Combating the Negative Effects of Multitasking

Posted March 14th, 2018


Multitasking has always been a necessity in the recruiting industry—the field is, after all, a juggling act. When I started my career as a recruiter, multitasking was actually considered a desired skill, rather than a chore.

In those early days, recruiting looked a little different. The bulk of today’s automated recruiting efforts were entirely manual. I remember crafting flyers to post on job boards, tediously keying in every last application detail, even using a paper cutter and tape to rebrand a resume to my company’s letterhead. We’ve come a long way since these antiquated days of manual tasks, but as technology advances, expectations and measures of success have become even more extreme.

Today, recruiters are forced to multitask more so than ever before. In part, this is a natural result of how much information is so readily available across the board. Even my kids are walking examples of how easy it is to become overloaded. On any given afternoon, my daughter will have homework in front of her, 10 to 15 tabs open on her laptop for research and multiple text conversations going on with peers about the assignment. As a generation, we generally think of more information as better, but in an industry where speed is king, there may very well be a breaking point where processing so much information starts to slow us down.

What The Research Shows

Much research points to multitasking as having negative effects on our brain. Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association,

suggest that multitasking undermines our efficiencies across all levels of difficulty or familiarity with the tasks. In fact, the study found that shifting from one cognitive task to another can actually take several tenths of a second. While this hardly points to an immediate place for improvement in your recruitment processes, it’s food for thought: how much can these mental transitions build up to over the course of a day, a week, or even a month?

Recent research at MIT’s Miller Lab indicates that our brains suffer the consequences of being thrown multiple tasks on a continuous basis.

As we navigate work, family social media, and the countless other obligations of our busy lives, we often convince ourselves that the instant gratification of completing a simple task equates to productivity, but Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well.”

“When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so,” Miller says.

Cognitive load refers to the total amount of information our working memories can handle. When our working memory receives more information than it can handle comfortably, cognitive overload occurs, leading to frustration and compromised decision-making.

While research suggests that the solution to cognitive overload is to become more regimented and organized, organization alone cannot stop the rate of information.

A Juggling Act

In order for recruiters to be successful, they need to be able to perform a balancing, juggling act. From sifting through lists of potential candidates to pushing through required screening, credentialing or reference checks, recruiters have their hands full.

Meanwhile, firms want to ensure resources are being maximized and as headcount decreases, the roles and responsibilities of existing recruiters grow. Work that was once done by two or three individuals now falls on the shoulders of one. Cognitive overload is a day to day reality.

Just like the APA research indicates, with all of the balancing and juggling, tasks like following-up with candidates or properly formatting resumes are liable to be rushed or entirely overlooked. Feelings of anxiety and ineffectiveness are often a consequence that can further cripple performance; A vicious cycle that lends itself to more disorganization and ineffectiveness.

Restoring control in the recruitment industry

In order to improve and restore maximum productivity for recruiters with minimum wasted effort and expense, reducing multitasking is a must. And the best way to reduce it is cutting out certain tasks entirely. This is where Recruitment Process Automation (RPA) comes into play. Much in the same way calculators made crunching numbers considerably faster and more accurate, RPA makes the job of a recruiter faster and more accurate by automating tasks such as matching keywords and looking for signals in large amounts of data.

My team and I meet weekly with small start-ups, mid-market and enterprise Staffing/Recruiting Firms to investigate how technology can help them increase profits and save time. No matter the firm, there is always a manual task the client considers a  waste of time.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Big Data, Semantic Search, and Artificial Intelligence are buzzwords that have emerged and attracted a lot of attention over the last two years. Yet, precious few have found the right formula to make a dent in the cognitive overload their recruiters face.

Benefits of enhancing your CRM

With so many cutting-edge technologies on the market, how has this formula not yet emerged? Our observations of staffing firms of every kind tell us that there simply is no one single formula. Firms have to dig into their own performance, ask recruiters which tasks they find most frustrating, or shadow the team to see at which stage in their workflow the most time seems to be wasted.

Just like not every person downloads the same apps on their mobile phone to stay organized, not every firm can use the exact same technologies to cut out manual tasks. Technology companies, such as Bullhorn, allow customization which suits the specific requirements of desires of any given team. RPA experts like DaXtra Technologies can help you pinpoint areas of waste and implement tools like DaXtra Search, Capture or Magnet to improve productivity, drive efficiencies and enhance your data.

Ultimately, Recruitment Process Automation tools are all designed to provide recruiters with more time and focus so they can get the job done with much better accuracy and efficiency.

This article first appeared in the Bullhorn Blog, March 9th, 2018

Tags: DaXtra Blog, Multitasking, recruitment, Recruitment technology, automation