How CERN has embraced and navigated the recruitment software maze

Anna Cook, Deputy Group Leader – Talent Acquisition, CERN [NASDAQ: CERN]

CERN is a truly unique organisation, working at the cutting edge of science, engineering and technology with a noble mission: to further our understanding of the universe. CERN is also a hub for remarkable engineering feats and advances, technology and knowledge transfer: this is the place where, in 1989, the World Wide Web was born and where leaps and bounds in the computing arena are constantly taking place since.

CERN’s people are the Organization’s greatest asset: hiring the engineers, technicians, support staff and physicists we need to push the boundaries of science ever further from across our 31 Member and Associate Member States is a challenge in what is a competitive market across the diversity of disciplines we need. With growing numbers of applicants with different expectations, the imperative of streamlined recruitment processes is central to fulfilling our hiring needs across our various student, graduate and professional roles.

“How” is the question. Today the breadth and scope of recruitment software solutions is vast, competitive and sometimes challenging to navigate. There isn’t a day that goes by without a new recruitment-related software solution popping up in my inbox. That good old thing called time (not to mention budget) is often lacking to be able to navigate all these new innovative and enticing ideas, so a clear set of priorities is key for us to continue to meet our hiring objectives. Key to this is a reliable, suitably customisable applicant tracking system (ATS), ideally integrated with the diverse candidate management features that adapt to our different programmes, with at its heart a good candidate experience.

When we began our journey with recruitment software solutions over 15 years ago, the pace felt… slower, with time afforded to explore and grow together. We worked in sync with our ATS provider in what felt like a symbiotic relationship, where our collaboration allowed us to evolve and customise the solution for our needs, while at the same contributing to the evolution of their services and offer to be more competitive in a growing, increasingly challenging market.

The pace has definitely picked up since. Constant growth, review, re-assessment and awareness of the new possibilities led to the overhaul of our ATS in 2018 to also integrate what additional solutions had seamlessly woven into the picture over time: job multi-posting, social media, asynchronous video interviewing, behavioural and skills testing, not to mention the specific in-house solutions we have developed to manage it all optimally. The basics are key and sometimes less is more: we need processes that allow us to gain time and efficiency while keeping the personal, human touch throughout the application process. Engaging and connecting with our candidates is our driver, as is their feedback. This is by far the best gauge of whether we are meeting their needs and expectations while managing our own objectives.

It’s an ongoing journey of learning and adjustment. What we have today is not a silver bullet solution as it has its limitations, but it certainly beats the paper-based approach of times gone by! Learning together in a constructive customer-provider relationship is essential for mutual growth, as is keeping abreast latest developments on the market. Artificial intelligence and its various applications in recruitment is increasingly on the scene, and who knows which novelties are still to come as the next revolution in recruitment. In this context, we keep an open mind in investigating and evaluating them, while staying true to our values and in line with our priorities and stakeholders’ needs. To quote Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable”.

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