AI: What it could mean for recruiters

28 Jan 2021 by Neil Rose

True artificial intelligence (AI) whereby an algorithm makes intelligent decisions is in its infancy in many industries, but the potential for the recruitment industry is massive. Most recruiters are already comfortable with robotic process automation (RPA) where a system sends automated emails to candidates for example, and AI will essentially be an extension of this.

AI: What it could mean for recruiters

Here, we take a look at some of the ways AI can help recruiters today and innovations we might see in the near future – along with some of the pitfalls and why it pays to tread carefully when implementing AI solutions.

Finding the best candidates

With almost 1 million Australians displaced by COVID-19 and an estimated 3.3 million considering a career change as we enter recovery, recruiters are going to be busy.

The screening process can be time-consuming and it’s an area where human error, fatigue and unconscious bias can have a substantial impact.  Reviewing a large pile of resumes can be exhausting and after even a handful, it’s difficult to give each on the attention that it deserves.  It’s also easy to get caught up looking for specific experience and discarding those that don’t match. In doing so, we might have thrown out the perfect candidate and changed the course of someone’s entire career.

AI can play a significant role – reviewing thousands of resumes in just a few minutes. It can be trained to make intelligent decisions and look for everything from industry experience to soft skills and may just find people who might have been declined in a human process.

AI can even take your screening a step further – calling a large candidate pool to ask intelligent questions, changing the pattern based on the candidate’s responses. The technology can review answers for not just the content and quality of the response, but tone of voice, engagement, and level of English or other languages required for the role. 

Ensuring a two-way fit

In recruitment, we often focus on how a candidate would fit a client’s culture and environment but what about how the client fits the candidate’s values, ethics and beliefs?  We already know that Millennials are driven to work for socially-responsible organisations and are making career decisions based on different criteria than those who went before.

I was reading recently about a woman who used AI to screen potential employers, checking for an ethical fit before making a career move.  It’s an interesting development, and perhaps one our clients are not quite ready for, but it is something to keep an eye on.

Measuring career engagement

Some organisations are already using AI to measure employee engagement and identify those at risk of leaving, so that the company can intervene and retain top talent. While this might sound like a role for internal HR teams rather than recruiters – imagine the potential for recruiters to track candidates’ careers.

It would mean recruiters could intervene helping the client and the candidate maintain a happy, ongoing relationship, or even act as a flag for the recruiter to get back in touch with the candidate because it’s time to find the next role.

By tracking a candidate’s career, the recruiter could essentially play the role of “agent”, managing a candidate’s end-to-end career and finding them the next role as soon as they are ready – even if they don’t realise it yet.

A word of caution

While AI can be a fantastic tool for recruiters to improve the candidate and client experience, it is an area where it pays to tread carefully. Only one in three Australians are willing to trust the technology, despite the significant uptake of household AI devices, like Alexa and Google Nest, so you can run the risk of alienating candidates rather than attracting them.

It’s important to think about the impact on your candidates and whether the tech is actually helping them before implementing.  At Referoo, for example, we declined technology that trawled LinkedIn to find referees the candidate hadn’t put forward.  While we recognised that this could lead to more honest references, there are many reasons why a candidate won’t put a manager forward, and some of these are very good reasons, such as bullying or sexual harassment.

It’s also important to remember that AI learns from your existing data set. If your data is incomplete or you don’t have enough, it will simply learn to make poor decisions.  In the learning process, it can also further existing biases – a case we saw with Amazon.  When it implemented AI screening, the retail giant saw an increase in male hires because the machine learnt to repeat existing patterns of behaviour and biases.

Recruiters will still add value where it matters most

Some people might be thinking this could replace the recruiter’s role, but I don’t think so.  What I think it will do is give recruiters time to focus on the most important areas. AI is yet to prove it’s worth in determining interpersonal and cultural fit, but this is something good recruiters excel at. I think the technology, used right, will simply give us more time to focus on this all-important indicator and create more successful, long-term client and candidate relationships.