Especially when it comes to positions for highly qualified applicants, the classic application process is usually tedious, costly and subject to the risk of human judgmental error. Large companies often receive applications in the three-digit range for individual positions. However, even if the resources are available for handling such quantities, the end result is not always the right decision, whether it be due to the halo effect, the Hawthorne effect, a good first impression or (possibly even subconscious) discrimination based on gender or origin. There are many potential sources of error that can lead to a wrong hiring decision. It therefore comes as no surprise that many companies need help with their recruitment processes.
More and more companies are turning to artificial intelligence in this regard. This comes in the form of software that assists with correctly formulating job advertisements; that scans, pre-sorts and recommends applications, conducts simple interviews and calculates salary proposals. What sounds like a vision for the future is actually happening right now. It describes not only the recruiting process of technical flagship companies such as Amazon, Google, SAP or Microsoft, but also a multitude of companies in almost all industries and sizes.
The AI tools of providers such as HireVue promise time savings of up to 90% in the recruitment process, a 50% improvement in candidate quality, and a 60% improvement in employee retention. Although these figures might seem exaggerated, they are evidenced by the success of many of these software providers. For example, HireVue lists companies such as Intel, Honeywell or Singapore Airlines as references. The AI platform Woo is used by companies such as Microsoft, Audible, Lyft and Twitch, and the ChatBot Mya is also very popular with clients such as L'Oreal, Pepsico and Adecco.
A financially attractive market with significant potential for improvement is of course seeding ground for innovative solutions. An abundance of new software solutions that promise to eliminate existing inefficiencies has the potential to improve the quality of processes. However, as a logical consequence, this also threatens the future of a number of jobs. Undercover Recruiter estimates that over the next 10 years, up to 16% of recruitment jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence. However, this loss of jobs will not be the only change to the status quo. An innovative and dynamic market will not leave the remaining, existing jobs untouched, rather it will significantly change the tasks and responsibilities of all involved, and therefore also the profession of a recruitment consultant.
By assisting with job advertisements, targeted headhunting, candidate selection and onboarding, artificial intelligence is entering into the core business of recruitment consultants. From a client and consultant perspective, this naturally raises the question of the role of the recruitment consultant in the digital future and the advantages that the consultant can still offer the client.
There’s no substitute for a network
Yes, artificial intelligence makes many things easier. AI helps make routine processes more efficient. AI makes it possible to save time and money. However, artificial intelligence is only as good as the data being fed. A long-standing, extensive network of personal contacts with experts, who in many cases are not actively seeking change, cannot be replaced at present nor in the near future. As before, companies will not be able to replace the networks of recruitment consultants simply by using digital solutions.
HR management requires emotional intelligence
The results of a study by the CareerBuilder job portal describes the future importance of human intervention as follows: Artificial intelligence is an outstanding complement to human work. In many cases it is clearly superior to human abilities. Nevertheless, there are enough levels and starting points where human intervention is crucial. Although artificial intelligence is constantly evolving, it is currently unforeseeable that it has a sufficient understanding of the complex interplay between empathy, team-fit, personal character, as well as the established and desired corporate culture to completely replace human work. In this respect, it remains of great importance to rely on the experience and judgement of character by professionals.
Artificial intelligence is not yet fully developed
The case of Amazon late last year made it clear that relying solely on artificial intelligence can have fatal consequences. The company had developed a software that was designed to automatically scan CVs and select the most promising from a large number of applications. Closer analysis revealed that the software put female applicants at a massive disadvantage as it was built on historical corporate data from the past decade, and the tech industry was very much male dominated during that time. Such things can of course be corrected, but they are often only discovered in retrospect. By building on historical data, there is a risk of bringing past mistakes into the future. For this reason, there is no alternative to human corrective action and this will probably remain so in the near future. If Amazon had relied solely on its recruitment software, the company would have run the risk of building a potentially unintended workforce that runs contrary to its own principles, strategic goals and entrepreneurial viability.
Digital solutions are volatile and cross-company experience is essential
One of the great advantages of consultants is the acquisition of cross-company experience and the development of impartial company and industrial expertise. The risk of forming company preconceptions is diminished by engaging external consultants. In our opinion, there will be no alternative in the near future, and it will even gain importance. Product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter, especially when it comes to digital applications. The insight and experience gained by consultants through their project work in a wide variety of companies and industries is therefore becoming increasingly important, as it is becoming more and more difficult for companies to keep track of the latest technical solutions and avoid classic application errors. As a result, when faced with questions regarding technical solutions or targeted employee training, there is a greater risk of being overtaken by the competition.
For recruitment consultants, this therefore opens up (to a certain extent) a completely new field of work; namely the acquisition of expertise in digital artificial intelligence solutions.
Even artificial intelligence can be overcome
At the beginning of this article we mentioned classic human errors of judgement, such as the halo effect or the Hawthorne effect, and there are indeed applicants who know how to take advantage of these human weaknesses. However, relying solely on artificial intelligence does not mean that errors of judgement can be ruled out. The case of Amazon is an example of flawed software from a company perspective; however, applicants can optimise their application documents to beat artificial intelligence. A quick Google search gives numerous hits on how to optimise documents for algorithms in order to increase chances of being selected during an automatic pre-selection process. Where processes run automatically, there will always be ways to distort the desired result. From this perspective, an interplay of human judgement with support from artificial intelligence is a much better solution than relying solely on one of the two alternatives. This is also not going to change in the next few years.
AI as an opportunity for personnel consultants
All in all, it would be wrong to see digital solutions and artificial intelligence as a risk. It goes without saying that the application of these software solutions will substantially change the core business of HR management and, accordingly, recruitment consulting over the next few years, and that jobs will be lost. However, we believe that technical change and innovation always present new opportunities. It gives us the opportunity to take on the change, drive it forward and pro-actively help our customers progress and stand out from the competition with their digital solutions. This applies as much to recruitment consulting as to any other form of consulting; however, the future viability of a company stands and falls with the future viability of its employees. Together, we can ensure that your company, with the right targets, the right new employees and digital solutions, enters into the digital future.