3 Roles for Recruiters in the AI Era

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Feb 27, 2018

Think AI will replace recruiters? Think again. It’s making them more powerful than ever as ambassadors, overseers, and protectors of their companies’ values.

For all the headlines it has managed to grab lately, artificial intelligence remains a bit of an enigma — and a somewhat alarming one at that. With reports that up to half of all the activities people are paid to do could potentially be automated, modern AI, machine learning, and robotics sometimes get a bad rap — and it’s easy to get concerned.

But for most careers, and recruiting in particular, the reality is much more subtle and much less daunting — perhaps even exciting. While AI has already proven to outdo its human counterparts in activities like pre-screening candidates’ CVs (and entire lives), it has simultaneously ushered in opportunities for recruiters to expand their role and the value they bring as a result. In an article for Forbes, recruitment expert (and upcoming ERE San Diego speaker) Caroline Stokes refers to their evolved position as a “human capital developer,” suggesting that modern recruiters must be coaches, data analysts, design thinkers, marketers, and storytellers. It sounds like a lot, but I think she’s right.

Beyond these evolved roles, recruiters will also take on more ownership of the recruiting experience, effectively being in charge of directing the future talent of their companies, and in turn, the future of the companies themselves. So here are three considerations for these unsung heroes in the AI era:

“Ambassadors” for Candidates and Hiring Managers

In an era defined by technological disruption and amidst a generally accepted talent shortage, bringing on the correctly qualified staff has become more important than ever — and it all starts with candidate experience. Despite the fact that more than eight in 10 executives label talent acquisition as important or very important in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, only 15 percent of those surveyed believe their companies meet the mark in cultivating and monitoring long-term relationships with potential future employees.

The authors of the Deloitte report write, “In today’s transparent digital world, a company’s employment brand must be both highly visible and highly attractive because candidates now often find the employer, not the reverse.”

Accordingly, given that AI has already showed promise in automating certain responsibilities (e.g., identifying the best people for the job), it has freed up recruiters’ time to make sure candidates feel engaged from the very beginning of the recruitment process and “‘pull’ candidates toward them.” This means that recruiters can, and must, take a more active role in managing the candidate experience, ensuring not only that they feel engaged in the process leading up to interviews, but that they actually want to start the onboarding processes once offers are extended.

However, leaving ‘the experience’ only in the candidate domain would also be missing the mark. Recruiters have to take a more active role with hiring managers and, as Stokes suggests, act more like a coach or trainer by constantly managing relationships with care. Having to work with hiring managers often means navigating difficult politics, absorbing their pressures aligned with the need to hire and being a sounding board and innovator to develop the right plans for finding and securing the best talent for a position.

Candidates and hiring managers, as human beings, want to interact and engage with other human beings. So while AI might automate certain processes for recruiters, it should actually create additional value and opportunity by allowing them to maximize the quality of the experience for candidates and hiring managers alike. In doing so, recruiters truly become ambassadors for not one, but both parties.

“Overseers” of the Application Process

The number of people involved in a hiring decision can be dizzying. If we take the whole process, there are often designated people for sourcing candidates, screening candidates, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews, deciding on the interviews, collecting feedback, offering or rejecting, onboarding, and new hire engagement. Although not each of these roles can be fully automated, most can be to a large degree without significantly impacting the necessary level of human interaction.

In fact, AI’s intervention in the traditional recruitment process can paradoxically leave more room for the human element. Just as every orchestra requires a conductor to perform at its best, with AI in the recruiting process, instead of focusing on finding people, recruiters can orchestrate everyone’s efforts toward actually hiring and engaging people.

With this new role, recruiters can watch the application experience from end to end, driving the right behaviors through people. In doing so, they have the ability to jump in when appropriate, and ensure everyone is operating with a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence to create the necessary bond for a commitment to act — or in other words, for getting the ideal candidate to join.

For this reason, as modern technology threatens to remove the human touch from the recruitment process, recruiters’ role as active overseers in the application process will be more critical than ever.

“Protectors” of the Culture and Values of the Company

Recruiters are often viewed by companies as a major cost center. However, as AI removes many of the manual activities that currently define the position, recruiters can take and analyze the data that the technology creates to act as a more strategic partner to their businesses. In essence, recruiters can become a value center by identifying trends and making recommendations as to how their organizations can best prepare for the future.

And the World Economic Forum agrees. “What this requires is an HR function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table — one that employs new kinds of analytical tools to spot talent trends and skills gaps, and provides insights that can help organizations align their business, innovation, and talent management strategies to maximize available opportunities to capitalize on transformational trends,” reads The Future of Jobs report from 2016.

AI can forewarn recruiters about a variety of problems and needs, enabling them to to take a broader view and notice trends early on — and more importantly, take proactive measures to address them. They can steer toward building a high level of diversity within the company and align the overall talent with the company’s overarching strategy, mission, and values.

Equally, data from AI can allow recruiters to spot underperforming hiring managers who are losing highly capable talent, driving poor experiences, and, in turn, poor engagement. When focusing on a single hiring manager, for example, it’s hard to spot these damaging trends. The benefit of AI is that it provides an aerial view in which these trends are more easily identified and adjusted.

Similarly, the full capabilities of AI can be implemented to continuously monitor candidates after they are hired to see if they are living up to expectations and proving themselves as the best possible role holders. Often, the people who recruiters see on paper and in interviews turn out to be somewhat different after onboarding. In effect, the technology is placing an unprecedented level of control in the hands of recruiters, making them the ultimate protectors of their companies’ cultures and values, and allowing them to reach more broadly than talent acquisition alone.


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