With AI slated to take 25% of all jobs from humans by the year 2020, the fears are in and they are real. Almost every sector is either excited or terrified about the ongoing encroachment of AI into their field. Some less than others of course; your average creative designer is probably sleeping a bit sounder at night than the few non-drone delivery people left at Amazon.
But where do recruiters fit into this dynamic? Can AI really replace recruiters? Opinions are split, mostly in favor of 'no'. However, are they all focusing on the wrong question when it should actually be 'is it imperative that AI replace humans as recruiters?'
I will get to the question shortly, but first, let's consider the multitude of ways AI is currently inadequate to replace humans in recruitment.
Recruitment: A humans game
It's not hard to understand peoples skepticism when it comes to this topic. Recruiting is a distinctly human activity. You need to build relationships and quickly forge a connection with people. AI and machine learning systems are capable of analyzing past data and finding patterns, but it cannot judge the right data from wrong, it just impassively analyzes it and churns out results.
So much of the recruitment process relies on instinct and the creative use of emotional intelligence. It requires people to use a fluid blend of subtlety and persuasiveness. They need to know when to be persistent and when to just listen. They need to be able to take into consideration the greater contexts of a situation and empathize with candidates personal life, family, and attitude. They need to be able to ascertain whether a candidate will be a good mesh with the company culture based on no more than a conversation. These are things that AI cannot do, at least not yet. And maybe never.
Recruitment AIs: Anything you can do, it can do better
All that being said, AI is already heavily involved in recruitment. According to Talent Tech Labs, over the next few years, AI will be involved in 95% of talent acquisition technology solutions.
And while AI might not be able to empathize with candidates, it can process more candidate data than 1000 recruiters combined. And it can do this 24/7 all year round, without rest or even a salary! Even criticisms like the robotic nature of AI are being addressed. AI personal assistant 'Amy' for example, possesses algorithms which have a much greater understanding of human nature than the likes of Siri. It actually feels like you're talking to a real person.
So while finding a new CEO for a company might be a very human-intensive process, there are millions of jobs in the retail, warehouses and call centers that aren't. These are the fields that recruitment chatbot 'Mya' specializes in. Launched in 2012 by San Francisco based company, Firstjob, the creator's claim it lowers the time to hire by 70% and can engage with up to 80% of candidates, saving 75% of total recruitment time. That is a significant amount of time and money being saved by companies who adopt this, especially when you consider the high turnover rate these roles tend to have.
Recruiters Vs AI: Who should win?
So the general consensus on whether AI will replace humans in recruitment is 'probably not'. The most efficient use of AI today tends to be when the strengths of AI are combined with those of a human. According to Ideal, chatbots have the ability to improve recruiter efficiency by 38% and 75% of the application process can be automated. AI can produce a more comprehensive list of potential candidates for a recruiter to comb through and select the best ones based on the many intangibles that only a human being can see.
But not all recruiters are not equal. While there are many professional recruiters who rely on networking and human connection to do their jobs well, there are many self-ordained recruiters who play much more of a numbers game. They comb through LinkedIn profiles and primarily rely on cold calling and mass generic email releases. While there is a place for this kind of recruiter, this is exactly the kind of recruiter AI will swallow as it can do all of those activities significantly better than we can. AI will clear the way for the best recruiters to shine as they will eventually be the only ones left.
However, the point runs much deeper than that. In a lot of ways, the recruitment industry is broken. Every year there are millions of people who remain unemployed while vacancies sit empty for months. Human recruiters, as plentiful as they might be, have no way of sufficiently responding to every single vacancy available in the marketplace. Similarly, a lot of employers simply can't afford the costs of hiring recruiters and have to resort to older, much less efficient methods of finding candidates.
But more insidious yet is the fact that minorities of all types consistently have the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. There are a variety of factors why, but it's largely due to the unconscious biases we all bring into the workplace. It's the reason why women are so scarce in the tech industry and why black and Hispanic unemployment rates are double those of whites. We are all subject to these biases, we all subconsciously gravitate towards people like us. And the more of one demographic in an industry, the harder it is for others to make it in.
Machines don't share these biases (unless we program them to). Maybe the solution to inequality in the workplace is to outsource the staff selection to a dispassionate AI. We point to its inability to feel as a weakness but maybe, it is its biggest strength.
The ability to judge candidates purely on their merits is something we as a species will never be able to do flawlessly. Looking towards our artificial counterparts for guidance might solve more problems than we expect.