All Episodes Director of Talent Sourcing Justin Ghio

Director of Talent Sourcing Justin Ghio

AI in Talent Acquisition.

How can we leverage technology to allow us to do more of what we are best at? Welcome to another episode from the floor of Talent Acquisition Week in San Diego, California. Today, we are speaking to Justin Ghio about AI in the world of talent acquisition. Drawing on his experience in at Activision Blizzard, Justin explains everything he knows about AI in the talent sphere, the reason it is misunderstood, how it can best be used, and why it is time to escape the fear.


Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:00
Okay, talent pros. Welcome back to the podcast. It’s me Bobby once again helping this show on its merry way. As we joined hearts and hands and drag ourselves together one millimeter closer to recruiting nirvana. This episode actually perhaps two millimeters. It’s a goodie, Justin Gill from over at Activision shares how his sourcing team is really getting the most out of the automation tools out there, how they’re leveraging AI tools for their daily recruiting work, what we even mean when we talk about AI in the recruiting space. It’s a good one. It’s the final episode I recorded live from the floor of tea a week, right after Justin got off stage, in fact presenting at the conference. So I’m excited for you all to hear it. But first, the reason why I’m monologuing here at the top is top talent to me is once again taking to the stage live in New York City, next Wednesday, May 17. And in San Francisco, the following Wednesday, May 24. We’re taking over a swanky rooftop bar in New York and an art gallery in San Francisco, we’ll be slinging drinks and appetizers filling the room with amazing talent pros just like you. And for these live editions of the show, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of the Jimmy Fallon type talk show, it’s going to be more of a workshop demo where our guests share their screens and show everyone how they are leveraging AI in their daily recruiting work. I’m sure you’ve noticed there is loads of hype around AI, it’s going to take your job, it’s going to end the world blah, blah, blah. Forget about all that. We are going to put the hype aside and actually talk turkey, showing you how you can make the most of some amazing AI tools every day. For example, here’s a workflow that utilizes chat GPT to take a publicly posted job description and generate a Boolean search company target list, hiring manager intake call questions, candidate screen questions, all of it in one fell swoop. Can you believe it? I can, but only because it was explained to me moments ago by a much more technically savvy recruiting Pro. Anyway, there will be loads more examples of things you can immediately put into your own workflow via free or cheap AI tools. It’s going to be a ton of fun. So come out, meet some talent folks. Have a drink with me get some tips on making AI work for you. The link to register is in the show notes. It’s completely free. So come on out. It would mean a lot to me to see your beautiful sweet, darling talent acquiring faces. So with that, on to the goods. Here’s Justin Ghio, Director of talent sourcing at Activision.

Rob Stevenson 2:52
Welcome to top talent to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Speaker 2 2:59
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

Rob Stevenson 3:09
No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment to VPs of global talent CHR rose and everyone in between.

Speaker 3 3:18
Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 4 3:26
Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career. You are trusted by the organization who you get to work with the C suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

Rob Stevenson 3:39
I’m your host Rob Stevenson. And you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. talk down to me is coming at you again from the floor of TA week here in San Diego, California. And my guest is fresh from the stage where he was just presenting all about AI in our space. He is the director of talent sourcing over at Activision. Justin Ghio. Justin, welcome to the podcast. How are you?

Justin Ghio 4:03
I’m doing well. Thank you again for having me and excited to be here to to a week on the live floor.

Rob Stevenson 4:08
Yeah, it’s exciting to be in person again.

Justin Ghio 4:10
Yeah, it’s nice feeling the energy being back on stage, really good to be able to see the audience and feel the reactions and things like that in person a lot more meaningful.

Rob Stevenson 4:18
Yeah. How did it go up there?

Justin Ghio 4:20
It felt really good. I believe it went really well. We had a lot of really good questions from the audience. Everybody seemed very interested in AI in our space and how it’s going to be used and how we as Activision Blizzard are using it. And so it was very good conversation of what it can and can’t do, really, because I think so many people focus on what it’s going to do or take away from people versus how you should utilize it.

Rob Stevenson 4:44
I’m really glad we get to talk about this because I feel like there’s so much misinformation and misunderstanding on what AI means, particularly in talent. So could I ask you to maybe document that for us a little bit like what is the perception of AI right now in the talent space? And how is that Different from the reality of the tech,

Justin Ghio 5:01
I feel like the perception is oh my gosh, it’s going to take my job, it’s going to replace everything I’m doing. It can write Boolean searches, it can write all my emails, I feel, again, the perception is a little more afraid of what it can potentially do way, way, way down the road once the technology match rates, but currently, it’s more about how you can make it work for you. And the threshold that it actually currently has an understanding of its limitations. I think that’s something that we’ve realized is okay, I can’t do everything from start to finish. For me, what it can do is, give me 10 options to look at faster than I can kind of think through one option. And that’s really the point that we tend to look at and try to focus on is how to use it to speed up our processes, and speed up our ideation without replacing what we do best.

Rob Stevenson 5:52
Yeah, that is kind of my understanding, too, is that this is something that’s going to make you better at your job, it’s not going to take your job away from you, it might take parts of your job that you don’t like doing away from you, right, which it should you should always be looking to do that right. What do you think are some examples of common sorts of talent activities that can be aI sourced,

Justin Ghio 6:12
there’s a number and I think one of the first and foremost is something like the underlying natural language processing technology that AI and a lot of these AI platforms have is you don’t have to write developer or programmer or engineer, it knows that those are all the same. So you just write software developer, anyone who’s used the title programmer or engineer will be naturally out of that saves you three to five seconds of search type, you’re saving time that scales out infinitely across your user base. And second, a second for recruiters. Same thing with sending a message and then clicking contact attempt one, you probably don’t need to do both of those actions. So rely on a machine that knows if user sends email, move candidate to contact attempt one, if candidate replies move to responded, you know, and we no longer have to have a notepad or a tally list on the side of your desk, seeing your response rate, seeing your open rates, you can lean on the AI to manage a lot of that minutiae for you.

Rob Stevenson 7:12
Yeah. And I think when you describe some of that, it may seem pedestrian for what people think AI is, right? People think AI is like this cloak and dagger, we’re putting facial recognition technology on drones, like, sure there is some of that. But also, look, McDonald’s is using AI to make better catch up, okay, it’s kind of everywhere. And in most cases, it’s rather innocuous. And also it doesn’t need to be that quote unquote sophisticated or like sci fi or advanced, like what you’re describing is basic if then programming. These are not things that you need. Machine learning to do. It’s like when you boil AI down to its simplest definition, it’s like recreating human cognition. And so that could just be a very simple, rote process of your human cognition that you now never have to do. So I think it’s important to kind of draw a circle around what AI can mean, for you, though, you have sourcing right in your title. And you did list off like, okay, you can train an AI to write your Boolean search, for example. And I’ve been at events like this where their entire sessions like teaching people Boolean, I do think Boolean was kind of a differentiating skill set for sorcerers for a long time. Do you think it will remain that way? Or is that going to disappear?

Justin Ghio 8:18
I still believe it’ll be a differentiating skill set. However, I think it’s those who don’t use the AI technology that exists to help you speed up your iteration process around that will be left behind. I think the people who will continue to be the best Boolean searchers are the ones who can use AI to get 6070 80% of the way there, and then kind of put their special sauce on top and allow it to become uniquely their lens or their version of that Boolean, which will continue to allow people to be great at those sub skills in the world of sourcing and talent acquisition. Yeah, it

Rob Stevenson 8:54
all comes back to that this is meant to make you better at your job more expedient faster, right?

Justin Ghio 8:59
Yeah, nobody’s excited about being the best phone screen scheduler, right? People are excited about being really memorable on the phone. They’re excited about being really punctual with getting things on the books with candidates and having meaningful conversations where candidates feel like they’re being respected heard. And then being given opportunities within that organization from that representative of from talent and clicking buttons doesn’t let you do that right. Sending an email than clicking a button doesn’t let you have more conversations.

Rob Stevenson 9:28
Yeah. AI is not coming for your job AI is coming for all the parts of your job that you hate.

Justin Ghio 9:34
Yeah, I think we like to joke is like aI let you be lazy. Instead of sending a follow up message you click a button to automate follow ups. The person is not opening or reading your message. Do you need to rewrite them a fresh one every three days? No, you could send them three automated ones realize that none of those landed now back to the drawing board. But going back to the drawing board every couple of days is going to be nothing but wasteful time.

Rob Stevenson 9:59
Yeah. exactly that. So how is Activision deploying AI in talent.

Justin Ghio 10:03
So right now we use it in a number of different ways. One of our biggest is for skill adjacency, the games industry is very tight knit, it’s been that way for as long as it’s been around Activision hit its 40 year birthday, a couple of years ago. And we have people who’ve been working here since then. And many companies in our industry are like that as well. And so you end up with a really top heavy organization with lots of senior and senior plus level candidates. And then the new inflection of candidates, it gets a little bit left behind when you have the Amazons the Googles rapidly growing, hiring everybody with a CS degree. So for us, it’s about finding and uncovering those candidates that could be great and could be great fits here. And finding ways to bring them into our organization using skill adjacency. And understanding that, hey, you have 60 to 70% of what we need, let’s either train you’re on the rest or talk about the rest on how we can close that gap.

Rob Stevenson 10:59
Normally, that skill adjacency evaluation would look like I guess, looking at a resume or having a phone screen and being like, okay, now I understand your experience a little bit. So I think you can make that final jump via training, or maybe it’s just hasn’t been asked, have you in the past? I don’t know. But you’re able to automate some of that process that sounds like

Justin Ghio 11:17
yeah, and we’re able to see, like a match score someone’s skill rating based on and more importantly, and this is where the AI actually is doing the work is it’s looking at peers of individuals at organizations and seeing what skills they have to help me understand what questions I need to ask, right? Oh, verify that this person has X, Y, or Z skill, or we need to confirm because someone at their work that used to work there has this skill, but they don’t have that on their resume. Right. So the days of someone forgetting something on their resume are hopefully going to be forgotten as we move forward. And the technology matures.

Rob Stevenson 11:52
Interesting. So how did technology into it that if it’s not being offered by a candidate,

Justin Ghio 11:56
so if it sees that, so and so candidate who’s also in your ecosystem worked at that same employer, same title over the same period of time, it infers that you are either working on similar work, or peers, and that it will tell you as a sorcerer, or a Talent Acquisition Professional, hey, we see something on other profiles that look like this that you should ask about. And so it allows you to kind of again, it doesn’t tell you this person for sure has it because the goal isn’t to have aI decide for you. It’s to have them get you there, because you may have never known to ask, you ask that question. They’re like, Oh, I used it on one project. But I didn’t put it on my resume. And that one project can be more than enough to sway your hiring managers decision.

Rob Stevenson 12:41
Interesting. Yeah, that’s a good call out that is not going to make a sweeping judgment about someone and then automatically, like move them forward in your process is going to be like, Hey, Justin, you need to figure out what I’m looking at right now. Like, is this something? Is this nothing? I don’t know. Ask them, let them tell you. But yeah, there’s an opportunity because I feel like candidates often don’t put their best foot forward. Like, interviewing is a weird skill. Most people don’t do it that often. And so can you ever really be sure you’re getting the full picture of a candidate?

Justin Ghio 13:08
Yeah, and you know, we’re rash with layoffs right now. And candidates, they’re panicking. So they put their resume, they grab it out their file, they’ve either rewrite it briefly, or they just gotta move fast. Gotta get it out there. Gotta get it into the hands of a potential employer. And so sometimes some of that granularity and attention to detail can get lost. And so having technology that allows you to uncover some of the things a little bit more, visibly, is very helpful.

Rob Stevenson 13:36
Now, at Activision, is this technology built in house? Where are you going to get it?

Justin Ghio 13:41
Yeah, so we actually are a core customer of eight, which is our CRM provider and platform and actually provide a talent intelligence platform, which acts as our CRM sits atop our ATS and gives us a talent intelligence layer into our entire existing ecosystem paths, candidates, current candidates, and prospecting. So future candidates as well.

Rob Stevenson 14:01
Got it. So a full day, it sounds like they have actual artificial intelligence attached. But my experience in this space over the last few years has been there’s a lot of marketing, and not a lot of actual technology. I remember reading recently that there was like 25,000 machine learning experts on the planet, right? How many of them do you think work in HR tech? Like probably not a lot?

Justin Ghio 14:22
Yeah. Not enough of them yet?

Rob Stevenson 14:23
Not enough? Certainly. What do you think is the reality of AI in HR tech? Is it a lot of smoke and mirrors? Or is there interesting things happening here?

Justin Ghio 14:31
I think there can be some smoke and mirrors and I think it’s more around the display of it’s going to be this big bang type of event. Yeah, within talent acquisition, versus the the ideas that we discussed earlier of like, did you know something as simple as not having to click a button that’s AI? Right. That’s artificial intelligence. That is a computer doing something that usually I have to do as a requirement. Right. And so I think the smoker mirrors comes into play of not overselling, but overhyping the AI component, right? Because it’s not, it’s not attractive to hear that, hey, you don’t have to send a reminder to a hiring manager, the system will do it for you, right. But it’s simply knowing that in two days, it’s this time and this place, and we can send an email on this timezone to this hiring manager all correctly. That’s artificial intelligence, you know, but it’s being sold as something so much broader and bigger into our industry versus the incremental steps, because AI is never going to close a candidate, they’re never going to help someone understand what reloading like they’re not going to talk to an international candidate about what types of credit cards to open while they’re abroad to build credit in the United States. Those are human conversations. Those are things that we still have to broker. And so we make sure that we use the technology to get us to those conversations, but not impede us on

Rob Stevenson 15:51
those things You listed a minute ago, when you speak to someone who really loves their job in the talent space, you ask them what they like about it, those are the things that they rattle off to those are those human moments of walking someone through a really difficult, big decision being more consultative than just filling a role. Right, that makes the job special. And that’s what we’re trying to have you do more of with technology assisting you. Right,

Justin Ghio 16:16
exactly. And that’s the way that we at Activision have made sure to look at it is how can we leverage technology to allow us to do more of what we’re best at? Right? Like I made the joke earlier, nobody’s the best phone screen scheduler, you’re better at a lot of other things, you’re better at a lot more dynamic parts, you work with clients very well, you work with candidates very well have more time for that. And that’s really how we’ve positioned it within us and figured out where can we leverage it? And where do we not need to leverage it, it doesn’t need to send all our emails, it can build us templates that get us close, we can customize those. And then it can broker a campaign. But it’s not going to create the verbiage and send it out with our eyes closed and pressing the button.

Rob Stevenson 17:00
Yeah, of course, you mentioned a moment ago, the notion of like, oh, the AI is gonna give you an example of something to follow up on, it’s not going to make a decision. It’s not going to be automating some of these things that need follow up that need more nuanced investigation. And right now, this trend in AI is around Explainable AI, there was a time when you were selling AI, you would say, Oh, it’s a black box algorithm, meaning like, it’s so advanced, not even we understand how it works. And that was meant to be like cool, and mysterious and sexy. Now, it’s hugely problematic, because if you don’t understand how it works, then how do you know it’s not being biased? How do you know that it’s not making judgments about people based on something besides their merit or ability? And so thus, this trend towards Explainable AI? What do you think? Is the talent professionals responsibility? Or how can they make sure that the tools that they are bringing in are being fair and equitable to their candidates?

Justin Ghio 17:49
Yeah, so for me, it’s three questions. It’s how, why and what right, how does this work? Why does it work this way? And what happens if I want to change it? And I think those are the biggest three questions that working with any vendor working with any provider talking to any AI scientist about, you know, the space is, how does it work? Why does it do it like that? And what happens if I want to change it, right? Because you need to understand the underpinnings to be able to leverage it and a use case that’s applicable to your environment. And if you don’t understand why it’s doing what it’s doing, either at something that company have that your vendor has pre programmed or decided, or they’re including or excluding things that maybe you wouldn’t, or would. And then if you have to change it, that’s the big pieces. We always talk about that human element. Even in the Nexus, even in the generation of the technology, there should be an underlying human element. You mentioned using bad historical data to say, Oh, well, we’ve hired this type of candidate in the past that may have been very biased hired, right. So maybe that’s a data set, we don’t want to use, being able to author some of those rules overtop of the machine is really, what I would, you know, have people ask of their vendors is, hey, what can I do? How can I change this?

Rob Stevenson 19:04
Yeah, exactly that, how do you think people should go about making this case, internally, because there’s a lot of misunderstanding, as we know. And if you are even the director level, you are going to have to make a pitch internally once you’ve decided that this is for you. So what do you bring to the table to make sure that you can get by in to get some kind of tool that’s going to save a lot of time and make you more efficient?

Justin Ghio 19:25
Yeah, it’s just understanding where that point of finality is where that stopping point of what the technology is, or isn’t and can you do for you, and actually explain to your team in your organization? Hey, I’ve seen it. I know what that looks like at that point. Here’s what we’re going to do up to that point. I don’t expect you to have it run you all the way through that point and beyond. But up to an including here. This is really what we want to capture. This is how we want to leverage it. And these are the things you know chat. GPT is a big example right now and it’s not. Our philosophy isn’t Hey, use it to send all Your emails, it’s use it to write you 10 Rough copies, take two or three of them, customize them, spin them a little bit. And then maybe use another platform like a text to to give them a final pass, see how they look and verbiage and all of those things, and meld a series of technologies to deliver you something that typically would take an hour in five to 10 minutes.

Rob Stevenson 20:22
Yeah, I mentioned jet GBT in a previous episode. And like live while I was recording, I had it write a template for the non update update email, which is basically like, hey, we all like meeting you. We you know, we don’t have a decision yet. But I want to let you know, we didn’t forget about you does that right? And it wrote what I thought was a pretty good template, I would change a couple of things. But that’s what it’s for. It’s not going to just come to you with a bow on it. And you can send it out and be like, if that’s your understanding what the tech is, I can see how that would be threatening. You’re like, Oh, God, why did I even need to be here to press that button? You know, the reality though, is like it gets you 70 80% of the way and then it’s up to you to make it the thing that only you can make it the human part of it.

Justin Ghio 21:01
Exactly. And it really, really is invaluable for rapid iteration and being able to really spin up ideas and concepts, even the Boolean example. And you can ask it to create a Boolean for gameplay developers. If you’re a new sorcerer, if you’re a new recruiter, and you’re just getting your feet under you, you can get a starting block right now that’s usually something you have to go chase down, someone internally asked look at an internal website, some sort of intranet, to read all this knowledge. Now you can acquire it on the fly in real time, and then turn it into action or ask what games or a similar art style of Diablo and you’re just starting to work on Diablo so you have no idea or you’re new to the industry? It’ll give you 510 examples. Now you have a jumping off point. It’s really for that starting block, not the end block.

Rob Stevenson 21:50
Yeah, great, great point. I encourage everyone out there to just play around with chat GBT. And then just be thinking about ways that it might help you and just throw something at it. That’s what I did. I threw at it. Write me a launch plan for a new podcast about x. And it wrote something in like 45 seconds. And I was like, Okay, this is a start, right? This is not ready to go. But like if I was having writer’s block, or if I was like, really, really needing a shot in the arm, this can get you going. I think it’s the same thing with talent. Just be throwing stuff at it, see what it comes back with? And then you just want to be thinking about it. As you go about your day. What is something I could throw at Chad GPG? What is something I could throw at at any kind of automation software? How do I make my life easier?

Justin Ghio 22:30
Yeah, some people are better at other things. Some people aren’t the most creative with the way that thinking of a creative email could be a 2030 minute process for somebody. And you could offload that and like you said, 45 seconds. And so for us, it’s again, it’s an invaluable tool to help us accelerate on the ideation that’s already happening. In ta you’re already asking yourself, did that come across? Right? Did that sound right? Was it quick enough? Was it respectful, inclusive? Was I using language that makes this candidate although it’s a thanks, but no thanks, email that it still feel like I spent time out of my day to interview right, all of those human parts, you have time to insert and add to all those points of inflection throughout our process.

Rob Stevenson 23:12
Yeah, absolutely. Justin, before I let you go, I want to ask you a question that is not related to AI or tech at all? Well, but maybe depending on your answer, what is the best career advice you have ever received?

Justin Ghio 23:26
Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should do that thing forever. It was a former direct manager of mine now skip level of mine, who I had originally thought I could be a individual contributor, sorcerer for the end of time, and just do that it was a place I had found my footing and accelerated within the games industry. And he just reminded me that just because you’re great doesn’t mean you need to do that forever, and really challenged me to look at the other things that I enjoyed about the role and about what I like doing, and the impact itself that it was able to provide. And he’s actually the direct reason for pushing me into the Leadership track where I has always seen myself as a long term individual contributor, because it was what I was good at. And so you know, looking around the corner for the things that you’re not necessarily great at but could make you better in general, really is the best career advice that I’ve ever gotten.

Rob Stevenson 24:20
That’s great advice. Justin, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thanks for recording with me today.

Justin Ghio 24:24
Appreciate it. Thank you so much Rob.

Rob Stevenson 24:28
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