The impact of AI on recruitment

As Lucie Mitchell reports, although AI can increase efficiency in the recruitment process, there are drawbacks, which mean that a human element needs to be retained.

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The impact of AI on the world of work, and recruitment in particular, has been a hot topic of conversation for some time. Many organisations now rely on AI to support their recruitment efforts, and for many it has been a real game changer.

One of the top five recruitment technology trends of 2024, according to TargetRecruit, is the ability of AI to drive innovation in the recruitment process. This can enable companies to “boost productivity, reduce biases, streamline their processes, explore new avenues of AI automation and make smarter, data-driven decisions at a quicker speed”.

Research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that in 2023 28% of employers were using AI as part of their recruitment process, compared to just 9% the year before. Of those using AI, 83% said it had increased efficiency and speed, while 64% said it had made it easier to analyse large volumes of data.

As Adam Biddlecombe, co-founder & CEO of Mindstream explains, “AI is really shaking things up in the recruitment industry. It’s changing how companies find and hire talent and making everything from posting vacancies to scanning CVs much faster and more efficient. AI offers employers speed, lower costs and the ability to more easily select the best CVs from a large pool of candidates. It can also interact with candidates earlier in the process.”

AI’s main strength is that it can scale up to do the same task quickly. Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior research adviser in data, tech and AI for the CIPD, clarifies: “If your criteria for identifying suitable candidates are fair and clear and are accurately reflected in the AI algorithm and training data, it can amplify these benefits at scale. Moreover, you can continually refine the criteria, AI algorithm and training data so that it’s fairer and more inclusive.”

Concerns about AI

Interestingly, the ISE research also found that 63% of employers had concerns about the reliability of using AI in recruitment, and 70% said that they still preferred a more human-centric approach.

“AI-generated CVs can pose issues, as they may not reflect a candidate’s true experiences and skills,” warns Biddlecombe. “This requires careful evaluation by recruiters to ensure that a candidate’s skills are accurately represented. In addition, AI may also copy human bias, miss unique talent and raise data privacy concerns. Consequently firms should use AI to support, not replace, human judgement in hiring.”

Some employers are also concerned that applicants could potentially ‘cheat the system’ by using tools such as ChatGPT to write their job applications, which could result in the wrong person being hired for the job.

“Applicants should check what a prospective employer says about using AI in the application process,” advises Stephen Isherwood, joint CEO of the ISE. “As concerns over candidates using AI to ‘cheat’ their way into roles are being addressed by some employers banning it’s use.”

Another major concern is the possibility of unintentional bias being introduced into the hiring process, warns Alastair Brown, chief technology officer at BrightHR. “Since AI is trained using data, should that data include any biases, the AI system will also automatically become biased,” he explains. “There is also the potential for AI to overlook qualified or suitable candidates who might not fit the algorithm’s predetermined criteria. This may mean that employers miss out on potential talent. There are also concerns around data security and privacy laws when it comes to collating and storing large amounts of personal data about job applicants.”

The human touch

With all of these potential challenges to recruitment, maintaining a human element in the process is crucial.

As Claire Williams, chief people and operations officer at HR software provider Ciphr explains: “While AI streamlines processes, it should not replace a recruiter’s knowledge and experience. AI doesn’t possess interpersonal skills and so cannot convey a company’s values and culture. This is something that candidates are increasingly looking at when they are considering suitable roles and employers as they want to work for organisations with values that align with their own.”

Brown echoes how important it is to retain the human touch. “Recruitment is about people, and the ability to connect with and understand candidates on a personal level is something that AI is unable to replicate at this point. Human input builds trust and rapport with candidates, which is essential in industries where communication and soft skills are highly valued. Therefore a balanced approach which incorporates both AI and the human element is likely to be the fairest and most effective way to recruit the best candidates.”

The future for AI in recruitment

What lies ahead for AI and recruitment remains to be seen; however there are some likely scenarios which may play out, and employers can certainly prepare now for what the future might hold.

“We’re likely to see even more sophisticated algorithms in the future and tools which can screen and select candidates based on an even wider range of factors, like personal interests, social media activity, and even biometric data such as facial expressions and speech patterns,” predicts Brown.

Biddlecombe agrees: “Use of AI in recruitment is likely to grow despite the associated risks. In order to prepare for the future, companies should aim to implement AI at suitable stages, such as the screening process. Companies should train their HR teams about AI, regularly audit AI systems to check for bias and combine AI and human input in the hiring process in order to get the best results. Recruiters should stay open to adopting new AI tools, but ensure that the human element remains present in order to make fair and ethical hires.”

As AI technologies continue to advance and evolve, employers must adapt and stay up to date with the latest tools and trends, advises Williams. “Preparing for the future involves striking a good balance between AI-driven automation and maintaining the human touch. Ultimately, the successful integration of AI into recruitment processes relies on harnessing its valuable insights and capabilities, whilst still maintaining the human-centric approach that fosters meaningful connections between candidates and employers.”

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