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Recruiter and the machine: The role of AI and the importance of the human element in recruitment

As hiring processes become increasingly automated, how is the role recruiters play in securing high-potential talent changing?

Over the years there have been a number of changes in the way that companies have been engaging with the market and conducting their hiring. 

When job boards first launched, people forecast the death of the recruitment agency as companies could go out and find all the talent they needed directly. Similarly, when LinkedIn gathered momentum it was touted as the killer of the recruitment agency, as companies could go out and find all the talent they needed directly. 

Now we have Artificial Intelligence (AI) with smart algorithms and the ability to filter huge amounts of information almost instantaneously. These systems are also able to analyse results and understand emerging trends. This helps them to learn from experiences so they can constantly improve their return search results to meet the success criteria of the search. 

Furthermore, Facebook is moving into the corporate world with its recent Slack competitor Workplace, a communication tool designed to revolutionise communication in the workplace. Facebook also has its sights set on competing with LinkedIn, as somewhere candidates and employers can meet.

Facebook currently has 1.5b users (66% of user base) who are active daily. This is significantly higher than LinkedIn’s 250m monthly active users (50% of user base).

While a large portion of these Facebook users will be using the medium for the important task of posting pictures of themselves or their dinner, there will still be a large proportion of the user base who will be professionals who are, have been or will soon again be looking for a job. This pool of potential candidates makes up a significant percentage of the world’s population and the implications of being able to reach out to find, connect, and interact with this size of a group is truly mind blowing.

The question people are asking then, is: Are recruitment agencies going to become irrelevant? 

While a low skilled approach works for the generalists, the volume players and the companies who rely on a high volume of talent, we believe that specialist recruiters still have an important role to play. Here are some reasons why: 

1. The network and the passive candidate

One thing that AI cannot do (yet) is go for a coffee with someone and build a relationship. Despite the increasing pervasiveness of social networks, people value a relationship that has been built over a period of time. People like to work with people they trust.

Many of the job seekers we work with aren’t actively looking; they are comfortable where they are but they are interested in having a conversation if something interesting comes up. This means that they may not be on any job portals, their LinkedIn profiles may not be up to date, or they may not respond to approaches from unknown sources. However, they will accept a call from someone they have an existing relationship with.

2. Job description

Job scopes are often very complex and difficult to pin down on paper – which is why many job descriptions do not accurately reflect the work to be done, and skills required. Additionally, ensuring the automated search picks up the right terms requires structuring job description in a specific manner and format, which some hiring managers may not know how to do. 

A good recruiter is able to be look at a job description provided by a hiring manager, and drill down to the core requirements – something machines and artificial intelligence is still unable to replicate. Additionally, he or she will also be able to provide market intel on how realistic the expectations of the hiring manager are, in relation to the availability of candidates which directly match their requirements.

3. Hunch

One way that specialist recruiters can add real value is by providing candidates that they just know the team will love. This is the type of candidate whose CV would never have passed through screening or automated searches. Being able to provide a strong rationale for proposing an alternative yet relevant candidate can really demonstrate how a recruiter can add value by using the human element.

4. Time

Screening through 300 advert responses, filtering through hundreds LinkedIn profiles – all of this takes a lot of time, which hiring managers may not have. A good recruiter, on the other hand, has the best candidates at hand and is normally able to provide a solid shortlist of candidates within 48 hours. 

These are just some examples of where the human element still continues to bring value to the recruitment process – but as technology continues to advance, recruitment agencies must continually adapt.  One day, algorithms will be smart enough to do all of this and more, and if recruitment agencies don’t find a way to add value to an increasingly automated process, we will certainly face going out of business altogether. 

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