There was a time, not too long ago, when almost all hires would start from an inbound application. Companies posted their open positions, welcomed applications from all interested candidates, and embarked on their hiring process from A-Z. Finding the perfect employee was often easier back then, simply because more jobs on the market required fewer niche skills and experience.
The job market today has changed considerably, and one of the main differences boils down to the fourth industrial revolution. Machines, robots and intelligent software can do a substantial amount of our work for us now. Some demographics are more vulnerable than others, but it seems that the ‘robots will take over the world’ prophecy is becoming less and less likely. What is happening, however, is that the jobs that do require humans also require increasingly competent, skilled and experienced humans.
For recruiters, this entails a substantial change in their talent acquisition process. More and more professionals are moving from a inbound approach where candidates seek employers out towards the opposite.
This is one of the driving factors in the big shift within the recruitment sector, from inbound applications to what is referred to as passive candidate sourcing.
In combination with the fact that people switch jobs at an increasingly high pace, there's no question, big change is about to happen.
So what does this look like in practice? In their HubSpot-published trends report for 2019, Entelo took a look at how automation is changing the recruitment sector. Recruiters electing passive recruiting over inbound applications has increased considerably in just a year, with 35 % more passive recruiting in 2019 than the year before. Artificial intelligence is undeniably making its mark on recruitment too, and doing so simply because it makes the new hiring process a whole lot smoother.
The power of AI lies in its ability to make automation intelligent. The tech is becoming more and more sophisticated, and for recruiters, this means that they can spend their time on tasks that require a human touch. When they’ve find a well-matching candidate, they may formulate the first contact email, but leave the outreach and follow-up to AI. Likewise, artificial intelligence can run and analyze personality and logic tests without breaking a sweat as well as conduct a initial interview, but the recruiter might be better suited to judge the candidate’s compatibility with company culture.
The number of recruiters who, according to Entelo, believe that they would be more productive with an entirely automated sourcing process is staggering. A full 80 % agreed with this, and 71 % stated that they needed intelligent tools for data processing. Artificial intelligence is being used for talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, and data and intelligence, to mention a few HR fields. And the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. DK Bartley, Senior VP, and Head of Diversity & Inclusion at the Dentsu Aegis Network said:
“Machine learning and AI will be embedded in 50 % of jobs by 2020. So if you, as a recruiter or as a Talent Acquisition professional, are not incorporating AI into your process — you are behind the game. And I don’t think that’s where you want to be.”
With these thoughts in mind, let’s dive into how AI is being used in different recruitment sector areas today.
We know that a large part of recruiting in 2020 is basing itself around passive candidate sourcing. Several components of that can easily be automated — and probably should be in order to streamline the process. With the number of people a single recruiter communicates with every week, precious minutes shouldn’t be spent skimming for email or LinkedIn replies.
With recruiters listing that they spend 20 hours of their workweek on candidate outreach, they could be in talks with hundreds of prospective employees at once. With AI, it becomes possible to automatically find matching candidates online, analyze the likelihood of being open to new job positions, flag replies from high-ranking candidates, and even auto reply those that do respond to outreach efforts. Simply put, the recruiter can focus on real human-to-human interaction and leave the rest up to automation.
The discovery process of talent acquisition is becoming a classic case of finding a needle in a haystack. Where is the ideal candidate hiding among thousands of potential ones on LinkedIn? How do you identify the shortlist for a position that requires a very specific, and yet complex, set of skills? More and more recruiters have started extending the use of AI for talent discovery. By building databases that operate at lightning speed and analyze thousands of candidates that may or may not be a good fit, successful talent acquisition becomes a whole lot easier with the right software.
Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for recruiters today — and it’s also one of their absolute biggest challenges. In practice, successful diversity and inclusion efforts change long-standing company cultures; a process that takes time, is often intangible, and can be near-impossible to drive from a recruitment point of view. With the right technology implemented, though, recruiters are seeing that their initiatives solidify faster.
The brilliant thing about artificial intelligence is that it’s programmed to only look at aspects that are proven to have an actual effect on future work performance, and thus be less biased. Bias is the main culprit when diversity and inclusion initiatives go south, and particularly when it’s subconscious. Imagine that a position opens up in your company, and you think your friend would be really well-suited for it. Even though they may have the exact experience your company is looking for, your recommendation is biased from the get-go. You’re inclined to think more highly of someone you engage with socially in your spare time than a stranger.
These types of referrals have been, and still are, a common source of talent discovery — but they stifle diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 40 % of recruiters interviewed for Entelo’s trend report listed sourcing as the biggest barrier to recruiting diverse talent, and 40.2 % listed candidate screening. Both of these barriers are easily solved with artificial intelligence automation as part of the recruitment process.
Data collection and analysis are often tedious for us humans, but when you’re working with human resources it’s also one of your most powerful tools. Essentially, it’s human research, and with enough data to lean on, a recruiter’s day-to-day becomes a whole lot easier. Sifting through hundreds of applicants isn’t just arduous, though — it takes an enormous amount of time. Artificial intelligence is impacting the recruitment sector’s data collection and analysis field in a big way.
What this means in practice, is that instead of starting from scratch at any given recruitment process, recruiters who are using AI-powered softwares get a solid head start. And the more data the AI collects and stores, the bigger this head start becomes. Traditionally, a recruiter would start by writing a job listing, and then sift through inbound applications with a focus on minimum required skills or using qualifying questions. What the recruitment sector is seeing today, is that the human recruiter doesn’t really need to jump into candidate interaction until the very last step.
With a few parameters from the job listing in place, artificial intelligence can go through incredible numbers of applications and screen them automatically. Once it’s finished, the recruiter is forwarded a shortlist that matches the pre-existing criteria. In other words: Recruiters making use of this technology are, as DK Bartley put it, way ahead of the game. AI combines data collection with data analysis in record time, and it’s freeing up time for recruiters to focus on the many human aspects of their work.
A recruiter’s job doesn’t end with the perfect hire. Think of this as the final act in a carefully orchestrated play. And just like in a play, there’s a lot going on behind the curtain. In addition to candidate screening, testing, analysis and outreach, the recruitment sector is also beginning to make use of this powerful technology for their internal work tasks. When leveraged right, it makes for a smoother recruitment process, the potential to find internal talent, and a better onboarding process for the chosen candidate.
In corporations with thousands of employees, there’s a pretty big chance that, when a position opens up, the right talent already exists within the organization. Then again, the recruiter still has to find him or her. By using artificial intelligence software for employee management — and not just potential employee analysis — this becomes a process of targeted discovery.
For example, when recruiting for a position in an international business, perhaps there’s a middle-management employee in the Manila office who is willing to relocate to the New York headquarter for an upper-level managerial role.
Finding this out through traditional internal recruiting would have taken considerable time if even possible at all. This is where AI could step in and help save considerable time and resources.
AI functions as an ever-evolving librarian who knows every book on the shelf. If the human resources department is strategically using this technology, there will be a comprehensive database in place for the recruiter to utilize. And that’s just the artificial intelligence potential for internal recruiting specifically. The recruitment sector is finding that software can also be implemented for onboarding automation, hiring process analysis, and in-house evaluations.
Using artificial intelligence for recruitment purposes is becoming a global phenomenon.
The US and South American markets are both seeing substantial growth of AI recruitment technology. And while the former certainly is an important hub for early-stage software development, artificial intelligence is becoming so important in the US that state-funded initiatives are also being implemented. Recently, the North Carolina State University was granted a 6 million dollar fund for an enormous AI apprenticeships program, that will involve 5000 workers with training in the field.
In Europe, one of the primary areas of focus in AI and recruitment is bias. Not only are companies looking on how to make recruiting more efficient, but also, how to make it less biased, and how AI can be used to build a more diversified team. A UK-based research project was recently launched between Lancaster University, Essex University and The University of Alberta, which wants to tackle gender and ethnic bias with artificial intelligence in recruitment.
The Middle East and Asia
In the Middle East and Asia, the applications of the technology in the recruitment field is often focused on the demand for talent and how to scope out and retain that talent. In the UAE, nine out of 10 recruiters believe that hiring processes will be fully online-based in the future — and that AI will play a big part in that. In China, the labor market is extremely pressed for skilled workers, and the turnover rates are high. To streamline HR, find the right human capital and to keep it, big corporations are leaning on automation software to a greater and greater extent.
So what’s next for AI in the recruitment sector? We’ll likely see further implementation of the technology in the industry, both in existing applications and new ones. Like all things tech, the speed of development is staggering, and it seems that just as you’re getting used to a revolutionizing new idea, it’s already old and being re-imagined. Two particularly interesting topics in AI and recruitment moving forward are physical applications (yes, we mean robots) and the sophistication of software.
Wait what, robots that can conduct face-to-face interviews with potential candidates as part of the recruitment process?
Yes, we’re already there. Today, the first prototypes of robot interviewers are being tested. They are a step further in ensuring an unbiased recruitment process and are specifically programmed to remove the prejudice that is impossible to avoid in human recruiters. The main challenge with this application is that the AI models' intelligence is a result of the data it’s supplied with; poor or biased training data is equal to a more biased AI judgment.
The development of AI is faster than ever, and the precision of the report that are handed over to human colleagues are ever increasing. With conversation analytics, facial expression analytics, and comprehensive background checks, to mention a few applications, candidates are already put through a substantial screening process with artificial intelligence today. The question is how much this will change in the future — how advanced will AI applications in the recruitment sector actually be in 5, 10 or 15 years?
Parallel to the staggering development there’s also the human fear and anxiety associated with AI. Recently, the European Commission published its plans to regulate the use of artificial intelligence for recruitment much more strictly than is being done today. The main concern in this respect is ethics and implementations of AI that humans can’t understand.
Regardless of how it’s regulated, we’re likely to see a continued and increased use of artificial intelligence for recruiting purposes on a global scale.
Potential candidates are being sourced, contacted, analyzed and even interviewed using artificial intelligence.
Jobs that do require humans also require increasingly competent, skilled and experienced humans.
Outreach, follow up, run personality and logical tests, AI-driven interviews
For example in talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion and data/intelligence