StepStone, the German online job recruitment platform that owns jobs.lu, is currently developing IT solutions based on artificial intelligence. The aim is to help companies and candidates better fulfil their needs. For Rudi Bauer, Chief Evangelist and in charge of Innovation and Strategy within the group, these projects will blend AI with human intelligence, too.
By: Marc Auxenfants
Photo: Margit Hubner
Featured: Rudi Bauer, Chief Evangelist at StepStone
Rudi Bauer, how did StepStone come to this idea and project?
“Two and a half years ago, we started discussing about the future issues that might impact our decisions. And more particularly about our way of life, the environment we live in, our interactions with our family and relatives, and the way we work…
In fact, we dedicate a large part of our time, day and lives to work. We spend around 20% of our lifetime in our job. Work is therefore extremely important for people.
However, if you look at the way decisions are taken by companies on people’s careers, the result is so far extremely bad. Since years, surveys are showing that a really limited number of people are indeed engaged with their employers.
How do you explain this lack of engagement?
This situation is mainly due to the dramatic changes that impacted the labor market over the two last decades. In the meantime, Europe has faced an important demographic shift. Birth rates are shrinking in many countries, on one hand. And the rest of the baby-boom generation will retire by 2030, on the other hand.
Both will have an extreme impact on labor markets, which will lose a lot of manpower within the next decades. And it will be very difficult for countries to find the workforce they need. Germany for example is expected to have a manpower shortage of 7 million by 2030. In Austria, 250.000 talents will be missing.
How should companies prepare today, in order to tackle this gap?
They have to take care of their existing staff. Hence, finding the right people to fulfil their needs in human capital will be an important issue in the future.
We foresee a tough fight among companies for talents all over Europe. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to get the best people on board, to retain them.
How do you help companies recruit and retain employees?
At StepStone the question is how to reach the perfect match. Our goal is not to find people, but to find the right skills for the right job. Therefore, our projects include artificial intelligence, in order to collect and provide data, and then to build databases, that will help us understand what is going on in people’s mind.
“The most important point missing in the whole recruiting process so far, is the lack of respect and communication”
Can artificial intelligence really solve this issue alone?
It cannot. Hence, these projects will include a lot of human intelligence too, in order to get this perfect fit.
Indeed, the most important missing point in the whole recruiting process so far, is the lack of respect and communication by companies. 52% of the candidates who click on an apply button, on our platforms, don’t even get an answer from companies. That is shocking!
When you apply for a job, write a CV and an application letter, fill-up application forms and then press an apply button, it means that you are committed to that organization. And that you are willing to get-up every morning to go to the company, and to dedicate about 10 hours each day to that organization.
The answer to that candidate’s commitment is always a no commitment from the company. It is respectless! Hence, we think that real ongoing respect of people and communication transparency cannot be driven by human intelligence only… It needs to be supported by artificial intelligence.
How will you turn these human and artificial elements into concrete solutions?
As artificial intelligence cannot solve the whole problem, we are closely looking to the tools that will support our approach. Data from the job posted online by companies – such as job description, salary, skills, etc. – can be easily sliced into structured information. Likely, data from the candidates (address, experience, employers, wishes…) can also be easily structured. Technically it is therefore simple to compare these two groups of data and to find the perfect match.
So how can artificial intelligence help us further?
The problem is that companies are not authentic enough in their job posting. They put a lot of information that are maybe not true, not clear or relevant enough for the job they offer. Indeed, there is a bunch of information, that database cannot deal with, nor reflect, as they don’t know how irrelevant or relevant those can be. On the candidates’ side, you also find CVs displaying information that are not relevant either.
At StepStone, we think that artificial intelligence can do a kind of peer group information: Concretely, the platform can bring useful pieces of information, that candidates could then add to their profiles and have better chances to get the job. That is how artificial intelligence can help.
But once again, if recruiters don’t respect their candidates, AI won’t help. Therefore, a common approach is needed between artificial and human intelligence to tackle this issue.
“Our process is rather an understanding of the situation and a step by step development to come as close as possible to the solution”
How will you proceed to develop these solutions?
It is a mixed approach. Through our acquisitions of several job-platforms all over the world, we gathered a lot of experiences and knowledges. We leveraged them, in order to develop a large pool of thoughts and ideas. We defined a common strategy out of these, that we then implemented within our group.
We have more than 1.300 developers worldwide, some in Poland, Brussels, and the UK.
What is your implementation deadline?
There is no deadline to implement this service. If you develop it as a big project and launch it at once as a final product, you will remain behind the market.
It is an ongoing process indeed: We proceed by adding useful information and tools step by step into the platform. And twice a week (every Tuesday and Thursday), we launch new services and new versions of our platforms in all the countries at once. Our process is rather an understanding of the situation and a step by step development to come as close as possible to the solution”.
jobs.lu was launched in January 2007 as part of the Irish Saongroup. Both companies were purchased by StepStone in November 2013, part of German Axel Springer SE.