Based on her years working in the recruitment field, IBM talent leader Wendy Wick envisions artificial intelligence (AI) soon helping both candidates and employers get to the hire “as swiftly as delivering a pizza.”

Key Takeaways

  • Wick has a vision of weaving AI through the entire life cycle of recruitment with readily available dashboards and prompts to keep candidates engaged.
  • She explains how AI helps IBM upskill employees, among other benefits.
  • Wick shares strategies for attracting and supporting employees in marginalized groups, such as removing bias and jargon from job descriptions.

At 16, Wendy Wick worked as a bank teller. Although she didn’t yet have a high school diploma, she had the skills to do the job and remained a loyal employee for years. Today, she is the Americas Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) Offering Leader at IBM Consulting with 25 years in the field. But whenever Wick sees entry-level roles requiring college degrees, she recalls her own experience joining the workforce and wonders how things could have been different if she hadn't been given that opportunity.

“A bachelor's degree tells you someone was dedicated to going to college and getting a degree. They probably have some personal determination and critical thinking skills,” she says. “All I needed were critical thinking, reading, writing and customer service abilities. Those skills can tell you more about a role and a person than a bachelor's degree.”

A professional headshot of Wendy Wick with a decorative blue background behind her.

Wendy Wick, Americas RPO Offering Leader at IBM Consulting.

A member of Indeed’s Leadership Connect community of talent leaders, Wick says she is fascinated with what causes the disconnect between employers and job seekers throughout the hiring process and with how employers can meet candidates’ changing expectations. She shared her vision of how new AI and technology can support skills-based hiring and create a frictionless experience for both employers and candidates. 

The following interview — in which Wick talks about the biggest challenges she faces in her role and how AI can help — has been edited and condensed.

What are the two biggest challenges you're facing in your work now?

We need to ensure that we're vetting both AI-generated content and the data used to train it for bias so that we intentionally create a positive outcome with our hiring. We've been using forms of AI for years; if you think about any search engine, there have always been algorithms behind the scenes serving up suggestions and content. But things get wonky when you don’t know where the generative AI is pulling its information from. Businesses need to responsibly audit AI tools and the data that trains them before implementation.

The other big challenge we have today is the pace of change and how that affects the candidate experience. People want some sort of immediate response to a job application like when they’re getting take-out — they can order in a click and track delivery in real time. But that isn’t available for hiring; you can get an automatic response thanking you for applying, but it doesn't mean you get a job immediately. 

Companies like Indeed are certainly working toward making hiring as easy as clicking a button, but we’re not quite there yet. 

Editor’s note: To see how Indeed is working to make getting a job — like Wick says — as easy as clicking a button, check out the product announcements from Indeed FutureWorks 2023, which include tools that prompt job seekers to include specific skills on their applications and cue employers on how to optimize job posts to target qualified candidates.

How do you see AI impacting recruitment?

I have a vision of enabling AI through the entire life cycle of recruitment to have readily available dashboards and prompts to keep candidates engaged and help employers streamline their processes.

When a candidate is applying, I can envision AI prompting them to give more information about a skill or work experience they’ve included. It could enable the candidate to send a more effective application and prompt them immediately about next steps.

I also foresee AI helping hiring managers by delivering the right interview questions to validate a candidate’s skill set. This could help reduce bias the hiring manager may bring to the table.

For a recruiter, I can see AI assisting in managing routine administrative tasks, like flagging roles they are having trouble filling and offering to schedule a meeting with the hiring manager. If an organization is struggling to hire in specific areas or has high turnover, I can see AI turning those people analytics into actionable insights to deliver necessary change.

That's where I think we're heading to deliver a hire almost as swiftly as delivering a pizza.

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How have you used AI to support skills-based hiring and upskilling employees?

We have a kind of online phonebook or directory for all IBM employees. It’s like a resume — it has your background details, what you do at your current job and certifications you’ve earned.

Behind the scenes, its AI algorithm can prompt you to add specific skills or certifications based on your profile. It’s called “skills inference.” It would ask if it correctly interprets your profile to mean you have skills X, Y and Z. Then, it might tell you that your boss evaluated you on a skill lower than you did and recommend training. Or it may point out that developing an additional skill will qualify you for an open role.

As a manager, it prompts you to review high performers who have been in their roles for a while and suggests how you can support them to grow. It's become part of our annual systems to evaluate raises and a way to make sure that our people are getting promotions.

Importantly, its suggestions don’t automatically go into effect. Some folks fear technology will override human beings, but the human should still be the final decision-maker.

What do you think employers can do to better support employees and marginalized groups in a way that's authentic, meaningful and not performative?

I think a lot about skills adjacency and internal mobility. Many employers are focusing on proactively sourcing within their own employee base. That can help provide marginalized folks with an opportunity they may not have considered and can ensure they're part of the internal career cycle.

Leaders should look at how they’re discussing jobs. That means not only reviewing job descriptions for bias but checking for jargon. If you're looking to attract folks who typically haven't had the opportunity to be in these types of roles, make sure the verbiage is understandable.

If you're looking to attract folks who typically haven't had the opportunity to be in these types of roles, make sure the verbiage is understandable.

It’s also important that employers look at where they post jobs. If they are always fishing in the same pond, they’ll get the same fish. Programmatic advertising is great for helping diversify candidate sources.

These changes can feel overwhelming, and if you attempt to address them all at once, you may feel defeated. Instead, divide the workload by job categories or high-volume roles and focus on one segment at a time. The sooner you get started, the more you will understand and value what the market brings and how you can better engage external populations and internal employees.

What do you see as the single biggest change in the workforce in the next 10 years?

Figuring out remote or hybrid work. All the data I’ve read indicate that the number of posted requisitions that say “work from home” have declined. Hybrid roles are settling down, and there's an uptick in on-site work.

These can be life-changing work decisions for employees. Imagine you live in London where taking the tube between work and home costs 200 pounds a month. When you were working from home, you didn't have that expense. Consider, what in your life do you give up to afford that each month?

That's just the transportation, which doesn't even factor in other elements like time commitment. In the past three years, many leaders have realized it’s possible to be productive at home and enjoy greater flexibility and balance.

Ultimately, employers need to consider both the benefits of working remotely, like individual productivity, and the benefits of in-person work, like more innovation, creativity, career development opportunities and more.

What achievement in the past year are you most proud of, and why?

I’m most proud of my dedication to learning about technology’s capabilities. As a leader, I must change with the times — whether through IBM training sessions, talking with other talent leaders I've met through Leadership Connect or participating in a seminar.

Every day I receive some new, exciting technology that will supposedly cure the ails of talent acquisition. But I have to say, “How does this really work?” Then, I ask how we enable those enhancements within my client’s existing tech ecosystem without adding additional costs and infrastructure. That’s why I value continually learning about and integrating tech into talent acquisition.

How has the Leadership Connect program helped you in your role?

I have a whole new circle of colleagues and friends with the willingness and desire to help each other succeed, professionally and personally. I know if I show up by myself to an industry event, I won’t be alone because of Leadership Connect. That is remarkable because it can take years to make those kinds of connections. But, in just a short period of time, this group has been able to do that and so much more.

Now, if I’m noticing trends or come across a challenge, I have a network of people with similar experiences that I can reach out to. All of those connections started in one place with Leadership Connect.

What is an inspirational book, podcast or movie you'd like to share with your peers, and why?

I like the podcast by the journalist Poppy Harlow called The Boss Files. She interviews leaders from all walks of life who have somehow become a boss of a company or of their own world. I love it because it’s thought-provoking and gives a point of view that isn't necessarily the one I arrived with.

She tells stories about giving back and what inspires her, and I take those little nuggets of inspiration. I hope people listen and get nuggets of inspiration, too.

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Check out previous Leadership Connect member profiles of John Dudley, Christine Geissler and Erik Kershner