On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Anil from Sense about their 2022 Recruiting Automation Playbook.

Some Conversation Highlights:

What did you learn?

There are basically, three core areas where talent acquisition teams have tried to focus on recruiting automation and tried to deploy technology there. So, the biggest one, obviously, as you are fully aware, teams were faced with the situation of famine. We are not getting enough candidates, and then suddenly you’re scratching their heads and saying, “Wait a minute, I have this large database that candidates have applied to me 10 years back, five years ago. And we actually have a way, do we actually have automation, or technology to actually go back into the database and try and reactivate those dormant candidates?

They will tell you how much it costed them to have that one candidate in the database, right? So, some companies have told me that one candidate record is worth $10 to them, or $15 to them. And you can imagine the ROI we can bring, if you can use technology like recruiting automation to your one point that you mentioned, is to refresh the database. Now, why was this so important in the last two years, you and I know what happened in the last two years, people moved.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 25 minutes


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Anil Dharni
CEO & Founder Sense

Anil Dharni is Co-Founder & CEO at Sense. Previously, Anil was COO at GREE International, Inc. Anil holds a Bachelor's Degree from Punjab Engineering College.


Music:   This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down, so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup:   Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Anil on from Sense, and we’ll be talking about this 2022 Recruiting Automation Playbook. Can’t wait to talk to Anil about this and learn about what’s going on at Sense as well. And dig into this playbook. So, Anil, would you do us a favor? And introduce both, yourself and Sense.

Anil Dharni :   Yeah. William, thanks so much for having me. Yeah, I’m the CEO, and one of the co-founders of Sense. Sense is a talent engagement and communication platform, that basically helps recruiting and talent teams to personalize their interactions with talent, at every stage of the life cycle.

William Tincup:   Well, I love that. So, let’s talk about… Because, I get a lot of questions on automation from practitioners, and I’ve told them the same thing, for a little while. But, basically you guys separate task at low-value and high-value. Low-value tasks like scheduling candidate interviews. Yeah, yeah, a bot can do that, probably better than we can. So, low-value tasks, we need to automate. High value tasks, where there’s really a human interaction, that’s different. We should look at those different. Now, first of all, tear that apart.

Anil Dharni :   Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think, the last two years, since COVID, had been pretty transformative overall, right?

William Tincup:   Right.

Anil Dharni :   So, what ended up happening, as you were probably very well aware, a lot of recruiters and coordinators either got laid off, or furloughed, and then brought back. But, actually just the demand for jobs never ended, right? So, we had a blip in that one quarter, but it came back and came back with a vengeance, right? But, I think a lot of talent acquisition teams, even HR teams, post hire, were trapped in this world where they had fewer resources and they needed to still get the work done. The hiring managers didn’t stop asking for, “Where are my candidates?” Right? So, I think that’s the world we faced over the last two years. And what that has really enabled, is this demand for a lot of talent acquisition teams, HR teams, coming to companies like us and asking for, “Listen, automation is one of our key focus for the talent acquisition function and how do we do it?” Right?

And I think, you’ve tried to break it into these two, if it were this spectrum, like one is, the routine tasks, the mundane tasks, that a lot of recruiters, sourcers, coordinators did, that nobody wants to do anymore. And then, these other tasks that are much more human-driven, system design-driven, empathy-driven. And I think that’s where we are ending up, which is a fascinating place to be in. So, I think, to your point, the road tasks, the repetitive tasks are getting automated and they’re getting automated by technology. But then, the tasks that are really around connecting with the job seeker, connecting with the talent, connecting with your employee, having empathy and trying to understand their problems and the opportunities that they seek, is also in extremely high demand. So, I think in the best of worlds, it’s a win-win for both sides.

William Tincup:   Yeah, and the candidate, ultimately. One of the things I’ve seen in automation is, speed. This has been something that we’re dealing with, candidates are faster than we are, in general. And so, how do we redo our process? Rethink about technology? Maybe, even rethink our team, in a way we collaborate, to then squeeze all the inefficiency out of those things, so that we can get faster?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah, that’s also really fascinating. So again, we’ve seen in the last two years, the best-of-class talent acquisition teams, staffing companies that have come to us, really are taking a look at the processes, right?

William Tincup:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   They’re looking at it, how did we do design the system before COVID? What is it today? With fewer resources potentially, but higher demand on us, right? And then, we are also working in a hybrid mode, maybe nobody’s even in the office and we are trying to make these hires happen, these placements happen, and we are trying to keep employees happy. So, when they are starting, these best-in-class teams are looking at their funnel metrics. They’re looking at the conversion rates at every stage and they’re trying to see what can we augment with technology and where can we free up our recruiters and sources? So, they have more time for relationships negotiations, and trying to close the candidates, right?

So, where we find… So, I think you brought up this really great example around interview scheduling, right? So, with Sense, for example, you can schedule interviews and we’ve seen there, if you try and schedule an interview with, let’s say the medium as text messaging, you can do it within seconds, within five seconds, 10 seconds, the meeting is set up, right? If you’re trying to do it over something else, over an email, or something, maybe it’ll take you a few hours. But, before this automation, it used to take teams, days to weeks to-

William Tincup:   Oh yeah.

Anil Dharni :   Try and schedule, right?

William Tincup:   Oh yeah.

Anil Dharni :   So, that’s a perfect example of where we’ve tried to take the human out of the equation, because it was gut-wrenching, soul-wrenching work, and the bots can do it in a much easier way.

William Tincup:   Yeah. And much easier, more efficiently and everyone can have a better experience. Or, everyone in candidate, hiring manager, recruiter, sourcer, everybody has a better experience. So, with the playbook, obviously, the team at Sense, you all went through and looked at automation and top, down for everything. And basically, came back with some top findings. What did you learn? When, you were talking to customers-

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   And prospects about the playbook-

Anil Dharni :   Yes.

William Tincup:   What are the top things that you’re talking to them about?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah. So, there are basically, three core areas where talent acquisition teams have tried to focus on automation and tried to deploy technology there. So, the biggest one, obviously, as you are fully aware, teams were faced with the situation of famine. We are not getting enough candidates, and then suddenly you’re scratching their heads and saying, “Wait a minute, I have this large database that candidates have applied to me 10 years back, five years ago. And we actually have a way, do we actually have automation, or technology to actually go back into the database and try and reactivate those dormant candidates?

William Tincup:   Oh, that’s fine. Now, Anil, in that scenario, it’s enriching. So, on one level, it’s looking at that data, and then sending that out, to see if that email still works and filling out the profile. What exactly do you feel like, is the value? Because, I love-

Anil Dharni :   Yes.

William Tincup:   First of all, and look at ATS data.

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   It’s just an undervalued asset. There’s just data, just sitting there waiting to be explored. But, some of it needs a refresh.

Anil Dharni :   Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, William and actually again, the best teams world will tell you. They will tell you how much it costed them to have that one candidate in the database, right? So, some companies have told me that one candidate record is worth $10 to them, or $15 to them. And you can imagine the ROI we can bring, if you can use technology to your one point that you mentioned, is to refresh the database. Now, why was this so important in the last two years, you and I know what happened in the last two years, people moved.

William Tincup:   Yup.

Anil Dharni :   People switched. The great reshuffle happened, the great resignation happened, the great moves happened, right? So, people that you thought were in your zip code were no longer there. So, how do you reach out to them? How do you reengage with them and ask them, “Where did you move to? Maybe, I don’t have a job for you in Nashville, Tennessee, but maybe our branch over in Arizona has an opening for you, right?” So, again, the goal was to go into that database to make it more useful, enrich it. The second piece of it was also to clean it up. So, because a lot of companies didn’t really focus on their own databases, they never bothered cleaning it up. So, you might have false data, bad data. You don’t have any recent information. So, the ability to do both self-enriching, as well as self-cleaning, became a big priority for a lot of companies- [crosstalk 00:   09:   15].

William Tincup:   Is some of that structured? It was missing certain parts, just because, over time, you just… Especially, if you’ve had a database for a long time, or had an ATS for a long time. At different points, you prioritize different things. Cell phones weren’t prioritized for a long time.

Anil Dharni :   You absolutely nailed it right there.

William Tincup:   Now, I can’t imagine getting a candidate’s data, not getting a cell phone.

Anil Dharni :   Exactly. I mean, imagine us going to… And we’ve gone to prospects and companies who’ve said, “Oh my God, we love this text messaging capability that you have.” And then, they look at their own internal systems and they’re like, “Wait a minute-?” [crosstalk 00:   09:   56].

William Tincup:   Yeah, we don’t have numbers.

Anil Dharni :   Have all the numbers. Who are we going to text? So, these are fascinating conversations that we have. But, it’s amazing to see where talent acquisition teams are going.

William Tincup:   Right.

Anil Dharni :   And the realization that they’re having, is they’re sitting actually, on a gold mine. But, if you only had a better strategy, better processes around how do we keep this refreshed, keep them nurtured and engaged. So, being more proactive, rather than being reactive at the end of the day, right? So, that was the one big thing. Second part of automation, which you mentioned, was all around that speed to hire, right? I do have the job, I do have this candidate come in, but maybe, with millennials, Gen-Zers, as you know, people are applying at 2:   00 AM in the morning-

William Tincup:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   Right? At these odd hours, there’s no recruiter there. They want an Amazon experience.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix have told them, “This is the new way of interacting with technology. When you want something, you get it that same day, delivered, or you can download that movie and immediately watch it, right? Within seconds.” And that’s the experience job seekers are demanding, when they’re applying at 2:   00 AM. And if you’re a tech company, or if you are a regular company that is trying to say, “Hey, listen, we are the future. You should come work with us.” But, then you don’t have technology to support that claim, when people are applying to you and you cannot have a conversation with them on your website, or as soon as you apply, then you’re not providing them that instant feedback, instant gratifications, that job seekers are- [crosstalk 00:   11:   24].

William Tincup:   And the irony of ironies, is they go to your Values Page, or they go to your About, and then there’s something in your values that says, “Innovation.” And it’s like, “Okay, well, there’s a disconnect. If you’re innovative, why isn’t there a bot on the website? I just applied.” And it’s funny, because I’ve talked to recruiters about this and, they’ve gotten different feedback, but basically I’ve said it like, we think in months, weeks, and days and the candidates think in hours, minutes, and seconds.

Anil Dharni :   Absolutely.

William Tincup:   So, how do you reconcile those two things? The candidates, aren’t going to think differently.

Anil Dharni :   Yup, exactly.

William Tincup:   That ship sailed, okay. So-

Anil Dharni :   Exactly. And instead, they’re going to walk away with this mindset-

William Tincup:   Uh-huh (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   That you are not the company of the future.

William Tincup:   That’s right.

Anil Dharni :   Right?

William Tincup:   That’s right. And it’s like a bad customer experience, right? You go to a sushi restaurant and they talk about how wonderful their sushi is and you try their sushi. And it’s like, “Yeah, that’s it.” You don’t go back.

Anil Dharni :   Exactly. And actually, on that point William, and I presented to this company this year, was there’s a whole experience gap. So-

William Tincup:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   When you ask the CEOs of companies, how is your customer experience? And how’s your job experience? 80% of them say, “I have a great experience.” And when you ask their customers, how is your customer experience? Only 8% say that, “That was a great customer experience.” Right? So, this experience gap is intense. And the companies that can try and close that gap, are the ones that are moving. And the same philosophy, we go into talent acquisition teams and say, “Job seekers are demanding this new you experience and your technology and tech stack needs to react to it. And we can also, as part of it help augment the work that your recruiters do, by automating all that busy work for them.”

William Tincup:   It’s interesting, because speed to hire, for some listeners are going to hear that, and then go, “Time to hire.” And that’s not ne that’s not necessarily what we’re nibbling at. We’re nibbling around the edges of speed to respond, speed to give feedback, speed to communicate next steps. So, really, every part of the process has a deaf clock, that we should be operating with. That, “Okay, they just applied. We got to respond within eight hours.” I mean, I want do some absurd times, just to prove the point. “We have to respond to them. One way, or another, we have to respond to them in eight hours.” So, how do we re-orient ourselves around that? That’s just a response.

Anil Dharni :   Absolutely.

William Tincup:   So, how do we do that? Now, how do we give them quality feedback? Or, how do we then schedule an interview, if it’s somebody that matches what we’re trying to do? Okay, how do we do those? And how do we do them fast? Because, there’s a relationship between speed and quality and you can’t get to quality and unless you solve speed first.

Anil Dharni :   That’s right, yeah. [crosstalk 00:   14:   40].

William Tincup:   What else? What else? What else?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah. So, for that second pillar of ours, where we can really shorten the time to hire, it’s all around having these conversations quickly, having them in real-time, having them 24/7, so we can reduce the screening time, the scheduling time-

William Tincup:   Ooh.

Anil Dharni :   And then, the last pillar is, when you put actually all this together, right? Exactly what you just said. When you put it all together, and then you ask the job seeker, or you ask the talent at the time of the offer, “So, how was your experience with us?”

William Tincup:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   “How was your end-to-end application process?” And then, you’re starting to see these responses. We are able to nearly two to three X, the net promoter score of job seekers, just by transforming and automating a majority of this process, right? End-to-end. And that’s why when we look at, at the end of the day, what does automation help you with?

So, it helps you with about a 40 to 50% faster hiring. It helps you reduce your acquisition costs, so all that CAC that you’re spending on job boards to acquire these candidates, you’re able to reduce it, because you’re able to utilize your database better. Again, another point you mentioned, you are able to two to three X, the candidate response times. So, job seekers are actually responding to your messages, because they’re much more personalized. And this in total, leads to that net promoter score increase, right? So, that’s the ultimate ROI that we go in with and that we prove to our customers time and again.

William Tincup:   I love that. Well, again, what I love about the playbook, is it walks people… Because, it is daunting for a lot of HR and TR professionals to think, “Where do I start? This is fantastic, but where do I start?” And so, I know you’ve been asked that question a jillion times. Where do they start, if they’ve not automated anything? Just-

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   We’ll just start with, they just haven’t automated anything yet. Okay, that’s fine.

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   Where do you suggest that [crosstalk 00:   16:   42] they go first?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah. So, absolutely, that’s a fascinating question. And one that is posed to us repeatedly. So, actually the first thing we tell them, “Let’s not try to boil the ocean. Because, we want you to get to speed to value, to see the impact of our technology as fast as possible.” So, we try and pick the use cases, the stages in the funnel, which are truly broken, or which are bottle-necked. And then, we try and go in there. So, potentially, I can walk you through an example. Somebody will come to us and say, “Hey, listen, we are getting way too many candidates. And we need a platform that can actually have these conversations and screen these candidates, as soon as possible, without any human intervention.” So, that will be a very simple use case.

“Hey, take the conversational chat bot, use it on screening.” There could be other places. And William, this is an insight that we’ve gained over the last couple of years, is a lot of job applicants when they come in, the job that they apply to is not necessarily the job that they’re a good fit for.

William Tincup:   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anil Dharni :   And companies are struggling with showing them different jobs. So, we have actually built out a machine-learning based, AI-based job matching technology, by which we can say, “Listen, the job that you’re applying for, we understand, we’ve screened you, we’ve looked at your resume, but listen, you’re not a great fit for that. But, here are two other jobs where we think you’re a perfect fit for. So, let us help you get those jobs and let us apply for those jobs on your behalf.” And I think just changing the conversation to that, making people realize, there are more opportunities than they thought at the start, also increases their chances of getting hired. And that’s also how we can compress. So yeah, back to your question, we look at these use cases in a very beep manner and figure out where can we deliver value fastest. And that’s where we come in with our product.

William Tincup:   I love that. Yeah, you mentioned CEOs and the customer experience. If you were to ask that same group of CEOs about their hiring experience, what do you think they’d say?

Anil Dharni :   I think, you would be [inaudible 00:   18:   50], you probably know this. I mean, I bet none of these CEOs have ever gone through their own hiring experience.

William Tincup:   Right.

Anil Dharni :   Right? And one of the things I tell companies from time to time, is every six months, the CEO, me as my founder, I go through my own. Basically, I tell people, “Every six months, go through your own. Try and apply as a fake candidate and see how quickly your own company responds.” And that is the true testament for where you are in terms of the job seeker, talent experience.

William Tincup:   I mean, because that’s an audit, right?

Anil Dharni :   Yes.

William Tincup:   In a way. Because, you can see, “Well, if you apply to a job that you’re just not qualified for, there’s a way of giving that person, that feedback. And graciously, getting them out the process. Do you think it’s best that they do an audit of that? Or, do you think it’s best that, like yourself, a third party audits their process and gives them the feedback? “Oh, okay. First of all, good, bad. Here’s some things that are really, really working in terms of automation and some of the things in the process and in the technology, and here’s some things we need to work on.”

Anil Dharni :   Yeah. I think,, the validation needs to happen on both ends. It needs to be an internal validation, as well as external. And that’s why, I mean, I’m saying this selfishly, but I mean, we actually need it. That’s why we have benchmarks, right? That’s why we try and tell TR teams and HR teams, “Listen, this is what best-in-class looks like. This is the conversion rate that looks like. For those roles that you’re hiring for, these are the time to hires that the best-in-class companies are doing.” So, we are humans, we are all driven. We all have this competitive spirit. Once we know what’s out there and what does best-in-class look like? We can push internally, to achieve those goals.

But, if we don’t have that visibility, then what are we trying to achieve? We are only doing local maxima optimization. We’re just trying to optimize for our own internal use case, which might not be the best, right? And so, I really try and push our customers to really see what is out there. What are your competitors doing? What do these best-in-class benchmarks look like? And how can we help you get there? So, therefore, it’s much more of a collaboration and partnership, versus us just being a vendor.

William Tincup:   Right, right. When you’re interacting with both, prospects and customers, how do they know when they’ve got automation right? I feel sometimes, in other aspects of HR, we know what the end goal is, right?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   And we know when we’ve achieved it, right? But, with automation, it can mean everything.

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   And so, as we said earlier, it can be daunting for folks. How do you explain to them, when they’ve reached the goal?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a work in progress. And as you can imagine, it’s a continuous process, versus one single timestamp, when you say, “Okay, it’s done.” So, I think what we try and do with them, is we try and audit the work that some of the teams are doing. So, let us try and audit, let us literally do a time measurement of your recruiters, sourcers, coordinators, times. Maybe, even recruiting marketing folks. How much time are they spending and in what activities? And then, we try and break that down into job that can be done by technology, and then job that needs to be freed up for the human to do. Not all the companies are there, as you can, well, imagine, right? I’m literally talking about, if I think about my customer base, only 10 to 15% of companies are there.

They are so sophisticated, some of these folks. They will show you literally, to the minute, to the second, as to my recruiter spends these many hours and these many minutes and seconds every week doing, [xtop 00:   22:   47] job, right? And then, they’ll tell you, “Can you help us improve that? Can you help us reduce that time in that certain activity?” So, I mean, in an ideal world, I would love for all my customers to be like this. But, I think you always start with the bleeding edge customers, and then bring that learning and technology back to the rest. Right [crosstalk 00:   23:   08].

William Tincup:   I love it.

Anil Dharni :   And that’s where we focus on. But, I think companies that are much more goal focused, they know that there’s a particular job to be done and if they can define what that job is, it’s much easier to say, whether we’ll be successfully able to automate it, or not.

William Tincup:   Last question. When you put a playbook together-

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   Especially, something as important as this, what’s the goal?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah.

William Tincup:   What’s the company trying to achieve?

Anil Dharni :   Yeah, that’s a such a great question. And I think, about it as, when we talk automation, as you can imagine, right? When we talk about robots, people have two reactions. There’s one camp that is very optimistic and is another camp that is very pessimistic. Optimistic camp is like, “Okay, I’ve looked at new technologies being created every single decade, every single year. And what that has done, if you look at the last 100 years, the jobs that exist today, did not exist 100 years ago, right? So, new technologies have done nothing, but create more jobs and create different jobs, right?” So, the goal here was to let talent acquisition teams and HR teams dig into this data, see what is possible, versus what is probable. So, there’s a lot of hype around people saying, “Yes, everything can be automated.” Right?

William Tincup:   Hmm.

Anil Dharni :   But, actually, what this really helps us do, is take a look at that research report and figure out, “Ah, okay, now I get it. Now, I can rock my head around, what is possible through automation? And I also understand what will not get automated, right?”

William Tincup:   Right.

Anil Dharni :   Therefore, we think about, when I talk to the company, it’s always about the empathy piece, the design thinking piece, to your point, where we talked a lot about, how do we design the process? The customer experience, job experience piece, that’ll never get automated, right? That’s what the humans will always own and we will always own, right? So, again, that’s the goal, what’s possible, versus what’s probable?

William Tincup:   I love it. My friend, thank you so much, for doing the research and putting a playbook together. But, also just, thanks for coming on the podcast.

Anil Dharni :   Absolutely, always enjoy being here.

William Tincup:   And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until, next time.

Music:   You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles and news at recruitingdaily.com.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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