Can AI ever replace a good recruiter?

Can AI ever replace a good recruiter?

Written by Rosie Skinner

Rosie Skinner is a recruitment expert, speaker and Director of Mployable - Talent Strategy and Recruitment on Subscription, also known as the Outsourced In-House Recruitment Team. She's been in the recruitment industry for almost ten years, in recruitment agency (yes, high street agency) roles in her early days, through to in house recruitment and HR managerial roles in the latter part of her career. Rosie is CIPD and REC qualified and has spoken at prestigious industry events such as 'Disrupt HR' and 'Inspire Recruitment' as well as numerous business events and workshops.

“The future of recruitment” – An often-used phrase.

It refers to how artificial intelligence can expedite, improve, or even control the frequently monotonous elements of the recruitment process.

Whilst the benefits are many, with regards to streamlining administrative tasks, much of recruitment relies on human contact and relationships. Without the human element, how successful can recruitment truly be? Can AI ever replace a good recruiter?

The applicant tracking system (or ATS) is a crucial tool in most recruiters back pockets. Particularly in an in-house function. The functionalities range from simple automated workflows, all the way through to smart talent pooling systems, keyword filtering and chatbots.
So, if you’re a recruiter drowning in paperwork, sounds appealing right?

But as with any technology, AI can make mistakes. As Amazon recently found out. Using a ‘self-taught’ style system, their AI observed the patterns in applications over a ten-year period. Overall, the applications were relatively male-dominated. Reflecting generalised patterns across the tech industry at that time. Therefore, the system taught itself that male applicants were preferable. The programme was later edited, but it became impossible to guarantee that the system wouldn’t teach itself alternative, potentially discriminatory patterns and preferences. So Amazon scrapped the technology.

Cheat the System

Another commonly used system and application will screen and shortlist CVs for you. It will use keywords and other distinguishing CV and application features. For those recruiters who receive hundreds of applicants per role and are working in high volume or high turnover industries – it’s a dream come true.

But a simple Google search on ‘How to Cheat the ATS’ brings up page after page of search results. Hacks and supposed ‘industry secrets’ on how to get past the automated gatekeeper. With tips on everything from font to layout, all the way through to using variations on job titles and synonyms for experiences. You can doctor or finesse an entire application with the sole aim of ‘cheating’ the system.

Then there’s the oversights. Without the trained recruiter’s eye to spot for transferable skills, heartfelt and well-researched cover letters or application forms, how is it possible to see the wood for the trees? Particularly at an entry-level? Or for instance graduate or apprenticeship programmes?

Based on experience, I can tell you that after a while – most graduate applications and CVs start to blur into one. It requires a fine-tooth comb, almost instinctive, approach to screening and selection. Difficult to replicate with machine learning and AI.

Advantages of AI

Whilst there are clearly several pitfalls in allowing robots to completely run the recruitment process, in small doses, AI is a marvellous thing. There are elements of the recruitment process that are administrative, repetitive, and frankly frustrating. Used correctly in the process, AI can eliminate the admin. It can free up good recruiters. Allowing them to add impact to the business in a much more commercial way.

One of the more exciting developments of the use of AI in recruitment are the more modern systems that focus on proactively sourcing candidates. Flipping the darker use of keyword search for screening on its head. Some newer players in the ATS space will take the job descriptions you upload and comb the web for candidates that match your profile. Taking a huge amount of legwork out of one of the most challenging parts of the recruitment process. This technology frees up the recruiter. Allowing them to create relationships with the candidates and keep the process flowing.

By using AI for interview scheduling, CV sharing, process flow (and potentially sourcing), you can keep the human element of the process and automate the admin. AI should forget keyword searches, skimming and screening – that’s the stuff a good recruiter should be focusing on.
While things like trying to understand whether the human who sent them their life on a piece of paper matches the job and the company they’ve applied for. As well as, not getting embroiled in a scheduling debacle around interview times and dates. Can be left to the robots!

The human touch

The recruitment industry is already one shrouded in negativity. Particularly from the perspective of candidates. We all know someone who’s had a terrible experience in the hands of a non-responsive recruitment consultant. Or a hiring business with an ill-thought-out process. There is a need to focus on, not just eliminating repetitive work – but also preserving the candidate experience.

Because let’s face it. Even in this post-COVID-19 landscape. Despite the fact that there are more candidates on the market of exceptional talent than we have seen in years. These candidates are still picky. They want to be amazed. They want to be confident that they are making the right choice as to where they will spend 40 or more hours per week.

Here is my hope for the future of recruitment.
The future of recruitment should be about long-term relationship building. About understanding that the path to finding and attracting great talent isn’t linear. That it’s about being able to engage and build relationships with pools of awesome people. Coming together when the timing is right.
Mutual respect for the ‘dance’ of recruitment and realising that you get back what you put in. If Ronnie the Robot is at the helm, that ain’t going to be a great deal, is it?

I for one, can’t see a world where a successful recruitment process, doesn’t involve a brilliant recruiter conducting the process and only pushing the button on Ronnie when the timing is right.

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