Artificial and augmented intelligence, or AI, is a term that has been around since 1956 and refers to a machine being trained to understand human language and ‘think’ for itself.
Automation is being used now more than ever to speed up processes. Some may say that these machines are even more intelligent than humans and are now being harnessed to save recruiters valuable time. But, as with all things, there are benefits and drawbacks of investing in AI for recruitment. More than anything, it's essential to know when to invest and when not to.
What is AI in recruitment?
AI in recruitment, or recruitment automation, refers to a technology that can carry out tasks and workflows without human monitoring, thus freeing recruiters to work on relationship building.
Recruitment automation has been known to increase productivity, improve talent profiles within an organization and accelerate time-to-fill while reducing the cost-per-hire. But there are as many drawbacks as advantages, so hiring managers should think carefully before investing.
How is AI being used in recruitment?
While we are sure that there will be many more uses of AI in recruitment over the coming years, it's already available to use in various stages within the recruitment process. Here's a list of where recruitment automation is right now and how it may evolve.
Creating job ads
A former Microsoft employee has designed augmented writing software called Textio that creates enticing job ads, selecting terminology based on the geographic area it is targeting. This tool undoubtedly saves recruiters valuable time since it can come up with synonyms on the spot and use data to predict which words and phrases will increase the number of applications submitted.
Screening potential candidates
Big brands received hundreds, if not thousands, of CV's for their job vacancies, so investing in artificial intelligence to take over the screening process may sound like the perfect solution.
Two AI recruitment software providers are using different approaches to screening potential candidates:
- Pymetrics ask candidates to play various games that secretly measure personality traits such as risk aversion. They state that the process is used: "to fairly and accurately measure cognitive and emotional attributes in only 25 minutes."
- HireVue requests candidates to upload videos of themselves answering interview questions so that the AI can measure verbal and body language to screen candidates.
Communicating an employer brand
The development of robust candidates is now more commonplace than ever before, bolstered by the rise in personal branding and a desire from candidates to understand potential employers from a cultural perspective as much as a professional one. Businesses are investing heavily in their brand to ensure they showcase themselves in a compelling way to potential employees. And some companies have been using virtual reality as a vehicle to do this.
The everyday use of smartphones in jobseekers' lives means that using AI in recruitment processes to demonstrate the benefits of a business interactively is the next logical and fun step. Employers are already developing apps that allow candidates to point their phone at an office to find out about its culture, vacancies and current employees in an exciting and engaging way.
A ‘virtual’ presence
Recruitment apps not only offer insight into an employer and its people, but they can also allow a candidate to take a tour of the office. We could also see candidates 'invited' in for an interview and given the opportunity to interact with employees. This will allow them to collect more insight into the role, the people they may be working with and 'virtually' explore the business.
Today's job seekers, particularly millennials, want a far more interactive experience. Companies that take this on board will position their brand far more effectively, no matter the touchpoint.
Onboarding and training
When newcomers join a business, they are often given an induction manual to read and a training schedule covering their first few weeks. AI in recruitment means that these can be delivered more inventively.
People take in information far better if they can live and breathe an experience and visualize concepts, so developing interactive training schemes will add more value to the participant and, therefore, the company. Apps can also enable more collaboration so employees in multiple offices could participate in training sessions, allowing for greater knowledge sharing and upskilling.
What are the benefits of AI for recruiting?
We've already highlighted how AI is used in recruitment, but how does it benefit hiring managers and their recruitment processes? Let's take a closer look:
create job ads
Writing job adverts and descriptions can be handed over to AI's to draft. AIs can whip these documents up much faster than humans and, therefore, can be a considerable time-saving avenue to go down. Keep in mind that we use the word ‘draft’ for this; you’ll see why a little further on in this post.
screen out highly unqualified candidates
There will always be applications submitted by people who don't meet the minimum requirements, no matter the position.
Going through tons of applications is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the recruitment process. By programming minimum requirements, an AI can go through all of the applications beforehand and filter out anyone that doesn’t meet a specific threshold. While this may not save a mammoth amount of time, it will still save a considerable amount. And time is a valuable resource for hiring managers.
reduce unconscious bias at interview
Whether we like it or not, humans are unconsciously biased. This could become a considerable problem during the recruitment process, opening brands up to legal action if a potential candidate believes it is happening.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, said, “What managers do mostly is identify potential...Generally speaking, humans aren’t very good at these tasks...” This is where AI can help, particularly at the interview stage of the recruitment process.
AIs can score candidates based on preset metrics, taking all of the emotion out of the interview process and ensuring fair competition for the role at all times. Of course, the ultimate decision will lie with the hiring managers, but by comparing their scoring against a machine, unconscious bias can be flagged, allowing interviewers to reconsider and potentially set up further interviews or tasks to better comprehend a candidate's skill, ability and knowledge.
What are the possible downsides of using AI in recruitment?
As with all advantages, there are also drawbacks, and it’s vital to understand how dangerous using AI in recruitment processes can be:
Dangers of using AI for screening potential candidates
These machines are supposed to take a more impartial approach than a human interviewer. However, in 2018, Amazon had to stop using their system because the AI had analyzed the data and began biasing against women.
Their AI analyzed CV’s and created a list of top contenders. The problem was that it was trained using data from a ten year period when most of the CVs were from men. While Amazon did edit the program, there was no way of truly knowing if the machine was learning other biases and was eventually shut down.
This incident highlights a critical issue with using AI in recruitment: the data. These machines are supposed to be impartial but use data based on thousands or even millions of decisions made by humans.
Dangers of using stale data for AI training
We all know that the job advert and description writing process is time-consuming, and AI's such as Textio or other machines may feel like the solution. However, a problem occurs when the data pool being used becomes stale, as partially highlighted in the above example.
There was a time in recent history when job advertisements would be seeking a 'ninja' or 'guru'; this practice was particularly present in the technology sector but quickly became outdated.
If the data pool used by an AI is not regularly updated with the swiftly changing language preferred by candidates, the machine will create sub-standard adverts and descriptions.
Dangers of using AI for creating job descriptions
Another issue with using AI's to create job descriptions is the potential for the unintended use of gender-coded words. For example, the AI may steer clear of using 'he' or 'she', but does it understand the impact of specific words, like 'perfectionist', on the applicant?
Augmented intelligence may produce exceptional copy that gets results; however, this will always be based on data and not actual knowledge, experience or empathy. The machine will not know or understand the impact the words have on potential candidates, and recruiters using AI for this purpose must bear this in mind.
So, is using AI in recruitment good or bad?
Much has been said about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it'll take over jobs. And AI indeed performs much better than humans do at certain tasks. IBM Watson, for example, can predict future employee performance with a 96% accuracy rate. Plus, it can help to strip unconscious bias from the recruitment process.
And while the actual writing process for job adverts and descriptions can be handed over to a machine, a human must still check these before signing off and publishing them. It's the hiring managers' responsibility to continuously research and ensure that no outdated and potentially non-inclusive or offensive terminology is seeping in.
Essentially, even some of the biggest brands have learned that responsibility should never solely be with the machine. Indeed, a 'middle ground' whereby AI and humans work together is needed, and these machines shouldn't be wholly relied upon and trusted. Unfortunately, incidents like the one Amazon came across proves that AI in recruitment is not 100% there yet.
Using AI in recruitment is neither inherently good nor bad; it's when human monitoring is removed that it falls short. As technology continues to advance, so too will a machine's ability to recruit. For now, though, if you are planning on investing in AI for recruitment, be sure that you heed the warnings in this post and tread carefully.
About the Author: David Stone, Chief Executive of MRL Consulting Group. MRL is an international tech recruitment firm specializing in semiconductors recruitment. MRL has been finding and placing expert talent within the semiconductor industry for more than 20 years. David may also be found on LinkedIn.