- Nick Martindale
For many years the lives of recruiters have been made easier by the use of technology, whether that’s databases, CV filtering software or online applications.
But the rise of algorithms or machine learning, and even the use of artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to take things further, moving technology into areas where recruiters have traditionally sought to add value and differentiate themselves.
“If you were to sum up what machine learning is amazing at, it’s the ability to spot patterns in vast amounts of data and be able to make predictions based on those patterns,” says Jeremy Hindle, Co-founder and CTO at Headstart App, which uses AI to help match graduates with potential employers. “There aren’t many bigger sets of data to analyse than ‘what or who a person is’ so it’s an ideal fit for machine learning.”
This kind of technology is already available today. In Touch Networks, for instance, uses data it has built up from potential candidates to help provide a match with the requirements a client is seeking. “In the simplest form, this means that a business tells us the exact opportunity they have or problem they are looking to overcome and our platform, via a set of complex algorithms, can identify individuals who are best placed through their skills and experiences to help,” says CEO Matthew Roberts. “Too often recruiters waste time and money frantically trying to fill positions while drowning in CVs, but it starts with a very simple question for a business: what are you looking to achieve?”
Chris Butt, Founder and CEO of Cognisess, claims systems can even be made to predict the decisions a client would have made anyway. “AI and big data can also benchmark candidates to past and future capabilities and industry standards,” he says. “This evidence-based approach is something that increasingly HR directors are demanding of their recruitment processes.”
There are other potential applications within the recruitment process where AI could potentially be used. David Falzani, Co-founder of Ipsemet, says online games can help recruiters or employers assess how potential candidates might react to certain situations. “In games, characters using the latest AI can be directed to help a candidate express their strengths and, potentially, their weaknesses,” he says. “In this way, they can simulate many of the attributes of a traditional assessment centre, offering an objective arena to ‘put them through their paces’ but at a fraction of the cost.”
But the increasing use of AI and algorithms could be something of a double-edged sword for recruiters. Automating the more time-consuming and laborious parts of the recruitment process in a step-by-step approach can save recruiters a great deal of time and money, says Jay Staniforth, Marketing Director at Vacancy Filler Recruitment Software. “For example, online recruitment systems can ‘parse’ CVs for key words, suggest interview questions and generate a tailored job offer message to the candidate for acceptance or rejection online.”
Losing the lowest-value 20% of tasks that have traditionally been handled by recruiters should free them up to focus on other, higher-value activities, suggests Vinda Souza, Vice President, marketing communications, at Bullhorn. “Technology won’t eliminate the need for recruiters; if anything, it will give the best recruiters a promotion,” she says. “It will stop them from wasting time on basic tasks, and it will enable them to focus on building trust and value in their relationships. Instead of spending their early years in the industry stuck performing laborious and admin-heavy tasks, junior recruiters now have more time to learn key skills and quickly become effective in performing more strategic activities.”
In time, this could fundamentally shift the nature of the role, believes John Hazelton, UK Country Manager at talent.io, which uses a number of tools including Slack, Mail Chimp, Trello, Boomerang, Buffer and Appear.in to help improve the efficiency of its team of recruiters. “Some recruiters are told to add 10 people to the database per day, make X number of calls and manually go through CVs,” he says. “Recruiters should think of more non-scalable methods of attraction or engagement. Let’s allow them to go to events and interact with the community. What social media strategy do they have and how do they manage this?”
Yet there are also concerns. Claire Leigh, Managing Director of Brampton Recruitment, warns of the dangers of relying on technology to make decisions, and their inability to see the full picture. “Despite the benefits of automated systems, applicants with specific needs can, and I suspect will, be missed,” she says. “Computers may be able to see that somebody has the required five years’ experience but this will result in applicants who do not have the qualifications and are looking for a career change being automatically rejected.”
But Ali Hackett, CEO of Meet and Engage, believes that as technology improves it will start to encroach on new territory, raising questions around what role agencies will play in future. “AI technology is becoming better at ‘appearing’ human, so it may be possible to create an automated process with the appearance of a personal one,” she says. “Right now, this tends to give a ‘skin deep’ appearance of human behaviour to an automated process, adding polite small talk to a conversation bot, for instance, but doesn’t build trust between parties the same way a human conversation does.”
There’s also the potential for recruitment agencies to be gradually cut out of the process if the use of technology means it’s more feasible for in-house recruiters to carry out tasks themselves or in conjunction with technology firms, believes Raoul Tawadey, Co-founder of Snap.hr. “There are a number of parts of the recruitment process that are overly time-consuming and these include qualifying candidates, finding the right matches, and scheduling the interviews,” he says. His business sees itself working closely with in-house recruiters, he adds, taking on the role that agencies have traditionally played.
Hindle, though, believes recruiters will still be required to help shape algorithms, at least for the moment. “To be most effective a recruiter would be directing the algorithms so that they can perform optimally for what the business needs,” he says. “Until AI is completely able to discern what task to perform on arbitrary information, there will always be a requirement for a human role.”
At the very least, recruiters need to adapt to the development of new technology and use it to their advantage if they are to remain relevant in the longer term. “Most of their bread-and-butter work will evaporate and be performed more expertly and at a fraction of the cost without the subjective bias,” contends Butt. “That is happening now, with business able to deploy self-serve tools and platforms that cut out the need for recruiters. Recruiters need to get tech-savvy – or partner with companies and providers who are – or risk becoming obsolete.”