Artificial intelligence is much-hyped and little-understood. It’s not surprising: a great deal of technology is either feted as completely life-altering or condemned as completely useless. For AI – broadly defined as computer systems that can mimic human intelligence – the truth is, while high-concept applications have some way to go, we are already beginning to see emerging signs of its influence in certain industries.
Recruitment is a key market in which AI is likely to be transformative over the next several decades. In 2018, and in the near future, it isn’t going to replace consultants or eliminate the need to talk to applicants, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore early indicators of its potential applications.
Research from Bullhorn suggests that nearly half (48 per cent) of agencies intend to significantly increase their investment in new technology over 2018, and the evolution of automation and AI-inspired automation are undoubtedly driving this trend.
It’s not hard to see why: AI might not change the recruitment world overnight, but it may well lead to clear and dramatic improvements in areas such as client and candidate engagement, and general operational efficiency.
With this in mind, here are three AI-themed predictions for the recruitment industry in 2018.
Strictly speaking, automation isn’t synonymous with AI, but they’re related phenomena – and the lines between them are gradually blurring.
Automation has already moved firmly outside the ‘emerging technology’ column in 2018; it’s more of a simple fact of life. Recruiters already use it for important, yet time-consuming tasks such as meeting arrangements and data entry, alongside more specialised work such as sourcing candidates and contacting successful and unsuccessful applicants. It has been determined, and rightly so, that recruiters’ time is too precious for these routine processes.
Useful as automation has been though, it’s quite unlike ‘true’ AI – and here’s where 2018 may be seen retrospectively as an important year. Though the two concepts will continue to be largely distinct, automation will take on an AI ‘flavour’. We’re already seeing this in action. For example, Cielo, the recruitment process outsourcing specialists, are now able to automatically arrange 50,000 phone screenings for candidates every month, just by enabling them to select their own interview slots. Expect to see more of this hybrid approach over the course of the year.
2. Machine learning will deepen client and candidate interactions
Machine learning is already being applied by a select number of companies across different industries. In the spirit of continuous optimisation, many firms are using it to gain a deeper understanding of their clients, and candidates alike.
In 2018, however, it may go from a ‘nice to have’ to an essential. Recruiters who use machine learning tools better understand how to contact their candidates; which candidates to shortlist from a wider pool of applicants; and how likely they are to be placed based on their behaviour and their history. Machine learning has a range of simple and complex applications for this industry, and companies will take advantage of them over the coming year. This will be especially significant with Brexit looming, and potentially creating skills shortages across many industries.
But beyond wider adoption, machine learning will develop in directions that can make a serious difference for recruiters. Chatbots empowered with natural language processing techniques, will soon be able to automatically onboard candidates – removing the need to actually speak to a recruitment professional at any point during the process. This means the recruitment professionals can focus less on logistical hassles and more on activities that please clients and drive profits.
3. Technology – and AI in particular – will doubtlessly have a transformative effect on the recruitment industry, but don’t expect it to act as a substitute for human consultants. Machines can’t yet effectively replace a qualified professional: they lack the empathy and creativity to truly connect with clients and candidates.
But, in the long term, AI will prove to be a big time and money saver. While it won’t eliminate recruiters, it will negate some job roles in other industries: fleets, for example, could become self-driving, and many payroll and accountancy functions will become fully automated. That said, it will also create new job opportunities in areas such as business services and consultancy, and it will deepen the analytical options available to recruitment professionals. Sophisticated insights into the behaviour and preferences of clients and candidates will be available, and recruiters will profit from this trend.
To the extent that AI affects the recruitment industry, it will be to augment and support its efforts and goals. Recruiters need not worry. What they should do is look for ways to capitalise on the emergence of these opportunities and trends – to treat AI as a means of streamlining their processes and strengthening their relationships.