Cern to track job applicants ‘at the speed of light’

The nuclear research laboratory in Geneva, famous for tracking sub-atomic particles, is developing a cloud service to track the thousands of people who apply for jobs each year

Cern, the home of the Large Hadron Collider, is turning to cloud technology to help it manage thousands of applicants who apply for jobs each year.

The research lab, famous for discovering the Higgs Boson, plans to replace its 13-year-old applicant tracking system with a tool that is capable of managing the recruitment process from start to finish.

The project will reduce the time taken to send out job offers to candidates by up to two weeks, freeing up recruiters from administrative paper work.

It follows a ten-fold increase in the number of candidates applying for positions at Cern, after the nuclear research organisation began posting jobs on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Cern’s applicant tracking system (ATS), due to be rolled out next year, will eliminate between 5 and 10 processes from the recruitment cycle, and reduce the need for manual CV screening, said Anne Capodici, talent acquisition section leader at Cern.

“We still rely a lot on Excel spreadsheets and manual checks. Although the current tool allows automation, there are plenty of things that our team members in the recruitment unit have to check manually in the system,” she said in an interview with Computer Weekly. “We will be tracking applicants at the speed of light.”

Large Hiring Challenge

Although known for its research into the physics of fundamental particles, Cern employs far more technicians, accountants, lawyers and fire-fighters than it does scientists.

The laboratory has always had difficulty finding candidates to fill all its vacancies, which is a problem known internally as the Large Hiring Challenge.

The replacement recruitment system, supplied by SmartRecruiters, will reduce the time taken by candidates to fill in a job application.

It allows applicants to submit their personal details from Linkedin, or apply for a job from their mobile phone.

Candidates will also be able to use the service to record video interviews in response to pre-set questions, which can be reviewed by interview panellists without having to meet together as a group.

Portals to a different career

Cern expects to save money by using SmartRecruiters to track which job advertising portals are most successful at recruiting candidates.

“As an international organisation, we have to be careful about the money we spend. If we spend some money on a job portal, we have to make sure there is a strong return on investment,” said Capodici.

The research laboratory began looking for technology to replace its iCims applicant tracking system in Summer 2015 by visiting conferences and conducting its own research.

Capodici – speaking during an interview at the HR Tech World Congress in Paris – and her team came up with a list of around 10 potential technologies. Under Cern’s rules, it has to place contracts with suppliers based in the 22 member states that support the nuclear laboratory, ruling out providers in the US.

Cern plans to use the technology to create and manage a career website for internal and external applicants looking to make a career move. The system will also allow Cern to manage employee referrals, without having to buy additional software, said Capodici.

Answers in the data

SmartRecruiters will allow Cern’s human resources (HR) team to generate its own hiring reports, without relying on people in other parts of the organisation to analyse data for them.

“One of the priorities for me is to keep an eye on diversity because we must ensure we hire people from across our member states, so we need to keep an eye on that,” said Capodici.

She said she sees the project as an opportunity to upskill her HR team. The ATS will mean that staff will need to spend less time managing logistics and screening CVs. This will free them up to speak to candidates in person, and approach people directly who may be a good fit for a vacancy.

“There are many ways of tagging candidates and building talent pools, that we don’t currently have,” said Capodici. “So the idea is we don’t miss out on opportunities to phone a candidate that was seen in another interview process that might be interested in the job.”

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