Did ChatGPT Kill Recruiting Technology Innovation?

With so much buzz about AI, have we lost focus on advancing TA technology in other ways that matter?

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Jan 17, 2024

The story of talent acquisition technology in 2023 was all about generative AI. It was everywhere. If a solution provider wasn’t already talking about what they were doing, they certainly wanted to do so.

Recruiters were talking about it too. Some were excited, others nervous, and many more skeptical of what exactly this new technology could do. Could it really make a recruiter’s job easy? Could it improve the candidate experience?

Was it too much to ask that it deals with that one hiring manager who makes your daily life a challenge?

A Race to…Somewhere

With the AI arms race in full swing, it’s fair to ask: Where exactly does the race end? Every recruiting department doesn’t want to be left behind, and every solution provider is escalating their claims on a seemingly daily basis. More generative AI! More ethical AI! More innovative AI!

Did we mention AI?

With a noisy, confusing market. And with everyone diving into generative AI, it feels more like a crowded market with more “me too” innovation than the hotbed of innovation that recruiting was once known for.

More importantly, many technology providers and recruiting departments alike don’t necessarily have a clear end goal in mind for all of this technology. There are plenty of folks looking to use technology to bolster their productivity. But simply squeezing out a few FTEs from a talent acquisition team doesn’t seem like a very good destination for all of this innovation either.

It certainly isn’t very compelling and has made technology-provider pitches feel more generic than ever. “Just add AI” is not a recipe for interesting technology stories. And with new regulations at the city, state, and national levels across the globe, there is also an assessment of risk that seems missing from these pitches.

Generative AI, for all of the pomp and celebration that hailed its arrival, has sucked the innovation out of the industry. For all the talk about ethics and innovation, most products are built on the same basic generative AI foundation. They all end up feeling like the same set of solutions with the same set of challenges. Because, well, that’s reality.

What’s the Alternative to the AI Race?

So what should we do instead? It’s not like there is a bevy of other innovations in recruiting right now. The real alternative isn’t leaning into other new technologies but taking a step back and evaluating what you’re doing and, more importantly, why.

What could that look like?

Evaluate your goals. What are you trying to accomplish as a recruiting organization? Whether it’s rethinking a process or evaluating a technology, knowing what and why you’re doing what you’re doing is important.

Maybe your ultimate goal is to make stronger hires who end up staying longer. Maybe your goal is to lighten the effort for candidates to apply. Maybe your goal is to create a better experience for your hiring team.

None of these are wrong, but all are going to take you in different directions for both thinking about what changes you might make and how technology could support you.

Get the fundamentals right. One company I spoke to that was looking at an AI assessment tool was simultaneously struggling with talent acquisition basics, like handing off a hired candidate to the HRIS or capturing any sort of source-of-hire information.

While you don’t have to wait until you have everything perfect, it seems like a more impactful strategy is getting your technology in order before diving into the AI deep end. A solid foundation for hiring makes everything easier, including implementing generative AI technologies.

Sure, keep up with generative AI. While nobody asked for my permission, it certainly doesn’t make sense to disregard the potential of generative AI entirely. Talent acquisition leaders are often known as innovators and early adopters. Staying ahead of the market and peers can make sense, even if you artificially limit how much you might pursue implementing AI technologies.

One way to use AI is for tasks that are clear of regulatory scrutiny. While a bot that can sort through thousands of profiles and identify the top ten can sound intriguing, an AI-enabled chat function might free up your time to do searches and make contact with potential candidates.

Lean into increasing the humanity of talent acquisition. As recruiters, we’re in the people business. It’s critical to not lose sight of the humanity of our decisions as we automate and AI everything. Prioritizing the parts of the hiring process for which you definitely want a human present — if not driving the entire process — is essential for figuring out where and how to implement new technologies, whether it’s generative AI or whatever comes next.

Technology grounded in humanity is more important than being ahead of the market, but do not forget that you’re ultimately hiring people, not robots.

There’s More to Innovation Than Generative AI

Let’s hope 2024 is the year we acknowledge the power and potential of generative AI without slowing us down from pursuing other potential innovations. Today, it’s still difficult to apply for a job, navigate the hiring process, or manage a robust recruiting funnel. Generative AI might help some of it, but it won’t do it all.

For talent acquisition leaders and solution providers alike, it’s time to be clear about what we want from our technology and processes, as well. Put AI out of your mind for a bit and imagine what your ideal talent acquisition process actually looks like. Does it look like a bunch of machines running your hiring team as you sit back and drink a coffee?

If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then you’re already thinking beyond doing generative AI everything. It’s a good start. Let’s keep going, though.

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