Opinion

Has automation affected offline hiring?

Jyoti Bowen Nath | Updated on February 19, 2021

While technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping in talent sourcing, deciding on the best candidate for a job still takes human intuition

To begin with, let’s first understand what does AI and ML mean. According to Stanford Professor John McCarthy, artificial intelligence is, “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.”

Machine learning is the process by which computer algorithms “learn” to draw connections and correlations from large quantities of data.

Simply put, these are effective automation ‘systems’ to improve speed, enhance efficiency, and provide more accurate data than analysed by humans. Hence, McKinsey Global Institute has said that about a third of global workers could be replaced by these systems by 2030 as ‘Data is the new Oil’ and ‘speed will be the refineries’.

Given that globally there is a war for talent, organisations will definitely need such systems and processes to get the data about the best candidate for the role faster, implement the right set of evaluations in terms of skills, competencies and cultural fitment, and ensure quicker on-boarding of the employee so they can hit the ground running.

In a way, we can say that automation is needed to help identify the talent that the organisation is looking for when it comes to talent sourcing.

In recruitment the epitome of the phrase “trying to find a needle in a haystack” is often used. Economic fluctuations, demand in a particular sector, an over-abundance of graduates with a particular qualification — all of these things and more can lead to some jobs having hundreds — or even thousands — of applicants rushing for a single position when it crops up.

The cost of recruiting and on-boarding a new hire can go up to $240,000 and this cost can grow exponentially in case of a bad hire, in addition to the cost of rehiring. With so many individuals competing for a dramatically smaller number of jobs, how do recruiters find ways to make their lives easier and their jobs more manageable? This is where automation can play a role.

With 52 per cent of recruitment leaders saying that identifying the right candidates from a pool of applicants is the most challenging part of their job, it seems clear that the experts feel this isn’t a task that can be done with people power alone. A single hire may take 23 hours on the part of a recruiter to screen resumes and shortlist relevant profiles.

With automation in the picture, recruiters can do away with the time-consuming task of going through stacks of resumes by automating the entire process. Early adopters of AI-powered recruiting software reported that their cost per screen decreased by 75 per cent and turnover reduced by 35 per cent. Advanced, intelligent chatbots go beyond the traditional chat feature and use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to communicate with and analyse the candidates better.

AI uses techniques such as natural language processing and sentiment analysis to learn, troubleshoot, and problem solve. Talent mapping, with the help of Big Data is definitely the next step in recruitment technology. With talent mapping, recruiters can determine their candidate needs well in advance and develop a strategic plan for hiring long-term. This includes filling any skill gaps, bolstering the team for sudden changes in the workplace, or just simply having suitable talent in mind for the future

Benefits of automation

Saves time — speed is the key

Removes bias — algorithms don’t typically include gut feel

Finds candidates — mapping the profile available to the role

Improves candidate experience — chatbots engage effectively

Fast tracks screening in resume and cover letter through key word searches

Automate high-volume tasks

Predicting future hires — predictive analysis using past and current trends

Video assessments, evaluation and recommendations

Diversity and inclusion — one company used machine learning to help increase female hires from 40 per cent to 47 per cent and minority technical hires from 1.5 per cent to 11 per cent

Assessing for cultural fit — using cues from video interviewing and company competencies

Managing relations with candidates

Talent mapping for future roles and needs

Game-based assessments and other newer forms of AI-driven assessment have caused quite a stir in the last few years and many organisations are experimenting with them as an alternative form of psychometric testing. They can provide a more engaging candidate experience, while significantly reducing the time it takes to take the assessment.

Questionnaire-based personality or cognitive ability tests are often time consuming and can see a high candidate drop-out rate as a result, so this is why we have seen a large interest in exploring these new tools and technologies.

Gartner had done a survey where it found that more than half of the companies that had a yearly turnover over $750 million use digital tools to get data on the activities of their employees and monitor their overall performance. As part of this, they analyse their emails to find out how engaged and content they are with their work.

Automation also has a role to play in on-boarding new starters. This is particularly relevant when it comes to providing new hires with the information, they need to make their working lives easier.

Major pitfalls

Having said this, there are some major pitfalls in automating the entire process of recruitment online. Technology can use AI to detect certain subtleties in candidate behaviour during a video interview for instance. But who’s to say that an applicant’s body language isn’t simply due to him/her being nervous rather than them cheating?

Human qualities such as empathy and contextual understanding are still (almost) impossible to replace with software. Another tricky situation: An AI-driven recruitment tool might identify a candidate as having all the necessary experience based on a keyword search. But will it miss the fact that the same candidate has changed jobs four times in one year?

While AI is reported to have a major impact on the workforce, recruiters will likely be safe. There are many efficiencies hiring software offers but the benefits are more of automated workflows and not necessarily computerised decision-making. Clients who run automated searches for identifying leaders, do come to us for evaluation or assessment, as cultural cues and human behaviours are still best judged through behavioural ‘human’ interviews.

The takeaway is that deciding on the best candidate for a job takes human intuition. You can’t run a stack of resumes through a machine or computer program and have it to tell you who to hire. Despite all the noise about AI, recruiters probably have nothing to fear. Embrace the benefits technology provides and make sure to conduct the best interviews you can.

Emotional intelligence is still every bit as valuable as artificial intelligence — no machine can ever account for the complexities of human emotion and behaviour.

The writer is Managing Director, Claricent Partners

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Published on February 19, 2021
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