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Will robots ever replace recruiters?

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Much has been written about the “rise of the robots” – in both positive and negative terms – as advances in technology have seen Artificial Intelligence (AI) adopted across countless business sectors, including recruitment.

Despite the alarmist opinions that it would lead to mass unemployment (or a worst case scenario, the extinction of the human race), AI has in fact had the opposite effect in most of the sectors where processes have been automated in recent years. There are still legal clerks, customer service agents and banks – technology hasn’t replaced them, but instead it has enhanced their productivity and speed of operation, by streamlining business processes. And it will be a brave recruiter who doesn’t embrace a technology that could make the hiring process faster or better for clients and candidates alike.

There are a number of areas in the recruitment process that AI and specialist software can improve, such as scanning job criteria to match against databases; filtering candidates; chatbots for candidate queries; as well as removing human error or unconscious bias.

However, to complement these positives, recruitment will always require a human touch due to the personal nature of our business. AI has defined limitations and there are a number of aspects in the recruitment process that it understandably cannot do: 

  • It can’t think outside the box, experienced consultants can. Many recruitment firms talk about their “creative” solutions or “bespoke” strategies for clients – these couldn’t come from programmed tasks.
  • It can supply data, but not interpret it in the way that a professional recruiter can. It can’t be subjective or make judgement calls on the results of the data, only present them to someone who can make those decisions.
  • It can’t understand international or company cultural differences, or use any gut instinct to second guess a good cultural or team fit.
  • It can’t analyse the softer, human skills that aren’t on a candidate’s CV, such as confidence, drive or emotional intelligence.
  • Should negative news need to be delivered, it can’t do that in an empathetic way.
  • While human error can be removed from certain tasks, there are inherent security risks of malware in a world where personal data is prevalent.

So we can all rest assured that our jobs aren’t under threat from machines, but that we might be able to perform more efficiently and productively in the future with their assistance.