Before the internet, professional recruiters played a different game. There were events in hotel conference rooms, job fairs in university halls, and personal visits to local employers. There were index cards, rolodexes, and a never-ending stream of phone calls. Getting the right people into the right jobs took a lot of legwork. Like footballers with great vision, the best players simply had a knack for it.

The internet changed a lot of things about recruitment, but it didn’t change everything. Excellence still requires a lot of legwork.

The best practitioners still have a magic touch. Navigating modern networks and digital platforms brings unique challenges, especially when the stakes are high – but getting great results still comes down to people.

Or does it?

Artificial intelligence is gaining steam in the recruitment world, and for good reason. The hiring process is more information-intensive than ever. In order to secure top talent, employers have to cast a wide net, which means sifting through a lot of data. COVID-19 has underscored the need to tighten up operations, do more with less, and improve the bottom line. What can A.I. do to help?

Less work higher up in the funnel

In the world of recruitment, repetitive and time-consuming tasks are traditionally higher up in the funnel. Sifting through hundreds of resumés and online data sources is the most obvious example.

Technology and, interestingly, increasingly sophisticated psychological screening processes now exist – and will surely become more sophisticated in the years ahead – can do some of this searching and screening for us. Software can be programmed to scan resumés and online profiles for patterns involving skill, experience, qualifications, and other key metrics. Tests can be administered to screen verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning abilities, safety orientation or even mechanical orientation amongst others. The early touchpoints of the process can become less labour-intensive, allowing recruiters to put more time and energy into the advanced stages of recruitment.

Answering questions early in the process, whether by phone or e-mail, is another time-intensive area. Some recruiters are turning to chatbot systems like Mya to answer questions, verify experience, and check qualifications. This can facilitate a more rapid exchange of information between candidates and recruiters, with far less input on the recruiter’s side. On the downside, programming or performance flaws can block out candidates who would make great candidates.

Discovering passive candidates

Passive candidates are a big part of the argument for A.I. in recruitment. We know the majority of job-seekers are passive, and we know passive candidates are an untapped resource for Australian employers.

A.I. can help recruiters reach passive candidates by analysing, among other things, databanks of former applicants who qualify for current openings.

Ideal is one such platform. If recruiters can expand their reach beyond active job seekers without creating extra labour for themselves, the chances of finding the best possible fit will, in theory, increase.

Driving diversity

The link between productivity and diversity in the workplace is becoming clearer. Eightfold is one of several A.I. tools that include specific features to remove bias in job descriptions and candidate screening processes. Through the use of programmable metrics and machine learning, A.I. solutions can (again, in theory) help prevent bias and build more diversity into the workplace.

Great promise – and a few important pitfalls

When you think about the art of recruitment before the internet, it’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia. A lot of great stories came out of those years, and many rewarding connections were made – but the internet revolution gave recruiters access to a far greater quantity of information and talent.

Automation is a logical progression. Insofar as it allows us to expedite repetitive tasks and distil information, it can and will improve the work we do as recruiters. On the other hand, if we rely too much on clever algorithms and machine learning, we could easily lose sight of the human touch that drives holistic results in the real world and the very great importance of cultural fit which, at this point in time, still requires some human to human contact and assessment!

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