You can imagine a scene along these lines in some near-future sci-fi drama – a character goes for a job interview and, instead of being quizzed by a panel of HR personnel, they get grilled by a super-intelligent robot.
Or perhaps, instead of an interview, some kind of brain scanning technology is used to carry out an instantaneous psychometric test to determine the suitability of the candidate for the role based on a casual data download of their memories, experiences, knowledge, cognitive abilities and social aptitude.
It makes for great science fiction. But just how far away are we from seeing examples like this becoming reality?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is starting to have a transformational impact on how businesses right across industry verticals operate, and its influence is already being felt in HR.
AI technologies like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing are being used by companies to sharpen up candidate identification, ease the burden of selection processes and improve onboarding and talent retention strategies. In short, AI is making it easier for firms to identify, select and keep the right people.
But does that mean we can look forward to a future where recruitment is just another automated process run by machines? We’re not so sure.
What AI Can Do
Let’s start off by looking at what AI can do for recruitment, and what the technology is already doing. AI can be understood as a combination of data analysis and automation all in one. Not only can AI software delve into and interpret huge volumes of data quickly and efficiently, it can also make decisions and execute actions based on its analysis, independent of human involvement.
First and foremost, that makes AI very good at taking on high volume administrative tasks that involve sifting through lots of information. It also means AI can spot patterns in data with such precision that it is able to extrapolate very reliable and accurate predictions. Both of these qualities are very useful to recruiters. It means AI can help them predict who the best candidates for a position are based on a greater number of variables than any person could even begin to weigh against each other, and also take on some of the considerable workload involved in assessing application forms and CVs, processing results from interviews, analysing skills requirements and so on.
In fact, AI is already being used to deliver end-to-end solutions throughout the entire talent acquisition process. This includes:
- Skill and attribute analysis: Machine Learning, which is able to refine its own analysis over time, can be used to identify the skills and attributes which really matter when you are thinking about recruiting for a particular role. This might include looking internally and externally at your recruitment history and at similar job roles in similar organisations, formulating criteria for what makes people successful or otherwise in those roles and then identifying the attributes that allow people to fulfil those criteria. The more data you input, the more accurately the technology will be able to define those ideal skills and attributes.
- Advertising optimisation and automation: Once you know the sort of person you are looking for, the next part is finding them. This most commonly involves advertising a position. Ad automation software can make intelligence-based decisions about where to place your job ads so they give you the highest chance of finding the type of person you are looking for. Job description optimization, meanwhile, uses Natural Language Processing to adjust the wording of your advert to make it more appealing and – of particular importance in the tech sector – inclusive.
- Candidate discovery: As well as advertising, AI opens up new avenues for finding the right person for your role, including trawling social/online platforms like LinkedIn to identify prospective candidates, or going through your own database of previous applicants and contacts to see if there is anyone worth looking at again.
- Candidate assessment: This is a critical area for firms when it comes to recruitment. How many firms have overlooked quality candidates at the application or interview stage because human error has crept into the decision-making process? AI minimises this risk, both by relieving some of the burden involved in assessment and putting decision-making on an objective, data-led footing. Natural Language Processing tools can trawl through hundreds of CVs and applications at speed and create shortlists based on very specific criteria; when paired with Machine Learning, the platform can even recommend the criteria itself based on its own analysis of ideal candidate attributes. AI is also opening the door to innovative new alternatives to the traditional interview, whether it is gamified assessments or asking candidates to submit video presentations of themselves. Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing tools are able to decipher 20,000 different data points from just 15 minutes of video, creating an incredibly in-depth information resource on which to base comparisons with other candidates.
- Onboarding: As every HR professional knows, even once you have selected your candidate and the offer of a contract has been accepted, the talent acquisition process is not over yet. With turnover disproportionately high among new recruits, onboarding is a critical stage, and AI can help here, too. Chatbots and other AI-driven digital self-help resources can avoid the risk of a new employee feeling ‘lost’ with too many questions they don’t feel confident enough to ask. With their own employee portal and a smart assistant to help them through those first weeks, they can get to grips with systems, processes and required knowledge at their own pace.
The Future of AI in Recruitment
So does all of this mean we are on an inevitable trajectory towards super-intelligent computers and robots handling the entire talent acquisition process? Perhaps not – and it is far from certain that such an outcome would be desirable anyway.
AI might be great at making the recruitment process faster and more efficient by pinpointing the type of candidate we need, where they can be found, and taking on much of the bulk work involved in narrowing them down. But what about that other all-important aspect of recruitment – building relationships?
To our mind, thinking in terms of AI replacing people in the recruitment process is science fiction because key elements rely intrinsically on the human touch. The dynamic between an employer and (prospective) employee boils down to the messy, complex world of human relationships.
Yes, you might track down the perfect candidate on paper who top scores on all of your assessment metrics – but will they fit in and get on with your team? Equally, how many companies have lost great candidates because they didn’t feel the warmth of human connection they look for to feel comfortable in a new working environment.
At its best, AI complements rather than replaces the human element in talent acquisition. Yes it can provide intelligence and insight beyond what HR teams could glean on their own, yes it rationalises recruitment processes and provides an objective, data-led foundation for decision making. But by doing all of those things, it frees HR professionals to apply their talents where they work best – not trawling through CVs but focusing on the all-important art of building relationships with and between people.