Siemens Mobility exec says AI is reshaping hiring, but leaves room for human touch

Allison Whitesell, Siemens Mobility North America’s head of talent acquisition, sat down with Tech Brew ahead of her appearance at our June 26 event in New York.
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Allison Whitesell

5 min read

AI hype train, meet an actual train maker.

Tech Brew recently caught up with Allison Whitesell, head of talent acquisition at Siemens Mobility North America, about the ways that the division of the multinational conglomerate is integrating AI into its workplaces and talent searches.

Whitesell, who will participate in Tech Brew’s June 26 event, Onboarding Your Favorite New Coworker: AI, has a background in finance but found herself working in recruitment during the Great Recession. She’s now been with Siemens for 13 years and last year she took on the talent-acquisition role, where she oversees numerous recruiters. Right now, her team is focused on staffing a new manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the ways that Siemens Mobility is integrating AI into its recruitment and hiring processes?

We do have several different pieces of AI that we incorporate into our entire recruiting process, starting with the job description.

We use some AI tools…to help craft the job description, especially if we’re working with a new hiring manager or they’re hiring for a brand-new position that we’ve not worked with before. So we get on a Teams call with that manager and we ask them questions about the skills that are needed for the role, and the [tool] will build that job description.

And then we also run it through Grammarly and Textio, and those tools will help to select the right verbiage, make sure that we are inflecting the right tone in order to attract as many applicants as possible. And then, once the role is posted, we utilize another tool called Eightfold, which is bolted onto our applicant tracking system, and it will assess the job description and the candidate’s resume and assign a match score. It ranges from zero to five. And while we don’t completely rely on that match score, it’s just one of the tools in the toolbox that we use to review the candidate and their relation to the job description.

We also use [Microsoft] Copilot, as far as making sure that we’re attracting the right candidates in our system.

How are you thinking about implementing this in a responsible, thoughtful way while moving quickly so you’re not behind?

We recently attended a conference for the Great Place to Work certification, and one of the speakers there advised everyone in attendance that you should be spending at least 30 minutes a day just playing around with AI tools so you don’t get behind. While I think it is important to stay on top of technology, there are also sometimes results that you need to validate. During one of our other trainings that we do, there was an example where an attorney [looked up] some cases on an AI tool…in order to use in the courtroom, and all of those cases were fraudulently generated…So it’s important to validate those results in order to communicate correct information. But again, it’s just another tool in the toolbox that we have the ability to use.

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What are some of the skills shortages that you’re encountering, and do you see AI playing a role in helping to close some of those gaps?

I do, and I will reference our project in Lexington, North Carolina. Doing some studies with regard to the current workforce in that location, their primary industries are tobacco, textiles, and furniture. In Mobility, we make trains. So there is a definite skills gap there, in order to reskill and upskill their current workforce.

So we will be using some automation tools and working with a local community college in that area to help craft and mold their curriculum so that those workers can upskill themselves based upon what our needs are. So it’s more of an aptitude and willingness to learn, and we do have the tools to teach them—it’s just contingent upon the human effort as well. There’s AI, yes, but we also need the human component.

Is the ability to leverage some of these tools something you’re looking for in your talent searches?

It’s definitely part of the conversation. We want to look at the candidate as a whole and not just any one particular skill, but the skills that they do bring to the table, plus what else we can impart upon them and their willingness to learn and fill in that gap. So we are definitely willing to invest in our workforce, our current workforce plus our future workforce.

There’s so much hype around this technology right now. How monumental of a shift is this in terms of how you and your employees do your jobs?

It’s definitely a shift—and one that we are kind of anticipating and excited about because there are some administrative aspects to the recruiter’s day-to-day position. And if it’s something that could automate some tasks and free up time to identify those unicorns or purple squirrels out in the workforce, then all the better. Because there’s a lot of reporting we do…and if it becomes more automated, I welcome it.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.