The truth about AI in recruitment

by in Recruitment Trends

AI is accelerating at breakneck speed across all industries and recruitment is no exception. With a raft of information out there (it’s either going to make all our lives easier and develop us as a human race or destroy the world as we know it), Wave‘s Emily Buckley investigates the truth about AI in recruitment.

How many articles/podcasts/webinars/news reports on AI have you seen over the past six months? I lost count a long time ago. And yes, this is another one, sorry about that. But with all the information, opinions, excitement and scaremongering out there, I wanted to investigate what AI really means for recruitment. Will it speed up the entire recruitment process and do all the plod work so that recruiters can focus on the people side of recruitment or will it replace recruiters altogether?

The rise and rise of AI

The way in which AI has accelerated from its launch into the mainstream has taken many by surprise. ChatGPT, for example, has rapidly developed from a ‘dumb’ neural network to a sophisticated generative AI – and that development is ongoing and fast. Sulabh Soral, Chief AI Officer at Deloitte Consulting, dubs it “the Industrial Revolution for human intellect.” Just as the Industrial Revolution revolved around humans creating machines that mimicked human muscles, hands and legs to take on physical labour at scale and in the process transferred the world, AI is predicted to do the same for cognitive tasks. In the past six to twelve months, AI has accelerated from something a few people used and lots of people talked about, to something that is being incorporated into our everyday personal and work lives and across a multitude of industries.

Can we trust AI?

There has been much publicity in the media about AI pioneers calling for the brakes to be put on the development and propagation of the technology for the sake of humankind. The concerns centre around the potential misuse of AI, particularly once it develops to the point of becoming more intelligent than humans. Thousands, including several ‘godfathers’ of AI and figures such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, signed a letter in late March 2023 published by the Future of Life Institute calling for a six-month halt on the creation of AI more powerful than GPT-4. 

Many believe that AI can help remove bias from the recruitment process but there is also the worry that AI can reflect the human biases inherent in the datasets they learn from. Algorithms used in recruitment processes could end up merely reproducing human biases. For example, Amazon reportedly discontinued an AI-based recruitment programme because it was biased against women. It was programmed to analyse CVs submitted to Amazon over a ten year period to find patterns but the vast majority of those applying for jobs at the company were men so the AI deduced that male candidates were preferred over women.

It is this potential bias and lack of humanity that worries candidates – a recent Totaljobs report found that four in five jobseekers don’t want AI to make the final hiring decision. 52% of UK workers would prefer AI to play just a small part in the recruitment process. What is essential is that human judgement is used alongside AI at all times. AI should be utilised to automate processes and speed up recruitment but never on its own. It’s also important for recruiters to be completely transparent with candidates about how and why they are using AI in the recruitment process in order to dispel any feelings of mistrust.

Why use AI in recruitment?

Recruiters are busy people. Recruitment is an incredibly fast-paced industry – essentially, the recruiter that places a candidate in the quickest time, wins. Anything that saves recruiters time during the candidate attraction and interview stages is hugely helpful. It takes time to write an effective job advert, to sift through CVs, to shortlist candidates. The longer it takes, the more likely a competitor will snap up a great candidate and place them instead of you or your candidates leave the process. There’s also the argument for using AI to make both the application and the interview stages less subject to bias. AI-powered tools can remove personal information including name and education to enable recruiters to make more objective decisions based solely on a candidate’s skills and experience. It’s during the interviews that affinity bias (selecting people who look, talk or act like us) can creep in but AI-conducted interviews could remove some of that bias. Used well, AI can increase efficiency, improve candidate matching, reduce bias, and enhance the candidate experience. 

AI tools that help make recruitment easier

There are a number of really useful AI tools that help to automate processes, kickstart and/or enhance communication, and generally deal with a lot of the daily admin tasks that take time out of a busy recruiter’s day. These span the entire recruitment process, from job ad writing to interview. 

  • Job advert creation – Creating a first-class job ad is one of the greatest challenges in the recruitment industry. Recruiters are extremely busy, job ads take time to write well, and yet the importance of a good job ad to a quick and successful placement cannot be underestimated. AI such as WaveTrackR’s AI Job Advert Assistant can write job adverts for recruiters with the input of a brief amount of information – recruiters simply enter the job role essentials and any extra information provided to them in the brief and the AI quickly crafts an error-free job advert that works with the job board algorithms. These kind of AI-powered tools offer a kick-start to the job ad writing process – the advert can be edited to add that human, personal touch but the grunt work is done by AI.
  • CV and cover letter analysis – AI can screen large volumes of CVs quickly, matching skills and experience requirements to candidate skills, experience and qualifications. This can be particularly helpful when conducting a CV search.
  • Interview technology – Video interviews have become increasingly common since the pandemic, especially in the early stages of the process. Some use AI to conduct the initial interview, setting standard questions for candidates, recording those interviews and analysing the responses. AI software can analyse facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.
  • Predictive analytics – AI can help to predict how successful a candidate will be in a role by analysing CV data such as skills and experience.

How AI for candidates could change recruitment

AI isn’t just being used by recruiters – there are a number of tools that candidates can use to enhance their applications. Generative AI such as ChatGPT can write a comprehensive and personalised CV, a compelling cover letter for a specific company and an entire application. Currently it can probably be spotted by most recruiters but the rate of development of AI will soon change that. This may mean that the early stages of the process will have to change – some are already foreseeing the death of the CV. What is certain is that recruiters are going to have to focus more on talking to people – asking  candidates questions in real time and in real life. Will we get to the stage whereby AI applications are being screened by AI? Will AI be able to recognise AI? At this stage it’s hard to predict exactly how or how fast AI-powered tools designed for candidates will change the recruitment landscape but they inevitably will. 

Emphasising the human side of recruitment

Recruitment is a people profession. At its heart, it involves people helping people to find that perfect opportunity, which in turn helps those people they will be working with. Building relationships with people is the essence of a recruiter’s job. It helps you to understand what both clients and candidates want and are likely to need in the future, thereby enabling you to match the right opportunity with the right candidate. Honing the human side of the job is what AI will give recruiters more time to do. Ultimately, recruiters need to have a compassionate approach to recruitment. Recognising that behind every application is a person trying to find a job and that each of those people is different, with varying backgrounds, histories, motivations, wins and woes, is crucial. It is human judgement that will be vital when AI is utilised across the process – and what sets human recruiters apart from AI.

There’s no getting away from the fact that AI is quickly becoming ingrained in the fabric of recruitment, from both a candidate and a recruitment agency perspective. Beyond the scaremongering that recruiters won’t be able to tell whether an application is from the candidate themselves or written by a robot, it will speed up the process, automating tasks and potentially removing biases. This gives recruiters time to focus on what AI can’t do – find and determine a candidate’s soft skills. Are they creative, compassionate, good communicators? Are they good team workers, do they possess leadership skills and do they have a positive attitude? Are they critical thinkers and problem solvers? All these incredibly valuable skills are hard for AI to accurately judge. That is where the people power comes in. 

This article was originally published on on the 30th of June 2023