By Jeff Herzog, FPC President
Mankind has been held in the grip of fear for many centuries. Or perhaps more than fear, it’s a creeping anxiety that the latest advances in technology will inevitably lead to unemployment. It’s a deep seated anxiety that we’ll see work being undertaken by machines, computers or robots that had previously been the preserve of humans. Artificial intelligence – and all the commentary surrounding it – is no different.
Look right across our economy – at the full spectrum of media coverage surrounding A.I. – and you’ll find countless examples touted of how artificial intelligence will make employees redundant. This is no less true in recruitment than in any other field. But is there merit in this? Does artificial intelligence really spell the end of recruitment as we know it?
Whenever I read articles predicting the demise of recruitment, I can’t help feel like we’ve been here before. Go back twenty years to the early days of job-boards and the media was rife with stories about how Monster and its peers would soon spell the end of the Recruitment industry. Why would any company pay a sizeable recruitment fee to hire someone that they could just as effectively recruit via a cheap online advertisement? Such was the seemingly common-sense argument used to give credibility to this doomsday prediction.
Fast forward another ten years and the same was being said of LinkedIn. With the social networking site opening up a comprehensive database of resumes to any internal recruitment team wishing to tap into it, why would employers not strive to undertake as much in-house recruitment as possible and thereby decimate recruitment agencies?
Do Technological Advances Harm The Recruitment Industry?
What ultimately happened with each of these technological advances is highly relevant to the debate surrounding artificial intelligence and its impact on recruitment. In both instances, the arrival of new technology impacted what was – and was not – seen as a truly value adding activity within recruitment. It allowed resources to be re-deployed and be put to better use. For example, the tens of thousands of dollars that employers would pay to run newspaper advertisements translated into major savings when those same roles were able to be advertised via online channels for a tiny fraction of the cost. If anything though this technological advance actually resulted in more recruiters needing to be employed rather than fewer. The sheer number of applications that were generated following the explosion in the number of roles companies advertised meant that more resource was needed to process those applications.
It’s a similar story when we look at LinkedIn. Ostensibly the platform gave internal recruitment teams a channel by which they could approach candidates directly, without the need to engage an external recruitment partner at all. But, in practice, the repercussions were not as simple. By making it far easier for companies to identify and approach candidates, LinkedIn has dramatically increased the volume of approaches that any given candidate will receive during their career. It therefore greatly added to the “noise” in a candidate’s career and made them less responsive to each approach that they received.
The real effect has therefore been rather different. Instead of supplanting recruitment businesses and destroying recruitment jobs, the success of LinkedIn has made it more and more imperative for companies to invest in the most value adding parts of their recruitment processes. Having recruiters who are more adept at approaching candidates, understanding their motivations and selling them on a role is now a highly prized skill. The whole candidate experience is something companies now invest in to a far higher degree, with that investment being in the form of both new technologies and additional staff.
Put another way, what previous technological advances have done is to change the economics of Recruitment. They have changed what are the most value-adding activities within recruitment – and therefore changed what companies invest in. They have caused recruitment – and our investment in recruitment – to evolve.
Looked at through that lens, what automation and artificial intelligence are really delivering in the Recruitment sector is a huge time saving in undertaking mundane and low value tasks. The reviewing of large volumes of resumes is increasingly being entrusted to artificial intelligence tools. The endless back-and-forth involved in organizing interviews with candidates can likewise now be entrusted to computers. Even some of the more skilled tasks such as sourcing potential candidate matches for a given role can initially be undertaken by AI driven tools.
But companies do not win The War For Talent by being better at scheduling interviews. They don’t win by being more efficient at reviewing piles of candidate applications. Where they win is by having the most compelling employer value proposition and being able to convey that to candidates. By having an emotionally intelligent recruitment team that understands its target market and succeeds in positioning the company as the ideal next career move for their ideal hire. By being more tenacious when it comes to chasing down candidates. By being more persuasive with candidate outreach in the first place. This is especially true in such a fiercely competitive job market like we’re in today as highlighted in America Now Has More Jobs Than Unemployed Workers.
Artificial Intelligence Will Alter Where Value Is Added in Recruitment
Just as with each new technological advance that has gone before it, the adoption of artificial intelligence in recruitment is more likely to change the balance of where recruitment Dollars are spent, as opposed to wiping out the Recruitment industry altogether. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that the more high value-adding forms of recruitment such as executive search will see an upturn in their fortunes as a result of Artificial Intelligence. Companies will be able to invest the savings they are making through the deployment of artificial intelligence into services like executive search that they have aspired to using in the past, but have not always been able to afford.
So, back to the original question – does artificial intelligence spell the end of Recruitment as we know it? My answer is a resounding no. For sure, Artificial Intelligence will alter the recruitment industry just as it will many others. However, for recruitment at least, A.I. will force our industry to evolve rather than make it extinct. I’m not alone in this view either. Artificial Intelligence entrepreneur Alexei Kostarev was recently featured in The Washington Post and said that he can’t see A.I. having any role in Executive Search. Rather, A.I. will be something that recruiters use to do their job more efficiently. That’s the key thing to keep in mind the next time you read anything suggesting that Artificial Intelligence might spell the end of Recruitment as we know it.