Hays is one of the world’s largest recruitment firms with a presence in 33 countries. Having been established more than 50 years ago, the company has to keep its ideas fresh to ensure it can attract the best candidates and clients to use its services.
A decade ago, the company embarked on a major transformation of its IT architecture, and by 2011 it had created a common framework, chief information officer (CIO) Steve Weston explained.
He told diginomica:
From that point onwards we had a modern internet-enabled, API-level series of systems, meaning we could then work with partners to develop best of breed components that give us a competitive advantage.
Hays has been migrating from a largely outsourced datacentre model to take advantage of cloud computing. This means that anything new is developed within the cloud, but that there remains some legacy IT infrastructure and applications.
As the company considered how it could exploit cloud computing, one of the areas it considered was its jobs search engine. It had been using a legacy tool that it was happy with, but as Weston was constantly on the lookout for how the company could improve its technology, he was aware that there were some areas of the tool that could be better, particularly making it easier for job seekers to find more roles that best suit their search criteria.
Two years ago, Weston and his team looked at various start-ups and mature companies and finally decided to approach Google about working on a more sophisticated alternative. He said:
Google were already working on this [Cloud Talent Solution] concept and we immediately built a strong relationship with them. They were selected because they already had the best search and machine learning capabilities but also because they had some of the best people in the world, meaning the tool would be world class when it emerged.
Weston said that matching Google’s technology and expertise with Hays’ domain knowledge helped the company to develop the tool exactly how they wanted it. But he emphasised the importance of an agile way of working.
We had weekly calls with the development team. It’s about iteration and not the finished product – working through a period of time, working in a collaboration to get the best results, and working with Google was the best for doing that.
It’s not about the skills you have, it’s about how quickly you can affect change and identify improvements and how open you are to making those improvements. It’s easy to do won the route of fixed mindsets and delivering a final product.
This means that Weston and his team had to change their way of thinking, and think outside of the box more often which has benefited subsequent projects. He also gives credit to the way Google approached the project.
They’re open to all of those things, they take feedback, they come back quickly and they challenge where appropriate. I think that’s the benefit of having a close working relationship.
Weston and his team had expressed some caution over transitioning from a legacy system that had served them well for the best part of a decade, and they wanted to ensure that whatever replaced the system would improve things. He said:
We’re definitely surprised by the benefits we’re seeing, we’ve received millions of applications a year and normally with these kinds of technology changes we’re looking for a basis point increase, but with this we’re seeing a 10% conversion rate increase in applications and we put that down to the way the technology works and the sophistication of the taxonomy.
Within the UK, Hays has seen an additional 170,000 monthly searches in the quarter following its migration, while 60% of applicants said results were highly relevant to their professional backgrounds. Weston said:
Cloud Talent Solution helps return better search results that drive better click throughs and create better connections for our clients.
Weston gives the example of searching for financial director roles on Google Cloud’s Cloud Talent Solution, and it coming back with other roles which are similar but do not use the same words in the job post. In addition, the system can provide different results for different regions or industries. Weston explained:
If you’re looking for a server in the UK, you’d get technology-related roles in your results, but if you’re searching in the US, this might mean waiters or waitresses, so it has specific country taxonomy as well as vertical taxonomy.
He added that the company is looking to work with Google on other projects as well as further features for this particular service.
However, the company doesn’t exclusively work with Google when it comes to cloud. Hays also works with Microsoft, using Office 365, and it has two back office developments based on Azure. Meanwhile, it also uses AWS Elasticsearch Service which is being integrated into its CRM, using its machine learning capabilities to unearth candidates in its internal database. He said the decision has been to use the cloud services which are best for particular jobs, rather than sticking to one cloud vendor.