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David Bernard



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“There has never been a better time than today for candidates to find a job in which they can truly be themselves.”


David Bernard is the CEO of AssessFirst, a technology platform that offers predictive recruitment solutions for organisations. The information they gather helps organisations understand candidate potential and how their way of working impacts performance and engagement.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How are companies using recruitment agencies differently? What is their role in the modern recruitment environment as they now exist alongside technology-driven platforms?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: Most companies still use recruitment agencies for sourcing and selection purposes. In fact, it has always been a convenient way to fill in open positions, especially for companies that don’t have time to allocate to it or for those that are looking for profiles that are really sought after.

But, the hiring space is changing fast. Digital transformation is changing the hiring game like never before. More and more companies (final clients) now source for themselves using solutions like linkedin or indeed. Now, they can also identify among their candidates which ones are the most likely to perform and thrive using predictive recruitment solutions.

Some of the recruitment agencies are now moving their role from finding candidates to helping companies to better integrate all this technology. And of course, the small fraction of recruitment agencies dedicated to very high and rare profiles will remain.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What core worries stops organisations enabling predictive recruitment technologies?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: By modeling what drives success and engagement in their companies, some recruiters are afraid to recruit clones and limit diversity in the workplace. The fact is that predictive models only focus on the key drivers of performance and happiness. It’s not about defining each and every trait a person should have, in absolute terms. It’s more about focusing on the 3, 5 or 7 traits your candidates must have. Doing so leaves lots of room for diversity.

And also, by doing so, companies can now put less emphasis on the kind of school people went to or the kind of previous experiences they accumulated. Far from encouraging cloning, predictive recruitment drives much more diversity in the workplace. In fact, thanks to predictive recruitment, more and more companies are opening the scope of their prospective candidates, which in itself is a very good foundation for introducing more diversity in the workplace. 

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: If predictive technologies are trained with human data, do we need to be concerned that they may replicate our own prejudices when we want them to overcome them? How can we get around these?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: It really depends on what kind of data is used and the way in which it is used. As the saying goes: « Garbage in, Garbage out ». I think the best way to proceed is by closely observing what the brutal reality is, without any preconceptions. By doing this, you minimize the human tendency to project your own stereotypes and bias.

For example, when you have established a predictive model, you obtain excellent results by gathering performance and contextual data and adding biographical and potential data (by asking your employees to fill in psychometric questionnaires). In most cases, the use of a predictive model based on such data can help companies recruit more performing (up to +15%) and loyal (up to +50%) employees.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Recruiting people is a very human process. How do we leverage new technologies while maintaining the human element?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: I think the predictive approach is all about reducing the time to hire while increasing the quality of the preselection process. It doesn’t mean that hiring doesn’t require the « human touch » anymore. It allows recruiters to see less candidates… but much more qualified candidates. By doing so, recruiters can spend much more time with each and every prospective candidates, especially those that have the highest probability of succeeding in the position they are recruiting for, and for the very specific context of their own company.

We must keep in mind that one part of the recruitment process (and not the least) is convincing candidates to leave their current jobs to join whole new universes : New jobs, new companies, new managers, new teams, new challenges… And today, there is no algorithm nor any robot that can do that job more efficiently than an experienced recruiter.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What’s on the horizon for the next 5-10 years in recruitment? What are the key hiring trends? Any unexpected surprises you foresee?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: I think we are about to see a similar revolution occur as the one that transformed the marketing industry 10 to 15 years ago. At the very beginning, lots of marketers were suspicious of all those automation systems. Now, none of them imagine working without a solution like Maketo, Pardot or Hubspot.

Today, most solutions (especially in the ATS area) are very transactional. It simply helps the recruiter to properly manage his recruitment funnel. But it lacks « intelligence ». In 5 to 10 years, those systems will fully integrate the predictive factor. And to make it a reality, they will have to focus even more on who the candidates really are (their personality, drivers and learning abilities), far beyond what you can read in a CV or a Linkedin profile.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Should young people change their approach to job hunting to thrive in the face of more technology-driven recruitment drives?

David Bernard, CEO, AssessFirst: No, I don’t think so. I think that there has never been a better time than today for candidates to find a job in which they can truly be themselves. Considering that more and more predictive models now take their personality and drivers into account, everyone can potentially find his dream job… just by staying consistent with who he truly is. So my advice for them would simply be : « Keep clam, Stay true to yourself, and Find your dream job ! » 

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