Automation is set to take hold of—but not take over—the talent acquisition space. Here are some ways to prepare.
By Christa Elliott
Will top candidates be hired by robots in the near future? Not likely. Although 65 percent of Americans expect that within 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans—according to a study from the Pew Research Center—these fears may be unfounded for those who work the talent acquisition space. The early phases of the hiring process can benefit from applying artificial intelligence (AI) technology, but recruitment will always need a human touch. Provided that recruiters do more than source and screen, they are unlikely to be entirely replaced by software. On the contrary, the automation revolution will make their jobs easier and allow them to do more. With the right preparation, organizations can use automation to their advantage—saving time, money, and strategic resources in the process.
“The transactional parts of recruiting—resume screening, interview scheduling, reporting, backgrounds, offers, and onboarding—are ripe for automation, while the emotional parts of recruiting—candidate engagement, hiring manager interviewing, and weighing the decision will be transformed into intentional, well-crafted experiences with people at the center,” Cielo Vice President of Technology Adam Godson explains.
The automation revolution has less to do with replacing personal recruitment with formulas and machines and more to do with transforming the role of recruiters and rethinking how they use their time.
Automated solutions allow recruiters to screen resumes for basic key words and qualifications almost instantly instead of poring over individual applications in search of someone who may or may not even be a good fit for the role. Tasks such as talent sourcing are also much simpler when AI is involved. Gone are the days of scouring the web and resume databases for candidates—or at least they should be; now AI is capable of recommending talent based on previous hiring patterns and even sourcing passive candidates based on social media profiles and other miscellaneous data that users leave online. The one caveat, of course, is that real people need to check these selections to make sure that they create thought, gender, and ethnic diversity in the final talent pool.
“Interestingly, given the development of “smart’ applications or cognitive computing, there are a number of emerging areas of applicability [for AI in recruiting],” says Michael Brito, partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “For example, Google has a human-performance analytics group that uses algorithms to determine everything from optimal interview techniques to compensation. Candidate selection will and should require human interaction—but the processes that precede and follow it are likely to become increasingly automated.”
More automated processes will lead to more time for recruiters to spend on other tasks. And what will HR do with all of the reclaimed time? They’ll be able to devote more resources to improving and personalizing the candidate experience. According to CareerArc’s 2016 State of Candidate Experience Study, 60 percent of job seekers report having received a poor candidate experience, and 72 percent of those respondents shared that bad experience online or with someone directly. In short, bad experiences matter and can negatively impact the future talent pool. Recruiters need to use their time wisely, be communicative with candidates, and give them the time that they deserve as “consumers” of the talent acquisition process.
After all, recruiters are working in an increasingly candidate-driven market; in fact, the MRINetwork’s 2016 Recruiter & Employer Sentiment Study found that 86 percent of the recruiter respondents would call the labor market candidate-driven, compared to just 56 percent who said the same in 2012. It is more important now than ever that recruiters spend the bulk of their time courting candidates through employer branding and interviews, always looking for that perfect cultural fit.
“What automation will open up is greater opportunity and consultative support provided by HR to work with hiring managers to really understand if someone is the right fit for the company culture and the organization,” Candace Osunsade, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at the National Aquarium says. “At the end of the day, that’s what will move the needle in so many of the key performance indicators in the HR space—engagement, satisfaction, and ultimately, results.”
Although the talent acquisition process will still need people in order to function optimally, this is not to say that recruiters and other HR professionals won’t need to adapt and upgrade their skills in order to keep up in the ever-changing digital age. Rather, they’ll need to learn to use these tools—analytics, cloud technology, recruitment software—and become comfortable integrating them.
“As the adoption and integration of analytics across business processes grow, the traditional roles of the HR department constantly evolve. Today, the ability to translate data insights into realistic HR programs and policies is the most valuable skill,” Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle’s group vice president of human capital management strategy, explains. “With the right analytics technologies in place, HR professionals can provide valuable, in-depth information to inform and improve the decision-making processes that have real impact to their company’s overall success.”
Given all of the potential efficiency and savings that automated recruiting can bring, HR departments also need to prepare themselves to meet new technology with open arms. Beyond cultivating computer and web skills, this preparation will involve examining existing recruiting efforts, putting company culture under a microscope, and carefully evaluating what qualities make a candidate a good fit for the organization, not just the specific role. It will also mean documenting current processes and making sure they run smoothly even without automation.
Carey Walden, the National Aquarium’s manager of HR services, agrees and adds that professionals must have realistic expectations for automation and use the technology as a tool instead of a replacement for thoughtful candidate evaluation:
“At the end of the day, algorithms, automation, and software are just the tools. They just streamline the processes and bring them to life in a different way than they would manually. The first thing that the aquarium does is a focus on process and continuous improvement within that process and focus on the diversity of roles that we have.”
Walden goes on to say that HR departments need to ask the following questions:
• Are the current talent acquisition processes right for the organization?
• Will those processes work well for every vacancy?
• Is the current recruitment strategy helping the organization reach its goals?
• How can this strategy be diversified?
In other words, organizations need to diversify talent sourcing methods when necessary and decide whether or not automation is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Some positions can be filled with a combination of automated sourcing and screening, but others may be better filled using job fairs, by sourcing passive candidates, and using other hands-on strategies.
“In some cases, you don’t need someone who can put together a resume with all of the key words to fill your position. Maybe you have a skill set that is not academic or professional in nature but is more aligned with trade skills, for example,” Walden says. “I think that we cannot rely solely on these tools to tell us that these are the best candidates available. We need to be ensuring that every search that we conduct is tied back to that position, the candidate profile that will be most successful, and where we are most likely to find those candidates.”
As automation continues to spread and more and more practitioners discover the benefits of using them, automation will likely become the status quo for certain areas of recruiting. It may never have the human intuition needed for highly specific job criteria, but, HR professionals should be considering all the ways that this revolutionary technology will fit into their current plan and be excited— not afraid—of the possibilities.
“Recruiting will always be about connecting people to other people, so it won’t be automated entirely. What will be automated is the middle part of the process, but at the end of the day, job-seeking is a personal, emotional experience that will require emotional intelligence on behalf of recruiters to hire the best talent,” Godson says.