I recently attended the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) Conference on the Gold Coast titled ‘Leadership in a new world of work’. The event also combined the World Employment Conference (WEC), which gave the two-day event a global focus. A key topic discussed was artificial intelligence (AI), its role in replacing people and our place in the recruitment process understanding roles and attracting candidates for clients. We found ourselves asking – if AI was in place and there were fewer roles for humans, would our role in the recruitment process be vastly reduced? If the work we do in understanding a role, attracting, sorting, screening and selecting candidates could all be done through AI, does this mean recruitment is heading for extinction?

The short answer is no. AI certainly has its place in terms of streamlining some of the repetitive and menial tasks humans perform, however the fundamental conclusion was work is part of the human psyche. While some larger companies filtering huge numbers of applications are using AI to undertake initial screening questions, the formal selection and interview process is still the responsibility of recruitment professionals. I believe this will be the case for a long time to come. We’ve already seen the growing use of AI across industries – evident when we ring a telco or insurance company to get some basic screening process, but this does not mean all “human” roles can be replaced. True AI will get better, but there are doubts it will replace in-depth human interaction for the foreseeable future. In a recruitment sense, the close interaction required in dealing with the expectations and aspiration of candidates and clients still requires involvement from real people.

AI will lead to new ways of working

So how can we benefit from AI and in general are we doing ourselves out of jobs? A recent report from McKinsey entitled AI, automation and the future of work suggests work as we know it will change, but AI will create jobs. AI can replace some activities within a job, but not the whole job. Itpropartal article AI and the future of work suggests nearly 40% of roles may be replaced in the next 15 years, however AI will increase jobs by creating new data analyst, machine operator or system manager roles. “Leadership, empathy, and delegation are examples of the many jobs that are safe from automation”. Forbes article, the future of artificial intelligence in the workplace, suggests there are more positives and upside than down, but there will be pain along the way as some roles are replaced or updated. The solution is more emphasis should be placed on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to equip the future workforce with the skills they need to work alongside AI, while subjects “building creative, social and emotional skills should be encouraged” as “humans will always outperform machines in jobs requiring relationship-building and imagination”. Which is good news for those of us in people management and recruitment.

AI can enhance candidate experience

If AI isn’t going to replace all people, it seems recruitment will still have a place. In our industry AI can improve a candidate’s experience in the recruitment journey particularly with high volume roles. The introduction of Chatbots which allow real-time interaction and provide up-to-date information and queries on processes will mean information can be delivered day and night. The easy engagement with candidates through the Chatbots allows candidates to understand where they are up to in the application process and when they can expect to hear more, as well as answer rudimentary questions, particularly in high volume and technically driven recruits.

AI complements the human side of work

In the future I am sure AI will get better, but there are still elements that only humans bring to the table. Fundamentally humans are psychologically programmed to focus, they desire purpose and have the agility to change track and problem solve when they are setting out to achieve an objective. I do not believe AI will replace what work is and what it represents. To work is to be human. To be able to engage with a candidate, understand their motivations and press hard on questions that reveal repeating behaviours – some desirable, some less desirable – is a skill only a qualified recruitment professional with empathy and insight can achieve.

The reality is AI can be used to complement what the real, human recruitment consultant can do. It can be used to screen, and inform candidates, to help eliminate subconscious bias when selecting candidates to pull together a fantastic long list of people with the experiences we are looking for. But filtering through the talent pool of people and matching the skills and experience with the job description is just the first step. It is the recruitment consultant who has the skills to identify what really matters from a culture-fit perspective that becomes paramount. It is only through personally meeting with the candidate, completing testing and asking questions to uncover repeating patterns of behaviour that we can have confidence in someone being the best fit for an organisation.

Happy recruiting!
Ian Hamilton


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash