By Ratna Wright, Director, Grant Thornton
As artificial intelligence grows in capability, people in all industries have begun to look on with some measure of concern. What if I lose my job to a robot? Such ideas have been spoken about since the early days of assembly lines in automobile factories a century ago. Despite fears, the machines have still taken over only the simplest of tasks, creating better products and leaving ordinary workers free to take on more satisfying roles.
The flip side of the question, however, has received less attention: What happens to the quality of service when an industry begins to rely on artificial intelligence to make human decisions? The recruitment industry is beginning to find out, and many are worried that the end result will make job hunting feel cold and impersonal – like being stuck on the phone, forced to navigate through an automated menu system.
The picture becomes much brighter when the actual role of AI comes into view. As with assembly lines, AI in the recruitment industry is confined to the simpler tasks: screening CVs, scheduling interviews, matching a candidate’s background with the type of work they may be qualified for. These tasks can be done in an instant by a computer, freeing the actual recruiter to spend more time getting to know their clients and hiring managers on a much deeper level. AI doesn’t harm personal relationships; it enables them.
Moreover, by confining AI to a supporting role, recruiters can also re-centre their own activities around the task of matching eligible candidates with their ideal company. Successful recruitment is all about soft skills: assessing attitude and personality, gauging candidates’ attributes alongside the needs of their potential employers, fitting new employees into a suitable corporate culture, and much else besides.
Soft skills are also at the heart of negotiating compensation, making attractive competitive offers, and building on personal experience to understand what each party is truly looking for. With AI taking care of the more mundane aspects of recruitment, less human talent will be required for analytical work, so headhunting organisations themselves can add a greater number of energetic soft skills specialists to their staff.
Personalised service is more than just a convenience. It is the essence of what makes a successful recruiter. I have personally placed a client in a new company even though she had already accepted a counter-offer elsewhere. She took my advice, switched to the company that was a better fit for her, and thanked me later for my help. It was only by getting to know both my client and the company that I was able to find the right match for her.
It is only natural for outsiders to wonder if artificial intelligence belongs at a recruitment office. Each of us is unique, after all – and only a real person can ever truly understand our feelings and motivations. But that is precisely the reason to embrace AI in the recruitment world. AI offers recruiters the power and freedom to shine at their role as intermediary, giving clients as well as HR managers plenty of reasons to smile.