Talent Acquisition

How to Find a Balance Between AI and Humans in Recruitment

There is a growing trend: to remove the human element from the recruiting process through a complete reliance on technology.

Of course, technology has its immense merits in recruitment today. The ease, speed, and effectiveness it brings have grown candidate sourcing and hiring over the decades. However, in the age of a speed-addicted, tech-demanding generation, where recruiters are more inclined to crunch numbers and spam candidates, the human aspect of recruiting is steadily fading out.

Unsurprisingly, this idea has seemingly become the lynchpin of the sales pitch for more than a few HR technology companies, a never-ending stream of dialogue surrounding the benefits of “removing the human element” from recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training. The list goes on and on.

With this emerging trend that seems to be resonating well within the recruiting industry, it is time for a rethink. In theory, the concept makes sense: reduce manual time spent on low-value processes and increase time and attention on the strategic. Using technology is also helping reduce bias in recruiting. For example, tools we have at our disposal can “de-bias” job postings and that’s the right thing to do.

But speed should be the main criteria that technology tools offer to a recruiter. This point has been used by a growing number of vendors to sell the notion that technology (and eventual dehumanization) is the only way to make a valid decision in recruitment.

Here are three points these vendors need to consider:

  1.  They misunderstand the demands of today’s workforce

We use new tech to become more in touch with present-day job seekers and new hires. Of course, tech-savviness is a must-have for any recruiter today. But the problem is that there is something “experts” proposing the elimination of the human element in favor of speed fail to get. They fail to understand the most basic needs and desires of the millennials and, arguably, those of candidates in general.

While it is true that the emerging workforce is very reliant on social media and instant communications, with many preferring electronic communication over face-to-face, the concept of removing the human element seems to be looking only at the “instant” and completely ignoring the “communication”.

With all these advances in recruitment AI, tools and tech, we are tempted to focus only on speed and neglect candidate experience. We forget that real communication is the benchmark of quality candidate experience.

Imagine the frustration a candidate would experience repeatedly getting the same spammed messages from a recruiter with the same message sent to another ten recruiters before because they are using the same software that generates templates for every candidate. Why would anyone want to dehumanize the recruiting process and candidate experience?

Yes, today’s candidates want an instant response, but remember they expect communication to be a two-way thing. Regardless of the medium being used, there is always dialogue. There is back-and-forth with a living, breathing human.

That human may not be sitting across the table from them, but it would be a huge mistake to assume that any candidate would prefer instant one-size-fits-all generic email in lieu of customized responses. At the very least, your automated responses should be written with the recruiter’s tone of voice and company brand in mind with human strategizing in the content.

Yes, the A.I. and chatbots will bring benefits to our lives, but so far the technology is still new and not perfect by any means.

Communication with Chatbot (just an example)

Bot: Welcome, I am Alex, chatbot of company Acme. How can I help you?

Me: Can you give me the name of the recruiter responsible for the Hiring Manager role at SF?

Bot: I am sorry, I don’t understand. Can you rephrase your question?

Me: Can you give me the contact details for the recruitment team at your company?

Bot: I am sorry, I don’t understand. Can you rephrase your question?

Me: Can you tell me what the company’s EVP is?

Bot: I am sorry, I don’t understand. Can you rephrase your question?

Not the right candidate experience that I was looking for.

  1.   They forget that emotional intelligence is still of the utmost importance

One stressful aspect for recruiters in the hiring process is planning the interview. In a positive light, there are a number of great tools out there that are fantastic for arming recruiters with additional information and insight as they are walking into an interview. These tools range in function from providing poignant (legally vetted) interview questions to helping understand what specific body language means. The A.I. behind is able to evaluate candidates and prepare a report for the recruiter.

However, what these technologies should not do is to solely dictate who does or does not get a job without human appraisal. Solely entrusting a computer as the ultimate decision authority on a candidate’s ability to perform their job ignores the fact that, to date, there is no software in the world that can reliably measure, judge or understand human emotional intelligence. Maybe you are going to tell me that recruiters will never only trust the decision of some program. But, in reality, many people believe fake news, just because they are too lazy to double-check facts.

Attempting to utilize currently existing technology in this function would be a vast waste of resources and offer no guaranteed results. The solutions we use today must provide guidance on the interview process and act as what they are—a tool for screening to help guide effective hiring decisions.

  1.   They still carry a false illusion of speed

Nowadays, recruiters, even well-meaning ones, get a bad name. It has reached a point where speed is more important than the accuracy and hard work. Spammy inmails and a lack of respect for job seekers and candidates has become the order of the day. Accompanied with the diseases of ineffective following up and biases like ageism, job seekers form negative opinions of the recruitment process.

But we can’t totally blame the recruiters here. When they move too fast, they make mistakes. They know that being the first to approach a candidate and present an offer is important. Being the second will not count as a hire in their KPIs. Many new tools were bought just to support the illusion of speed. In reality, they could quickly find the candidate, schedule the interview, but in many cases the hiring manager will say to the recruiter the magical sentence, “Good candidate, but I would like to see one more.”

Speed is important, but sometimes it does not go hand in hand with a good candidate experience. Even with all the technology that recruiters have at their disposal they still treat candidates poorly. They do nothing more than run a resume through a software program looking for the right keywords matching the requirements of their open roles. And what surprises me is that, with all the cool ATS that companies are using, they are unable to send every candidate that applied a rejection email after they close the role. Tools are only as good as the people who are using them.

A call for change

I know that it looks like I am against A.I., but the opposite is true. I am big A.I. fan, I also built few chatbots. I just want to point out that we are focusing our attention on that technology with the hope that it will solve our problems. But people are missing the point that these tools are only there to help us, not to fix all problems that a company has. The best A.I. or chatbot on the planet will not fix toxic company culture.

Of course, we use cutting-edge tools to streamline our recruiting processes, greatly easing those complex legal/compliance issues. Additionally, technology will be of immense help in attracting great candidates and narrow down the applicant pool to the candidate with the best job fit. But if you are planning to create a bias-free recruiting process, the tools can only help you to solve one part of the equation. The second part, which is more important, is to create a culture that encourages leaders and hiring managers to recognize their own unconscious biases and foster an inclusive environment.

Most importantly, we should not forget the importance of basic human interaction and emotional intelligence. And as we continue to incorporate more innovative technologies to enhance human interactions and candidate experience, let’s keep in mind that it’s a delicate balance to achieve.

About the author: Jan Tegze is the author of Full Stack Recruiter and results-oriented Talent Acquisition Leader with extensive experience in full life cycle recruiting, and broad knowledge in international recruiting, sourcing, recruitment branding, marketing, and proactive innovative sourcing techniques. 

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