What AI really means for recruiters

The media is full of stories of how artificial intelligence (AI) will make many jobs redundant in our lifetimes. So, should recruiters fear the rise of the machines? Or can humans and machines work together to make a more successful industry?

What AI is good at

“We don’t think that AI can replace the recruitment industry,” says Andrew Brushfield, director for Victoria and Western Australia for Robert Half. “But companies are always looking for innovative technology that can speed up the process.”

The most common use of AI in recruitment today is where companies try to match the skills that they’re looking for with skills on CVs.

“If ‘accounts payable’ is on a resume, and ‘accounts payable’ is in the job requirement, then AI will fast track a candidate to the shortlist,” says Brushfield. “Five years ago, a consultant would have had to read every resume.”

Without some filtering technology, recruiters and companies would be drowning in applications. “One of the downsides of technology is that it allows applicants to apply for many jobs with a click of a button, without much thought towards their suitability or competitiveness,” says David Wilson, director and principal consultant at Davidson.

Beyond the actual recruitment process, AI can provide powerful tools to identify passive candidates. “Recruitment starts with sourcing,” says Troy Hammond, founder of Talent Army.  “There are platforms that involve AI and machine learning which can identify candidates who have been in a job for a while, and who might want to move on.”

Rise of the bots

Bots, also known as web robots, are applications that can perform automated tasks. AI bots on company career pages or on recruitment websites, for example, are very helpful in assisting candidates who just want to ask questions about jobs on offer. These bots provide candidates with an instant response, which can save recruiters a considerable amount of time. “I could spend all day just answering these kind of questions,” notes Hammond.

Importantly, with around 85 per cent of all applications not relevant to the job in question, these kinds of bots can help candidates opt out before even applying.

Bots can also encourage candidates to apply for jobs, even if they think they’re underqualified.  They can also direct candidates to alternative opportunities, or encourage them to send in their CVs for future opportunities.

“You’re capturing candidates that you can talent pool for the future,” says Hammond.

The human touch

“Recruiters and clients want the comfort of meeting a candidate in person,” says Brushfield.

“People like the insights into soft skills that people provide.  We want to see how people hold themselves, and interact with other individuals, and that’s never going to change. Cultural fit is vital, and AI can’t judge empathy, sense of humour, temperament, energy, enthusiasm, or creativity.”

“Machines won’t pick up on personal interests, side projects, or personal fit, and all these things are important for recruitment,” says Hammond. “Also, machines might not see things like the fact that a candidate has been promoted three times in the last year.”

While AI can assist in taking on various administrative tasks, Hammond warns that recruiters should be wary of relying solely on automatic processes, such as automatic reference checks.

“I don’t like (automatic reference checks). The questions are too ‘yes’ or ‘no’, where what you really want is the possibility to ask additional questions.”

The future

For Wilson, the future for AI in recruitment will focus on the client experience. “How do we work with clients to help them understand the needs of their organisation and the needs of the role?” he asks. “What does success look like? Most organisations could be better at this.”

Wilson’s company sees opportunities for the evolution of technology to more efficiently define what success looks like in a role, and how it is assessed and measured, to maximise the recruitment spend and mitigate hiring risks.

Automation can also benefit recruiters by reducing administrative tasks such as application screening. The bulk screening of applications, especially for low-skilled jobs is very time consuming. Machines, by contrast, can shortlist in an hour, instead of weeks.

“This kind of recruitment could be largely taken over by machines,” says Hammond.

Keeping it simple

Wilson believes that as AI and technology develop, it will allow recruiters to heighten the candidate-client experience, and simplify the process.

“Our role as recruiters will become more critical and evolve into being a coach, mentor, or advisor – more like the Jerry Maguire character in the movie,” he says. 

“How do we help an applicant craft their story? The art of what we do will be more advisory, as this is where relationships are built.”

“In an industry where 99 per cent of the time we are saying ‘no’, we should offer more to that 99 per cent, making it more of a learning and development experience.  This can only benefit the industry.”