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Hiring In The Age Of Automation

Getting the balance between the technology and the human touch

18Oct

Much has been said about the rise of automation and its impact on job losses, but many employers in the IT industry have started to explore the use of machines to make their next hires. Of course, using technology in employment is nothing new – most recruiters already use online job boards and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). But efficiencies can be found in these traditional recruitment tools; as email threads often become unmanageable and large volumes of CVs can be difficult to track.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an emerging trend in recruitment, designed to reduce, or even eliminate, low-level tasks like manually screening CVs. The technology has the potential to revolutionise the talent pipeline, but how much automation is too much? Could tech professionals soon be walking into new jobs having had no human interaction at all with their new employer?

Shortlisting candidates and assessing technical capabilities

Powered by natural language processing technology, AI algorithms can be used to automate tasks such as assessing CVs, sending follow up emails and scanning databases for potential candidates to match vacancies. This would free up recruiters’ time to add more value to candidates and clients, and establish a greater understanding of the motivations and goals of both. They’d also have more time to share market intelligence, coach their network through the recruitment process more effectively and build more personal engagements with applicants. It can also make the candidate’s experience easier and more flexible. If a machine is being used to test a candidate’s technical capabilities, for instance, this assessment doesn’t have to take place during business hours, but can be done at a time and a place that suits them.

The traditional interview process is also often predisposed to naturally more confident people – in effect, employers could simply be assessing candidates on their ability to interview and respond to questions well. Using technology to enhance the recruitment process may more accurately assess someone’s capabilities – rather than their ability to speak confidently in front of a room of strangers.

Avoiding bias in AI

Although some experts say that machines can be used to remove unconscious bias from the initial stages of recruitment, this relies on the machines being totally free from bias themselves. Of course, algorithms reflect the values of those they’re created by, and as the tech industry remains largely dominated by men, we must be mindful of how AI is designed in the first place if we’re to use it to hire and close the gender gap in IT. A recent study found that women were served Google ads for high paying jobs far less than men (300 times compared to 1,800 times), for example.

Something that must also be considered is that interviews shouldn’t be all about the candidate demonstrating their capabilities. They are just as much of an opportunity for the employer to inspire the candidate with their vision for the business through a more open dialogue, in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible in a fully automated process. Using AI for the employer or recruiter often means that they lose some of their ability to ‘sell’ the opportunity to the individual. If, for instance, the candidate has several offers on the table, it becomes harder to differentiate the organisation from the competition. The recruitment process is the first opportunity for an employer to build rapport with a prospective employee.

In addition, in its current format, AI solutions only reach candidates who are actively looking for new roles in the open marketplace. But recruitment is more focused on finding passive candidates proactively and if companies use AI solutions alone to find new hires, they could potentially miss out on a perfect individual who could be open to the right offer if approached in a more personal way.

Striking a careful balance between humans and machines

As employers increasingly come to realise that algorithms could drastically streamline their recruitment process, we will start to see AI systems play a far greater role in hiring than they do today. That said, humans should not be totally eliminated from making hires in the IT industry, particularly when the employer is looking to fill a niche, technical vacancy that requires multiple rounds of assessment.

Where AI is most powerful is when it is harnessed as ‘augmented intelligence’ rather than artificial intelligence.In this instance, algorithms are used to enhance the human role and not replace it. For example, using big data analysis to spot underperforming candidates and match elements of their CV to a different path that they may have more success with. Such a 'data dive' would take a human several hours to complete but an AI system would only need seconds. That intelligence could then be interpreted by the recruiter in line with their experience, freeing them up to concentrate on building relationships with both the candidate and their client.

In this way, automation can be used to take away admin and labour-intensive tasks to arm the recruiter with more insight on candidates and potential targets. But recruitment is just as much about finding someone who is the right cultural fit for the organisation as it is about finding someone with the right skills and experience on their CV; something that could prove difficult to incorporate into an algorithm. It will never be an exact science and as a result, the human element of hiring is, and will continue to be, vital. 

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