Recruiting goes wearable

Look to your Apple Watch or Microsoft Band to glean insights into candidate behaviour
Wed, 24 June 2015 | By Anthony Mullen, Profusion


Look to your Apple Watch or Microsoft Band to glean insights into candidate behaviour

The recruitment industry is bedevilled by unknowns: 

How far along is the client business in the recruitment process? 

Does this candidate have other interviews? Will this candidate perform well in an interview? Will they say yes? What is the client business really thinking? 

The list goes on, taking a lot of power out of the hands of recruiters. But wearable technology may help to remove some unknowns for practising recruitment professionals. 

Wearable technology is currently dominated by fitness devices like Jawbone and Fitbit, and smartwatches such as Pebble or the Apple Watch. What all these devices have in common is that they collect data on the owner. This data by itself  doesn’t tell you much. However, when you add in other information on the owner, such as social media profile, demographic information or psychometric testing, and then apply data science techniques, a very interesting picture begins to emerge. 

For example, wearable data can reveal a person’s stress level by showing when their heart rate has risen despite their movement being low. If you have a device with ‘galvanic skin receptors’ — the same technology used in lie detectors and part of Microsoft’s activity tracker Band — you can even deduce emotional state. By collecting more information, you can understand someone’s fitness, lifestyle and aspects of their behaviour. 

So how does this apply to recruiters? Well, it opens the door to a range of new testing techniques to assess candidates and offers additional information to supply to client businesses. Recruiters can provide candidates with wearable devices and undertake mock interviews or competency tests. The data from the device can then be analysed to reveal how the candidate copes under pressure. If a set of questions causes a spike in stress it could indicate an underlying weakness — for example, the candidate is not confident about speaking about that area of their experience or competency.

The recruiter can then provide coaching to improve the candidate in that area or deem that their performance rules them out of certain jobs. On the flip side, if a candidate remains calm, even under the most intense scrutiny or testing, the recruiter can provide this information to the client business as an additional proof point. 

For this system to work it would be essential for a recruitment firm to apply the same system of testing to all candidates. The data collected could then provide a benchmark to assess the relative merits of candidates and also create a new service that they can provide to client businesses.

In short, a recruitment firm could set themselves apart from the competition by providing client businesses with a much more rigorous form of assessing candidates. Questions such as how a person will cope under pressure, what skills they are most confident about or, conversely, areas that they personally feel are weaknesses, will be objectively revealed by the data. 

In the future, when more people wear wearable devices, recruiters could ask candidates to volunteer their own data to allow a full picture of their lifestyle. In some positions, it may be a big plus to have a very active candidate. By providing information that proves this attribute, it could make a candidate stand out much more than by simply stating it on their CV.

Of course, creating such a system within a recruitment company will require investment and planning. It will not be enough to bring in candidates and provide them with a Jawbone device. To make the data provided suitably rigorous, the type of questions asked, how they are asked, the speed, order, and even factors such as how the room is set up, will all need to be consistent. Recruiters will also need to invest in data scientists to properly assess the data and create results that are easy to digest and although for candidates to be compared. 

Recruitment is such a competitive industry that any way to differentiate a business and improve results is well worth the cost.


1. Wearable technology is set to revolutionise hiring, developing and retaining staff

2. Historical lifestyle data from wearables will complement CV information

3. To improve recruiting, wearables will detect performance under stress and when the truth is being stretched

4. Wearables will improve the quality of candidate vetting

5. On the horizon: Exploration of the legal and moral dimensions to using wearable technologies

ANTHONY MULLEN is practice lead, research and development at Profusion


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