AI in Recruiting: Going for Better, Not Faster

There's a lot of focus on speed in recruiting, but it's time to slow down to ponder what you should really be expecting from technology.

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Jul 18, 2023

People are amazing, and many of the recruiters I’ve met over multiple decades are some of the smartest folks around. While they are often great with technology (especially emergent technology), recruiters also use the most important computer around: The one between their ears.

Don’t groan.

Our creativity, problem-solving, and memories are important aspects of doing the job of recruiting well. From understanding organizational culture and the roles for which you’re hiring to creating life-long relationships and using empathy — all are part of what makes a great recruiter.

Too many articles have breathlessly stated how many recruiters will be replaced by new technologies like artificial intelligence and automation, without thinking about the consequences. Sure, emerging software can analyze data more quickly, but does it have the discernment that a recruiter with decades of experience has? Similarly, it can read a resume in a few milliseconds but what can it do to connect the dots in the way that recruiters are tasked with?

It’s time to stop thinking about replacement and start thinking more about improving a talent acquisition employee’s abilities.

Believing in People Does Not Mean Disbelief in Technology

When I write that AI can’t do this or automation can’t do that, it’s not because I’m a Luddite or because I doubt the capabilities of these technologies. Far from it! I know that AI and automation have immense potential and have already improved the recruitment process. However, I also believe that these technologies are best deployed alongside recruiters instead of as rote replacements.

Recruiting is a complex set of overlapping tasks, skills, and outcomes. Think about how differently organizations deploy our oldest technologies like ATSs. Why do they choose to do more assessments upfront? Why do they ask for five years of job history instead of 10?

Recruiting isn’t about doing dumb things faster. It’s about being smarter, figuring out how to prioritize tasks on the fly, understanding people, and making hundreds of judgment calls.

But AI and automation do play a role. These technologies can analyze more data in an hour than an HR analyst on their own could do in a lifetime. They can repeat the same dumb tasks over and over again without complaint. They can even be used to answer thousands of questions that would be impossible to scale without spending millions of dollars.

Better Recruiting Assisted by Tech is Not Necessarily Faster

Philosophically, I believe organizations should stop looking at technology as a way to get rid of people. Ethically, I don’t believe any AI is sufficiently capable of making impactful decisions that might affect whether someone gets a job.

Could AI and automation help a recruiter evaluate more resumes faster? Sure, but it could also help that recruiter analyze those resumes better without saving any time whatsoever.

With new technologies, everyone assumes that speed is the primary benefit to the organization. Does anyone feel like their hiring process is perfect? That the only thing holding organizations back from reaching hiring nirvana is the lack of speed applied to their perfect process?

I don’t think so.

What if we focused on AI that made hiring better and more predictive of success? What if the technology made the experience less miserable for candidates, making them more likely to recommend your organization to others? What if AI could up-level managers to help them make better decisions instead of at times being the weakest link in that process?

We might not need fewer recruiters. We might use the same number of recruiters to make better hiring decisions. Better sourcing or automation might help organizations actually increase headcount if recruiters were focused on building relationships and managing the human-critical parts of the hiring process.

Think Beyond Speed

Given all of this, I would urge talent acquisition leaders and technology providers to rethink how they approach using emerging technologies. Don’t focus on going faster or scaling processes that aren’t working well today. Instead, think of ways you can make the people who are central in managing recruiting better at doing their jobs.

Eventually, better processes can be sped up and perhaps you can reassign staff. More efficient hiring could also lead to just less hiring demand if you’re bringing on people who are better long-term fits for your organization.

Changing the mindset to focus on quality hiring will give you, your candidates, and your hiring managers a better overall experience that can continually be improved — and yes, eventually sped up.

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