September 8, 2022

Here’s How Activision Is Upping Its Hiring Game With AI

Over the past two years, recruiters have been stuck in the eye of a talent storm. Not only have they had to grapple with the Great Reshuffling, but many organizations are now in limbo, unsure if a recession is looming. So organizations are flip-flopping between hiring free-for-alls and freezes. On top of that, digital transformation has been silently reshaping the talent landscape. Skills that were nonnegotiable a decade ago are non-existent today.

Unfortunately for talent acquisition teams, this waxing and waning of hiring, the constant skills changes, and a new approach to hiring have led to reactivity and widespread burnout. Thankfully, talent intelligence is helping recruiters become more proactive across all their TA efforts.

I recently spoke with Activision’s Director of Talent Sourcing, Justin Ghio, about how his team uses Eightfold AI to streamline and fast-track their hiring and become true enablers of their business. Here are some highlights from our conversation. (Ed note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.)

Fast-tracking and Improving Your Talent Acquisition Game

Conor Volpe: What was it like switching from many different HR systems to one in-house system?

Justin Ghio: Currently, we have about 150 users all in Eightfold AI in one ecosystem. Previously, we had three separate CRMs, three separate ATSs, and now we’re all in two shared systems between Eightfold and Workday Recruit.

It’s really consolidated our efforts, and it’s given us an unbelievable amount of visual throughput from candidates. We can see their previous experience with our organization and their future potential within our organization. For example, we’ve had candidates who’ve applied two, three years ago. Now we have that data readily visible, so we can then go drive an engagement strategy around people who had applied at one point in time.


C.V.: What are some actions your team has taken to become more proactive?

J.G.: Now that our Eightfold database has almost a million candidates in it, we actually are in this unique situation where we can start being proactive before roles have ever opened or before they’re even live on our sites.

We’ll have intake meetings with hiring managers, and we’ll look at our current database and serve up almost instantaneously potential candidates and using skills and skill adjacencies to show how the market elasticizes based on specifics that we’re looking for in candidates.

If you have one skill that’s required, you can see how that impacts your potential to hire for that role. All too many times, we’ve had experiences where hiring managers may or may not need something specifically, but you don’t find that out until you’ve had candidates interview or get very close to the end of the process. This allows us to get ahead of that and have that stuff figured out in that initial intake call.

C.V.: What other benefits have you noticed?

J.G.: Again the biggest upside has been the ability for us to get the right candidate pool in the very beginning because it creates a much more collaborative experience for hiring managers. 

We had a great example of a graphics engineer who worked at Invisalign. You would never think that somebody who works at a retainer company would be able to have translatable skills to a video game company. But when we’re looking at things objectively in a skills-based scenario, you see that this individual’s doing real-time rendering as a dentist scans the inside of your mouth. Someone has to do that work. That’s all happening live. 

At a very objective, high level, that is exactly what we do in our graphics-engineering roles. They’re constructing pictures in real time based on information from a computer. So in a perfect world, these things are actually adjacent, and that was a candidate that we’ve placed and now works at our organization. 

So it’s those unique abilities for us to say, “Would you look at someone like this? They’re pretty high up on this list, and they have all the skills you’re looking for. Does that implicit experience really matter, or is that just the nice-to-have?” And we see a lot of that. We see that that implicit experience is really just a nice-to-have, whereas historically, it’s always been a must-have in our industry. 

We’re getting to a place where we can really evolve our talent pool and begin to pull in candidates from other industries as they lean toward the technology that we tend to use.

C.V.: How do you balance hiring for in-demand roles versus roles facing a tight talent pool?

J.G.: We’re in a situation where we get about a quarter million applicants a year, which is an insane amount. But we’re also in a situation where for some roles we never have an applicant for an entire lifecycle. Except for somebody who was sourced or referred, they will never have an inbound applicant. 

We have to balance both within our ecosystem. That’s where skill adjacencies help because it helps us in the roles where we’re getting 10,000 applicants. It helps us filter down very quickly the ones who are really well qualified. 

And for the roles that aren’t, it gives us a good starting block to run our searches and continue to find talent. For certain markets, there’s maybe only 500 people in North America who may do that job in our industry. So we really have to leverage that data to start looking elsewhere. 

It’s been a bit of a culture change and a little bit of a shift, but it’s something that we have many hiring managers and teams that have a very wide appetite for it because they understand that this is a finite industry.

C.V.: How do you approach hiring managers with candidates who have adjacent skills but not direct experience?

J.G.: It really comes down to making sure we’re painting a clear picture using the data we have in front of us. Time-to-fill is every hiring manager’s arch nemesis, especially in our business of shipping games. We ship a game a year, sometimes multiple in a year. Those are on strict calendars. There’s large marketing budgets associated with them. So time-to-fill is paramount for us.

It’s all about us bringing that data to the table so that we can show them. We can train for that in their first 30 to 60 days — are we able to get that candidate scaled up because they have the skills elsewhere?

Sometimes they’ll say no because the game has to come out at a certain time. And that 30-day ramp is 30 days too many. And that’s the business we work in. Sometimes they’re pre-production. They’re really interested in growing the team, and so they’re super willing to take those chances and say, “You know what? We have a great senior member of the team, a great lead on this team. Let them fill that gap, let them create that bridge between that candidate skill gap.” And I think that’s what we’re seeing as we continue to push this forward. 

C.V.: You mentioned how sourcing previous candidates has helped your team become more agile. Can you expand on that?

J.G.: It’s been one of our largest areas where we’ve noticed a huge uptick in the Eightfold side of the implementation. They’re about 41 percent of our 2021 hires — rediscovery hires. Essentially those are previous applicants, people who have been ingested into our ecosystem, but weren’t originally hired to the role that they came in on. 🐦 Click to Tweet

For us, that’s a really great sign that this is a positive endeavor for us. Our businesses are different, right? We have Activision, Blizzard, and King, and within those businesses, there’s multiple teams. And so, you know, they’re all within different shipping parts of their life cycle. They all have different tolerances for certain skills and certain weights on those skills within the organization. There’s many times where a candidate may apply to a role for one team at Blizzard, but they’re actually a better fit for a different team. They just may have not seen that role, or that role wasn’t posted when they originally applied. 

We can unify those and make sure that those are easily searchable in a system like Eightfold. Dispositions, application, date, last contacted date — you can create a good combination of a search just based off of that and instantly populate your pool with people who have already expressed interest in your brand. 

As I mentioned, we get tons of applicants every year, but for us it’s really not an identification problem. It’s an engagement problem in terms of bringing people through the top of the funnel. So we always look for these novel ways to leverage our existing data to go after candidates that have already been engaged with our brand in one way or another. 

For the full conversation between Eightfold AI and Activision, watch the webinar How to Future-Proof Hiring with Talent Intelligence.