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Art & science of recruitment search

Jun 16, 2014

HiResIf there is one thing that is critical to the modern world of recruitment, it is Search. Recruitment revolves around two important documents – the job description and the CV. For the jobseeker it is essential to be able to find your way to the jobs that match your skills and aspirations. For the recruiter it is essential to be able to find your way to the CVs of people with the skills to do the jobs you are recruiting for. And it’s not easy! The vocabulary involved is huge, leaving aside any foreign language considerations, and there are many ways to say the same thing. It is just not the same as looking for a car where there are only so many models to choose from and colours to pick. And there are only so many ways a car dealer can describe a gearbox. No, in recruitment the very nature of both job descriptions and CVs makes finding what you are looking for orders of magnitude more difficult.

Once upon a time this was all done on paper and maybe that was in some ways easier. If you were looking for a job you could pick up the trade magazine for your industry and just browse through until something caught your eye. And for the recruiter you could have in your head the profiles you were looking for and read through the CVs sent in and put aside the ones that jumped out as being suitable.

Then along came the Internet and ruined everything. Suddenly you were presented with tens of thousands of jobs to look through or thousands of CVs and something had to be done! In the early days of digital recruitment we had the relational database. Great! Put all the skills in a database and then do exact match queries to find the ones you are after. Very accurate in some ways, probably very fast… but ultimately it still meant somebody had some hard work to do to type in all their skills, and if you were asking a jobseeker to spend an hour doing that online you’d probably lose their attention and lose them!

The technology has marched steadily onwards… we had a spate of early search engines which improved things. We had the introduction of text indexing with the major database products such as SQL Server and Oracle which allowed some interesting possibilities including the ability to use ‘stemming’ – the ability of a search engine to understand that words such as manage, managing and management were all really the same thing.

The fundamental problem however remained… recruitment uses a very wide vocabulary and the presence of a word or phrase in a document is only half the story! I could put the word ‘ALGOL’ in my CV because once upon a time I was an expert in it. Putting it there is perfectly valid, although in truth I wouldn’t do so, but its mere presence tells a recruiter very little about me other than maybe that I have been in this game too long! This business about the size of the vocabulary and the relevance of terms which may appear to have equal prominence in a document leads us to the much misunderstood word ‘Semantic’ which crept into the world of recruitment some years ago. Ironically for a word whose meaning is little understood, Semantics is the study of meaning! In the world of recruitment what we are really talking about is the ability to understand things about the job descriptions and CVs we deal with because we know what sort of documents they are. In practice this means understanding the way different terms relate to each other and how different words mean the same thing and understanding how words or phrases may mean different things according to their context.

The technology available has marched on and we now have available to us a number of incredibly powerful tools for indexing and searching text. At Talenetic we know a thing or two about what is on offer and have chosen to use Apache SOLR. It is very fast. It allows almost real time indexing of documents (so we can get a new job or CV in front of you almost as soon as we get it). It supports cool user features such as hit highlighting and faceted search so we can help you to see how your search is narrowing down the options as you start searching. It’s a great product! But it’s not the complete answer and on its own doesn’t really help you find what you are looking for. That is what we do at Talenetic. Our search incorporates years of accumulated knowledge of the challenges of searching jobs and CVs.

We hope you like it!