Hiring in the age of automation

Hiring in the age of automation
There have been many discussions about the potentially negative impact of automation on job losses. However, some organisations have begun to investigate the benefits of introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to their hiring processes. Using technology in employment is nothing new, with most recruiters using online job boards and Applicant Tracking Systems as a minimum. The question is whether it can help to streamline the process.

Technology has the potential to help the talent pipeline evolve – reducing, or even eliminating, administrative tasks like manually screening CVs. But is there such a thing as too much automation? Would it be acceptable for a tech professional to start a new role having had no human interaction with their new employer?

Shortlisting candidates and assessing technical capabilities

AI algorithms can be designed to assess CVs for pre-defined skills and experience, send follow up emails and search databases for potential candidates who match roles. This would allow recruiters more time to work directly with clients and candidates, developing a greater understanding of the goals and motivations of both, as well as providing valuable coaching and market intelligence. It could also make the recruitment process more flexible, allowing technical capability assessments and processing to take place remotely and outside of business hours.

Introducing AI to the recruitment process may also benefit less confident individuals – taking some of the focus away from a candidate’s ability to perform well in front of strangers in an interview situation, and refocusing it on the accurate assessment of capabilities.

Avoiding bias in AI

Whilst, in theory, machines can be used to remove unconscious bias from the initial stages of recruitment, in practice this is less straightforward. After all, algorithms often reflect the values of those they are created by. And, as the tech industry still has a long way to go when it comes to workforce diversity, businesses must be mindful of these potential design flaws if they look to introduce AI to support with building a talented and diverse workforce. An example of these flaws in practice is a recent study which found that women were targeted with Google ads for high paying jobs just 300 times, compared to 1,800 times for men.

Organisations must also remember that interviews are not just about the candidate proving their capabilities to a potential employer. They are equally an opportunity for businesses to inspire the candidate, offering insights into the business and highlighting what they add to the individual’s career. Whilst you can convey elements of this through digital interactions, it is much more successful through an open dialogue, as this offers the employer or recruiter a stronger platform to ‘sell’ the opportunity and build rapport. This is particularly important for in-demand candidates who have a number of job offers on the table, as it helps businesses to differentiate themselves.

In its current form, AI’s reach is limited to active candidates. However, recruitment is often more focused on uncovering passive candidates who are willing to move for the right opportunities. If companies only use AI, they are potentially missing out on a large slice of the available market.

Striking a balance between humans and machines

As more organisations wake up to the improvements that AI could bring to the recruitment process, and as technology continues to get more sophisticated, machines will begin to play a far greater role in hiring than at present.

AI could help to take away some of the time-consuming admin. But where AI will drive the most value is when it is harnessed as ‘augmented intelligence’ to enhance the human role, rather than replace it. An example of this could be the use of Big Data analysis to identify struggling candidates and match their capabilities to a career path that represents a better fit. This work could take a human several hours to complete, but an AI system would only need seconds.

Organisations should look to enhance their recruitment processes with AI, but remember that finding the candidate with the right cultural fit for the company is just as important as the right skills and experience. And – for the moment, at least – this would be difficult to incorporate into an algorithm, since AI in its current state lacks the emotional intelligence to pick up on these factors. Soft skills and cultural fit will never be an exact science and, as a result, the human element of hiring is, and will continue to be, vital.