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There are many reasons recruiters are afraid of technology taking over their job, but the number one reason I think they’re afraid is because they don’t understand its potential.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of tempo and speed to delivery in recruitment – especially in recruiting tech professionals – and those expectations and timelines are only going to continue to stiffen as the demand for tech talent heightens. If you are slow to recruit, engage and react in this airtight talent market, you will lose.

And this is where artificial intelligence will separate the good recruiters and make them better.

I’ll admit, I feel like I’m just at the tip of the iceberg with understanding the entirety of AI, but I’m fascinated by it, not scared. In technology, I see a new era in recruiting full of possibilities.

Recruiter vs. Robot: No Contest

Sure, I’m the type of person who relentlessly presses “0” when placed in an automated menu over the phone. And it’s usually because I’m calling about a very specific issue that I know I need to talk with a person about in order to get it resolved. In this instance, technology is not helpful to me.

On the other hand, when Sandra, my better half, orders something off of Amazon, she wants to know – in real-time – when it ships, where it is in transport and when she can expect to receive it. For me, I love the way Netflix scores and provides recommendations on what I should watch next based on what I’ve watched before. A platform knowing exactly what I need before I do is impressive – and it’s all made possible by technology.

To me, in these examples lies the real conversation about AI and recruitment automation. There are certain processes, like keyword matching and interview scheduling, that make sense to automate. But never will technology be able to completely replace the role of a human recruiter.

I recently read a Bullhorn report that said 67 percent of the people who took the survey believe automation will free up recruiters from tasks like scheduling and screening, allowing them to dedicate their time to more significant efforts – like relationships. These are the people who understand robots are not taking over recruiter jobs, they’re making them better. AI isn’t taking away from their job, it’s streamlining their day so that they can focus their energy on the most important part of their job: building relationships. The fear-based headlines plotting a takeover of the industry are exactly that – they’re based in fear.

We’re at the crux of something big where across all lines of business and industry verticals, the role of the recruiter is becoming more and more important. Executives and hiring managers across the board understand how important it is to be able to recruit great talent. People, after all, are what keep them in business and the talent market is calling out hiring managers to step up their game. Remember, speed is everything. Good recruiters who are harnessing the power of technology are able to be more strategic in their conversations with clients and candidates, and act as true consultants to deliver on hiring goals and career objectives.

In short, technology is allowing recruiters to do more in less time, to focus their efforts on tasks that matter and to put the human in the steps of the process where and when it matters most.

There are significant limitations to what technology can do, and it’s at these critical points in the talent acquisition and attraction process where the good recruiters will reinsert themselves to pick up where the technology leaves off.

The Limits and Accelerants of AI-Powered Recruiting

Limitation: Some recruiter functions are more susceptible to automation, while others require judgement, intuition and empathy. That will never change. Social skills, emotional relatability and other human capabilities that cannot be replaced by technology or become automated will still need to be handled by individuals. I’m thinking about when candidates get rejected or hiring managers miss an interview – someone needs to be there to explain that. This is empathy, and robots are most certainly not empathetic.

Accelerant: Automating parts of a recruiter’s job, especially early stage sourcing steps and initial candidate outreach, increases productivity, quality and cadence. Technology, in this regard, is a supplement and replaces tasks, not jobs or people.

Limitation: Accountability cannot be turned over to a machine. Hiring managers and candidates still need a personal point of contact to go to when things go wrong, or when an answer can’t be found at the end of an algorithm. Again, to me this is empathy, and it’s a real point of limitation of what exactly a machine can and cannot do. Two scenarios come to mind:

  • We had a consultant move across the country for a project, only to have the budget get pulled last minute. That sucks. And as a person, I can relate to the logistical nightmare this became. We made sure to carefully – and emphatically – manage the situation and immediately got to work on finding him another project.
  • Another recent situation that highlights the limitations of technology: we had a client with a consultant onsite who needed to stop working due to a family emergency. The client called us on a Monday and by Wednesday we had a replacement consultant at their office. We responded quickly and with empathy. Could AI have found a replacement consultant? Probably. But, could AI have understood the significance of a family emergency and the urgency to fill a role immediately? I don’t think so.

Accelerant: Text-based applications and chatbots allow for more outreach and touchpoints on behalf of recruiters, improving efficiency and the candidate experience, while simultaneously increasing the number of candidates recruiters can later interact with one-on-one. To me, this is huge. As staffing professionals, we thoughtfully look to expand our footprint and the number of consultants we can help – AI lets us do this, at scale.

Limitation: Automation is key when things go right and when placements are simple, but for complex deals – like relocating a candidate from across the country, or unexpected scenarios, like last minute offer pulls or family emergencies like the examples I shared above – recruiter management is still so critical. People need people.

Accelerant: With stored data and AI, recruiters are able to more easily and seamlessly move up and around in their own careers; there is less of a fear of losing an individual to promotion when information sharing and flow is housed centrally by machines and technology.

Limitation: Robots don’t plan for the future. Arguably, AI and things like natural language processing (NLP) are always learning and improving, but a good recruiter plans and provides strategy and foresight that technology cannot and does not.

Ultimately, the key to success in this emerging technology-powered recruiting environment is to be able to marshal and capitalize on AI capabilities to deliver more value to clients and to candidates.

The role of the recruiter continues to be enriched and elevated by AI and machine learning, but the best approach is twofold – relationship-based, empathic recruiting powered by technology. All of which is going to make good recruiters better and our industry stronger.

Do you agree? How are you and your team embracing AI? What limitations and accelerants do you see? Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment below.