the past several decades and continues to push the envelope on emerging technologies in organizations.

It has come a long way from manual processes to the digital age ruled by automation. All this change has happened in a relatively short time. Let’s look back and see what caused this progression and how it’s affected our industry.

Talent Acquisition Journey

The ghosts of talent acquisitions past are filled with amazing technology. Just kidding, it’s not, but it’s good to review an example from the past to appreciate the future.

As I was holiday shopping, I noticed the store I was in was very busy and understaffed. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I quickly bought the new Rubik’s Cube for my brother and a Cabbage Patch doll for my little sister. A few days later, I was looking in the Sunday paper and noticed that exact store had an opening for a sales associate. The store posted jobs in the classified ads every Sunday. The next day I called and asked if I could drop off my resume. The sales manager told me to come by on Thursday of that week or fax in my resume. Excited and wanting to make a personal impact, I put on my best acid-washed jeans, flipped up my pink collared shirt, and hurried into the store to drop off my resume. (Don’t laugh, that was the style back then–you know who you are!) Two weeks later, I got the call and I went in for an interview. As I proceeded through the interview, the manager was making notes all over my perfectly printed resume. He told me that he would need to call my old employer to be sure I was worth hiring. They did call my previous employer to see if I was a good employee. I hoped my old boss would give me a good reference.

Luckily, she did. I got a call a few days later to come back in one week ready to start my new retail journey. My first day was filled with me signing policies and procedures and watching old VHS learning tapes in the back office. The company was taking advantage of the newest recording devices to help me quickly onboard and become productive within a few weeks.

After a few months of working in my new job, I asked my manager a few questions about the hiring process. She explained that when my role became available, she faxed in a request to corporate and waited for HR to approve the filling of the position. After they approved it, they put the job on the radio and it was announced by Casey Kasem during the weekly Top 40. They also put an ad in the local Sunday paper to maximize the effect.

After six months, I was promoted to store manager. As a new manager, I was sent a three-ring binder directly to the store, which broke down all my new responsibilities. After being recognized as a thought leader among the retail management ranks, I would send in typed letters to corporate on things we could improve. I was recognized at the annual holiday dinner by my manager.

The Future of Talent Acquisition

My, how things have changed. The future is filled with very innovative technology. Let’s use the following talent acquisition process to help define what we will see in the next few years.

As I was holiday shopping, I noticed an alert on my phone, a pop-up message from the store that I was in notifying me of available jobs at this location. The store was using geo-location technology to track my entrance into the store. After clicking the link and finding a job I was interested in, it prompted me to answer questions from its virtual recruiter. The company was utilizing chat bot technology to communicate with me. After being prompted for personal information, job history, and availability, a store manager walked over to me and asked if I had a few minutes to sit down with her. Encouraged and impressed, I eagerly followed her. The manager had been notified through an app extension on her iPad alerting her I had applied virtually but was still in the store and met all the basic qualifications. I proceeded through the interview and was offered a position contingent on passing a background and drug test. I accepted! While sitting there, the hiring manager pulled up her iPad with my information pre-populated and requested a background check/drug test. Within minutes the background results came back and she sent me a link via SMS to a drug test location and associated authorization code utilizing bar code functionality. The company had an integrated background check provider that allows managers to request and receive background/drug information directly back to their tablet/phone to enable quick and efficient hiring.

After passing my drug test, I showed up for my first day of work. I was immediately taken into the office to complete my onboarding. I put on virtual reality goggles and proceeded through acknowledging my policies and procedures. I also was able to sit through two learning sessions directly related to my new role as a sales associate. The company was taking advantage of VR technology to help me quickly onboard and become productive within hours of my arrival.

After a few months of working in my new job, I asked my manager a few questions about the hiring process. She explained that when my role became available, a requisition was created automatically and an automated talent pool was created internally to determine if there were any internal employees available for my specific job and location. There were no internal candidates so the system provided the recruiter with suggestions on things like salary range and bias impact on my job description. The company I worked for not only promoted diversity and inclusion, they had technology like machine learning tied to predictive analytics to help promote their efforts.

After six months, I was promoted to store manager. As a new manager, I was sent a link on my iPad to sign up for the company’s mentoring program. After signing up, I was then sent a behavioral assessment to determine if I had the propensity and desire to support the upcoming Autism at Work program. After passing with flying colors, I was prompted once a week for three weeks with inclusion training. Utilizing my iPad, I was able to update my development plan and use this to support my weekly conversation with my district manager. My company was utilizing continuous performance management technology to support my ongoing development.

The Secret Sauce

Get comfortable with change: We live in a world of ever-changing technology and it’s important to embrace this and explore options that will make a positive impact to your organization. One easy option is to ensure your career sites are built with responsive design. This is a design and engineering model for creating websites. It means your candidates will experience your website in its full glory regardless of the device they are on — phone, tablet, or PC.

Do your research: While there are many technological options coming available, some may not fit your infrastructure. For example, spend time getting to know the rich options that social networks provide. Review your partner strategy to ensure they are also developing at the same pace as your ATS.

Keep your customer as your leading priority: When reviewing and making decisions about what to use, always use your customer as your common denominator. Customers expect a fully digital experience throughout the hiring process. Getting them up to speed and productive in a short amount of time is key to them and your company’s long-term success.

Do This One Thing Tomorrow

I read recently that the job I am in today didn’t even exist 10 years ago and the same concept goes for technology. We are crossing over into a world of computer bot language, artificial intelligence, business beyond bias, and machine learning — and are still learning what these technologies will bring. Our advice? Run to the cloud! The market is evolving so fast it is imperative you stay relevant to your future customers. Regardless of the technology you choose, human resource tools are making an ascent into the unknown. Explore technological options that better your processes, improve the candidate experience, and promote the culture and well-being of your organization.


Find out the five key trends and actions that can help businesses of all sizes address the challenges of digital transformation. IDC and SAP SuccessFactors collaborated to create roadmaps to executing on the latest HR trends. Check out the roadmaps here.


Mike Hofer is a senior solutions advisor for SAP SuccessFactors Talent Management.

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