In our quest to provide insight into all areas of the staffing and recruiting industry, we’re sitting down and talking with staffing suppliers. We interviewed Vinda Souza, Bullhorn’s VP of Marketing Communications. She shared her excitement about Bullhorn Engage in Boston next month, improving the candidate experience, and about tapping technology to empower people.

What can we expect at Engage this year?

The theme of Engage this year is the power of people. All of the sessions at the conference focus and hinge on that concept. Explaining, showcasing, illustrating the power of people.

There’s no industry in the entire world that is as predicated on maximizing human potential as the staffing and recruiting industry.

Think about the importance of having a job, of being able to provide for your family, to put food on your table, to have a sense of purpose and dignity. Our customers are changing the world in a very positive way, and we want to use Engage Boston as the vehicle to showcase that.

Who will we hear from at Engage?

We have 84 industry speakers, and they’re just a “who’s who” of greatness — both in terms of leaders who are just legendary in this industry and some outside-of-the-industry thinkers as well.

Our primary keynote is Captain Sully Sullenberger, who was the proponent of the miracle on the Hudson.

If you think about the power of people, nothing says it better than Captain Sullenberger.

If he had just relied on autopilot or let the machine do all the work, I don’t think any of those passengers would have made it. Because he leveraged his human instinct and split-second decision making, he saved hundreds of lives. That’s the power of people.

We also have an opening keynote address from Paul Allen, who is the founder of Gallup, the polling company, and He also is the author of the StrenghthsFinder series of leadership books. Paul is very much about understanding what humans can do better than machines.

The whole conference is going to be around understanding what makes things human. What makes things interpersonal. What creates connections. What creates engagement. Joyce Russell, who’s the president of Adecco North America, a subsidiary of the largest staffing company in the world, is going to deliver another keynote address.

Russell is a brilliant woman leader, and her story illustrates how crucial it is that we emphasize diversity of background and of thought, not just in this industry but across the board.

How does the theme of “the power of the people” relate to the current discussion in the industry about artificial intelligence?

As technologists, we’re fascinated by things like artificial intelligence and automation. If automation is the beginning, where we’re at now, artificial intelligence is the future.

So, now, you have these decision-tree chatbots that can screen candidates and answer basic questions. As a result, candidates get a quick response, they feel immediately recognized. It solves real problems around resource allocation and human capacity.

A lot of the conversations about AI in recruiting have been clouded by these sci-fi concepts of robots taking over the role of humans. That’s not a thing. That’s not going to happen.

You wouldn’t buy a car sight unseen from a robot. You would have to engage with somebody, right? The same is true in recruiting. There’s a layer of trust that’s necessary.

Recruiting isn’t a transactional process. It’s predicated on engagement and two-way dialogue, so it can never be fully automated.

There’s a limit to what sort trust we can establish with automation. A few years ago, we were really excited about how AI would impact the future of staffing. Now, we’re seeing a backlash against technology, which is why this theme of the power of people is so resonant.

How do you think technological differences are going to impact the candidate experience?

At Bullhorn, we’ve done a lot of research on the candidate experience. The candidate experience has always been a bit of an afterthought in recruiting, which is surprising.

Being a candidate, I can tell you that the process of searching for a job is very, very rarely a pleasant one.

No matter how qualified or “hot” you are, it’s unpleasant because there is a power imbalance between the candidate and the employer, always. Even at the executive level, it’s noticeable.

And if you don’t have a job, then you’re absolutely powerless. You have no bargaining power.

We’re searching for ways to balance things out. For example, the bans on asking for salary history is trying to correct a power imbalance. And to correct a gender disparity that has traditionally penalized women because they’re the ones who are likely to start off at a lower starting salary and so low salary can hinder them for the rest of their careers.

And, automating candidate screening could be one as simple as eliminating implicit bias. And if you can eliminate bias, you can create a better candidate experience.

If you eliminate biased questions, the machine can’t hint around or find other ways to get that info. You simply don’t have that data to factor into your decision. When it does get back into the purview of a human being, they don’t have the salary history information or even gender to play into whether or not they decide to interview somebody.

Technology has the power to help humans be more human.

There’s potential for technology to act as our ethical wingman in preventing some of the unconscious decisions that hinder rather than help the total workforce.

What do you hope that attendees will get out of Engage this year?

I’d like to ensure that they leave with a greater appreciation for what they can achieve. I’d like them to leave with a strategic plan for how to grow and scale within the next five to ten years and an understanding of what’s on the horizon.

Looking for more staffing and recruiting interviews? Click here to read our entire staffing supplier interview series.