Our video series, Field Studies, covers the skills every world-class recruiter needs in areas such as productivity, relationship-building, identifying talent and looking to the future. In each episode, industry experts and our assembled panel of hiring professionals share their knowledge — and you’ll learn some interesting facts along the way.

At first, computers were clunky and complex — and not at all user-friendly. But Grace Hopper envisioned what others couldn’t yet imagine: if computers became more accessible, more people would use them. She and her team bucked conventional thinking to create the first compiler, a program that translates words into machine code. Computer usage was transformed, and Hopper’s work paved the way for today’s apps. Hopper was a future thinker — someone who looks forward and encourages evolution through innovation and creativity.

In this episode of Field Studies, we’re talking to Nilofer Merchant, best-selling author on innovation and collaboration, TED speaker and future thinker, and our panel of recruiting professionals about how technology trends not only create a business advantage but can change the way you approach job candidates.

Will machines take my job?

More and more routine work tasks are being handled by technology. As people ops expert Barbara Lee points out, this encompasses “everything from vetting out the first round of interviews, or looking at resumes, or matching people’s resumes to job descriptions using machine learning and natural language processing.”

Nilofer Merchant sees this shift as a great challenge. “If we actually allow AI and computerized tech to replace most work and we don’t have people’s capacity to add value to the world in the form of work,” she says, “we’ve denied the most fundamental expression that human beings have.” 

What work could lose, Merchant explains, is innovation. 

Thinking outside the box to find great talent

According to Merchant, companies need to find “divergent” or “from the edge” thinkers to push innovation. She points out that “edge people typically look like they don’t fit.” Though employers often look for fit, people who can think outside the box add to the company culture.

Take Dom Perignon, a brand born from an accident. Monks at a French monastery discovered that, when they opened some casks they were aging, the wine was fizzy and exploded outward. Surely the batch was ruined. One of the monks, Dom Pierre Perignon, courageously tasted the wine and decided to market the bubbly. And et voilà! Champagne. 

Reaching out to onlyness is a recruiter’s forte

So how can talent professionals tap edge thinkers? Merchant says recruiters are particularly adept at recognizing what she terms as onlyness: “So many of you are the only young person in the room, or the only person of color, or the only engineer in a room full of salespeople, or the only woman in a boardroom — all these different ways in which the person is being made to feel different.” 

Every person, Merchant believes, should have an opportunity “to be centered as that distinct source of ideas,” and she calls recruiters onlyness spotters

Merchant says, “What they’re doing is noticing what someone actually cares about — beyond their credentials, beyond the brands they’ve worked at, beyond the jobs they’ve had — and they’re saying, ‘That person cares about this’ and bringing them into an organization that needs that perspective.”

How can you measure a candidate’s potential?

As talent attraction expert Nathalie Rodriguez points out, “When everything is going toward tech and automation … the thing that’s most important in recruiting is tying back to that human element.”

Short of looking into a crystal ball, what options do recruiters have for assessing candidates’ future performance? One available measure is LQ. Since this is a relatively new concept, let’s review the Qs:

While IQ and EQ have been evaluated for decades, author and journalist Daniel Coyle suggested measuring learning in 2013. He was discussing Arizona Diamondbacks player Paul Goldschmidt, who’d grown into his potential to become one of baseball’s new stars. Coyle suggested that what had set Goldschmidt apart was his willingness to learn — his learning quotient

When recruiters target a high LQ, they’re finding candidates who are willing to learn — and that not only grows their talent pipeline but aids in retention. A study by Accenture found 85% of candidates were, over the next six months, willing and happy to upskill in their own free time to stay relevant at work.

The right people make the right automations work that much better

While the future is certainly bringing more tech into daily routines, recruiters will always supply hiring’s human element. As Latoya Ramos, a talent acquisition coordinator, told us, candidates want to know that recruiters and potential employers care: “What candidates are really saying — ‘do you care about me outside of my skill set and credentials? How can I still be a human at work?”