Featured Article: AI and Automation in Recruitment
With AI already revolutionising recruitment, we take a look at the benefits (and challenges) and the future direction of AI for both recruiters and applicants.
Attracting the Best Talent
One of the big challenges facing the recruitment industry today is not only finding and attracting the best talent in an affordable and efficient way, but also in tracking positive results so that their recruitment strategy can be repeated and refined.
The Growth of Technology
Despite technology in recruitment becoming increasingly common in the last 20 years, being able to meet that challenge of finding and hiring the best talent cost-effectively has remained complex, costly and time-consuming. For example, the average recruitment cost is £4,000 with an average time of over 30 days (Smart Recruit). Many feel that the wide-scale adoption of recruitment technology – “RecTech” – has been somewhat of a curse regarding the quality of the recruitment process, as applicant tracking (ATS) and HR systems have not dramatically evolved simultaneously with the widespread use of RecTech over this 20 year period. Furthermore, the online recruitment environment has become difficult for jobseekers, with 80 per cent failing to engage effectively due to the poor quality of job advertising and overall substandard candidate experience.
Automation, the Pandemic, and Digital Transformation
Many companies and recruiters have been keen to introduce some aspects of automation into the recruitment process – particularly the early selection stages – to help manage the volume of applicants and to make the best use of often depleted resources. The volume of applicants per vacancy has always been a challenge; however, with the pandemic resulting in more redundancies, this has further intensified the demand. Also, many businesses have undergone an accelerated digital transformation due to the necessities of remote working during the pandemic lockdowns, and it has been estimated that digital adoption in both consumer and business behaviour has been advanced by as many as five years in just eight weeks (McKinsey). Therefore, this has led to the online shift of more aspects of the recruitment process, where technology is being utilised more than ever to assist with the handling of numerous inquiries and to improve the efficiency of critical tasks such as sifting through candidates to reveal the talent that companies are looking for.
Current Examples of AI and Automation in Recruitment
AI and automation have already been successfully implemented within some notable companies’ recruitment processes. Below are some real-life examples of how AI is being used:
In March 2019, TNG and Furhat Robotics in Sweden developed a social, unbiased recruitment robot called “Tengai” to be used to conduct job interviews with human candidates. The robot, which looks like an internally projected human face on a white head sitting on top of a speaker (with a camera and microphone built-in), is made with pre-built expressions and gestures as part of a pre-loaded OS that can be further customised to fit any character. The neutrality of this robot ensures that from the beginning of the candidate selection process, candidates are judged on an objective and skills-focused basis, identifying the required competencies needed for a successful candidate.
Clients for the Tengai robot are believed to include Findus, TNG, Altran (Engineering + R&D) and Cloetta (confectionery company), with its use being further expanded in the recruitment and staffing within the Banking and Finance, FMCG and the Public Sector industries.
Vodafone uses the HireVue platform to help tackle its challenge of 100,000 graduates applying for just 1,000 jobs. HireVue has been reported to have helped tackle human bias from the recruitment process by enabling the analysis of 25,000 data points from video interviews to sort candidates into highly recommended, recommended and not recommended in a way that correlates well with the company’s assessments. Reports indicate that HireVue has helped Vodafone to cut their time-to-hire from 23 days to 11 days, as well as reducing candidate dropout rates by 30 per cent and tripling cost savings.
Pymetrics claims to use behavioural science-based assessments and audited AI technology to collect objective behavioural data in order to measure a job seeker’s true potential, rather than just looking at what they have done in the past according to their CV.
Some well-known brands that are known to have used Pymetrics include McDonald’s, JP Morgan, PwC and the Kraft Heinz food group. The AI-based platform uses questions to evaluate different aspects of an applicant’s personality and intelligence e.g. risk tolerance and speed of response to situations.
SRO is a research-driven and cloud-based, evidence-based talent acquisition platform that is designed to centralise recruitment, where everything is viewed on a single dashboard, transform user and applicant experience, and maximise the visibility of jobs across the entire online environment so that more jobs get filled in a time and cost-efficient manner. The platform uses advanced CV Parsing and candidate Grading technology, provided by Silicon Valley-based Burning Glass, to automatically populate data, rank, and grade applicants. SRO claims to currently support over 700 clients and more than 27,000 UK based recruiters, and to have maintained a 98 per cent independently assessed satisfaction rating since 2016.
Seattle-based Textico uses AI to help firms write more inclusive, understandable and accessible adverts that appeal to a broad range of people. Its clients are believed to include World Bank to Dropbox, Spotify, and Tesco.
- Korn Ferry
The AI recruitment software of Korn Ferry, a global organisational consulting firm, enables recruiters to proactively search the Internet for potential job candidates rather than simply waiting for the best people to apply.
How is AI Transforming Recruitment?
AI in recruitment has become increasingly popular and utilised in recent years due to its convenience and fast results.
AI is ultimately helping to transform recruitment by fusing both the digital and human elements:
Digital – Increasing efficiency and saving costs through the automation of time-consuming, administrative tasks:
The use of AI-based recruitment platforms can help companies to make better use of their available resources by handling some of the time-consuming administration that tends to occur in the early part of the process. The time taken from application to hiring of a successful candidate is shortened due to less sifting and reviewing, and as such resource cost and valuable operational time is saved. For example, “IBM…estimates that it has realised “almost $1 billion in savings” since 2011 by integrating artificial intelligence and other modernization efforts in its HR department, according to global head of talent Obed Louissaint.” (Maria Aspen in Fortune, Special Report on Artificial Intelligence, ‘This tech giant says A.I. has already helped it save $1 billion’, 24/01/2021). This is beneficial for both the recruiter and their resources (i.e. costs and time taken) and the candidates in question, as they can start sooner!
Human – Reducing human error and biases from the recruitment process: The risk of decisions being made with subconscious biases is significantly reduced through the use of computers and hence lends itself to an overall “fairer” and more consistent process.
For example, a recent London School of Economics study of the behaviour of recruiters on employment websites applied the algorithms to the online recruitment platform of the Swiss public employment service. The study found that recruiters treat otherwise identical job seekers who appear in the same search list differently, depending on their immigrant or minority ethnic background. The same study also showed that at certain times of the day, when recruiters become tired, they fall back into ‘intuitive’ decision-making.
Furthermore, for some attractive jobs, there is a risk that recruiters, who may be under pressure, are increasingly prone to being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of responses, and as such not all candidate applications received are properly assessed. An automated AI-based system can improve the chances that all applications are initially given consistent consideration.
Challenges of AI and Automation in Recruitment
Although there have been many operational benefits to AI in recruitment, some important challenges still remain. These include:
- Problems with human bias:
It may be very difficult to remove completely human bias from AI-recruitment systems, as ultimately the data input into “teaching” (i.e. programming) the machine how to “think” may consist of those very human biases it aims to avoid. For example, in 2018, Amazon was reported to have scrapped its own system due to an apparent bias against female job applicants.
- Prone to manipulation:
AI systems could be manipulated by certain applicants. For example, Tribe Pad (software) research found that 88 per cent of candidates who are aware of applicant tracking systems (ATS) have tried to optimise their CV (usually by adding in relevant keywords and phrases) to get through what they understand to be the initial selection process.
- Lack of human emotion and interaction:
Job applicants may be deterred by the thought of having to go through a completely automated hiring process. This means that more successful AI-based recruitment platforms and processes should at least include some more human elements, such as the use of video interviewing.
The Effect of AI on Recruitment Jobs
There is an argument that AI-based recruitment platforms could result in the replacement of 16 per cent of jobs within the next 10 years. However, as AI-based recruitment is used by more companies, there is also an argument that understanding AI technologies will be a valued skill in itself and those trained in AI-based recruitment platforms may themselves benefit from being able to leverage the advantages AI input could bring to the overall recruitment process.
With the landscape of modern recruitment set to face many challenges, the use of AI-based tools to assist with the overall data handling and operational processes looks set to become much more popular, with 88 per cent of companies globally already using AI in some way for HR 84% (SHRM). Furthermore, the pandemic has prompted the need for and implementation of digital transformation, with remote working and reduced physical meetings further increasing the demand for more AI-based recruitment platforms and solutions going forward.