Posted December 20, 2016 by

Artificial intelligence can help HR evolve

Contributing writer Ted Bauer

There is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence  in recruiting. Here’s something most people probably don’t know: artificial intelligence actually debuted at a conference at Dartmouth University in 1956. Yep, 11 years after the end of WW2, AI was already on the scene. At the time, there was a lot of optimism. Some people at the conference believed robots and AI machines would be doing the work of humans by the mid-1970s. Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, funding dried up and we began a period called “The AI Winter”. That ostensibly lasted into the 2000s, when IBM’s Watson peaked a lot of interest in artificial intelligence again.

Now we’re at an interesting place. Like PCs in the early 1980s or the Internet in the early 1990s, artificial intelligence is “out there” and people know about it. There’s anxiety around artificial intelligence and what it means for the very nature of the work many of us do. However, I believe it will be a rising tide that will “lift all boats.” Here’s how AI might impact the recruiting industry going forward.

AI is already here in recruiting

One example of today’s cutting edge recruiting AI is an application developed by HiringSolved. They call it RAI — pronounced Ray — for “Recruiting Artificial Intelligence.” The project is about six years old and still being perfected. Its execution is similar to a chatbot. You can say something to RAI like, “I need to find 20 project managers in the accounting sector within 50 miles of Boston,” and — much like you might tell Siri to turn on Pandora — it will begin to comb through resources and find you those project managers.

You could also use clarifying questions, such as “What does Microsoft call product engineers?”

Now, the immediate advantage here is that artificial intelligence serves as the legwork of moving down a recruiting funnel. Most experienced recruiters have strategies for moving from 1,000 potential candidates down to 10-20 for further consideration. The AI application can help quicken the initial filtering. Macro-level insights, such as skills available in a metro area or male/female ratios at companies, could also be pulled up in seconds. Some of this work in a traditional context has taken the better part of an entire week.

Machine learning is an aspect of AI. Simply put, it’s when machines gain new information without that information being programmed into their system. They learn by access to data. In recruiting, the idea of “People Analytics” — a more data-driven approach to hiring — has been around for years. While it’s not quite here yet, continued adoption of AI within recruiting could move it along even faster. Now machine learning algorithms have access to hiring patterns (of specific managers, of departments, of the company as a whole) and can correspond that data with performance reviews, revenue generation, etc. Over time, a model could be developed showing “This type of hire works best for this department.” A lot of the subjectivity and guesswork could be removed.

The evolution of the applicant tracking system

ATS has gotten a bad rap in the last decade. Wherever you come down the effectiveness of ATS, this fact remains: technology causes all software programs to evolve. ATS will have to as well. Most people can point to plenty of interviewees who seem to make no sense for the role. How did ATS let them screen through? Usually, the answer is that the system is over-reliant on keywords. This encourages candidates to just jam keywords into their resumes. But if ATS is tied to AI, and the machine learning component of AI is gaining new knowledge with every open position, specific keywords might mean a lot less. Now resumes might be about number of years in a role, or time between jobs, or managers you previously worked with. The system will be able to glean this information, thus improving how the ATS screens in (and screens out) candidates.

Will AI facilitate the evolution of HR?

This is a core question. HR typically “owns” recruiting at many companies, but oftentimes HR uses outdated strategies and approaches. For example, many HR professionals never even go through their own apply flow. It’s hard to know where specific candidate pain points might be if you’ve never actually gone through the steps. 63% of surveyed CEOs (higher in some other studies) have said talent strategy is a primary concern for them, and a large chunk of those CEOs are concerned about HR continuing to own recruiting. If AI systems get to a place where the decisions being made are significantly more effective than recruiter decisions, CEOs may opt to automate out recruiting functions entirely.

Ah, and there’s the scary part. Could this lead to you losing your job? Probably not anytime in the immediate future, and also remember this: recruiting is a majorly human experience. This involves someone entering an entirely new business — one where they will probably spend 50+ hours per week. As the process unfolds, candidates will want human interaction and context about the company and its culture — not just chatbots advancing them based on specific resume features. The rise of AI will hopefully shift recruiters towards being more personal as a value-add and helping candidates navigate the entire hiring experience. That would be a strong evolution for the recruiting function.

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