Making a perfect match

Case study: Matching candidates with suitable employers can now take less
time and effort as intelligent candidate matching software makes its mark

As the worldwide leader in the staffing industry, Manpower provides
employment to more than 2.7 million people annually through 3,800 offices in 59
countries – which adds up to a lot of skillsets and CVs being matched to a lot
of different positions.

Given the volumes it deals with, Manpower looked into the concept of
intelligent candidate matching software. While there would be obvious speed
benefits, its overriding criteria was to find a technology that replicated the
decision-making process of the human brain and ensure that a precise fit was
made between candidate and employer.

In January this year, Manpower rolled out the pilot phase of a
candidate-to-vacancy matching system called Ijen, developed by UK company
NCorp. "We were benchmarking systems and this one came out the best,"
says Jorg Stehr, IT director EMEA at Manpower. "To match our employees to
the job orders we need to find the best possible fit and this is based on a
number of parameters, including skills and experience, location, employers’
preference and preferences of employees. The system applies artificial
intelligence (AI) to the job-matching process and takes in all of these
parameters and more."

Criticisms that a computer is replacing the touchy-feely side of recruitment
are refuted by Stehr who says that, if anything, it enhances the face-to-face
time a branch representative can spend with the client.

"Now that they don’t have to do the searches, there is more time for
personal interaction," he says.

The Ijen technology is based on 10 years’ work by Cambridge University
researchers and replicates the ability of the human brain to recognise closely
matching items based on large numbers of parameters. Although this is the first
time this has been used in the HR sector, it has been tried and tested in the
e-commerce sector and is used by such high-profile sites as,
Autotrader and EG (Estates Gazette) Property.

"We saw there were applications for the HR sector and that it was
well-suited to recruitment," says NCorp chief executive Nick Bidmead.
"The way we’ve built it means that the core technology can be used in
different ways by various customers, including job boards, for instance. This
enables Manpower’s consultants to maximise the potential of its entire
database, while simultaneously improving the quality of matches is something
that traditional structured query language (SQL) searching cannot

The system can deliver matches across a database of thousands of CVs in
fractions of seconds says Bidmead. "We know from our work with sites such
as Autotrader that people don’t want to wait, so it has to be that fast."

The technology can also carry out Skills Gap Analysis that identifies which
skills are in short supply and equally those that are in demand.

So far, the pilot has been rolled out in the Netherlands, Germany and
Denmark (with operations planned for other European countries, the Middle East,
Africa and Asia) and feedback has been extremely positive from the Manpower
staff using it, claims Stehr. "Staff like the fact that it is web-based.
Our previous system was client/server based. The current system is much easier
to configure. We are providing web-based training over two to three days and
staff can interact with someone who has used the system before."

Stehr led the steering committee on the project, which also includes HR
operations staff from across Europe as well as representatives from the finance
department and EMEA managing director Yoav Michaely. The company has a close
relationship between HR operations and IT, Stehr says. "We have almost 100
per cent alignment. We have to, because, in effect, the system is our
production line. I know that isn’t a very HR term, but it is vital to our

The Ijen system is also going to be instrumental in the organisation’s
increasing need to meet cross-border requirements from clients. Manpower has
set up Cross-Border Connections to cater for these and reports not only an
increase in companies looking for staff in other countries, but also for
employees wanting to find work in other countries. "In future, it will
also support cross-border matching," Stehr says.

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