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The positive power of AI for recruiters

We know that artificial intelligence (AI) is coming. But how will it be applied in the recruitment sector? Peter Linas, EVP Corporate Development & International, Bullhorn explains.


According to Bullhorn’s 2018 UK Recruitment Trends Report, nearly a third (29%) of  recruitment firms place accelerating the efficiency of core processes in their top three challenges for 2018. Conversely, only 16% rank implementing automation technology – despite it being a huge boon for efficiency – as a top three priority.

There are several misconceptions that are at the root of this hesitancy to put automation into practice. Nearly half (41%) of respondents believe that automation will result in job losses. Just under a third (30%) feel automation will create more jobs and nearly the same percentage of respondents (29%) simply aren’t sure. Yet recruiters should be keen to embrace automation sooner rather than later.

Why? Because AI is coming next.

And when it does eventually start to have a real impact, it will be even more transformative than automation already is. Educating on the potential benefits, as well as the implications of the negatives, could go a long way to speeding up automation and AI implementation across the industry.

Future applications of AI in recruitment

Machine learning

One of the main tasks that machines should be assisting recruiters with is shortlisting candidates. By applying specific machine learning algorithms to candidate data (collected from a number of sources including social media, employee history, and employer information), it’s possible to quickly draw up lists of the most qualified candidates, based on desirable skills and experience.

Of course, no firm would want to hire a candidate based on algorithms alone, so the recruiter is responsible for taking over the interview process at that point to ensure there is still a human-to-human element before the hire is made. In this sense, recruitment will always be human-centric.

Machine learning can also be used to automatically review CVs and applications to create ‘placement probability’ scores. By comparing the data of a current candidate against previously successfully placed candidates, machine learning could help to determine how likely it is that candidate will also succeed in the role.

Human bias is often subconscious, but it still results in discrimination. This is where algorithms come into their own – they cannot have implicit or unconscious bias against any gender, race or orientation, and will therefore only be capable of picking candidates based on their qualifications and suitability for the job. With heightened interested in discrimination and gender pay gaps, tackling bias in recruitment is a top priority for most firms.


Chatbots are set to become more sophisticated over time as AI capabilities develop. They can enable recruitment agencies to respond to candidate concerns immediately and free up recruiter time in the process.

They shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) replace the human-to-human experience, but will instead help recruiters to answer candidates’ common questions and queries, pre-screen candidates to determine suitability for a job, and even automate the scheduling of meetings and calls. Chatbots would do all the above without bias, weeding out any opportunities for discrimination early in the process.

Challenges and barriers to adoption

Privacy concerns

With the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), managing candidate data has never been more of a concern for recruiters. Navigating opt-in requirements for candidate consent requires the compliant collection, maintenance, and retention of data, which many firms aren’t well equipped to do.

Recruiters must have scrupulous data usage policies in line with these regulations. Harnessing AI in recruitment will require collecting more data on candidates in order for algorithms to determine candidate suitability. In the immediate future, technology companies will need to build their products with these specific data protection regulations firmly in mind.

The human touch

Any recruiter worth their salt will argue that personal relations are what make a good recruitment process. This won’t change with AI, as whilst it can connect candidates and recruiters, it cannot build relationships.

In a similar way, technology can bring together businesses and clients, but it’s up to the business to build that all-important personal relationship. Choosing where to implement AI and, more importantly, where not to implement it, will be incredibly important to the future success of the industry.

The robot workforce

If AI is used instead of humans in low-skilled jobs, that leaves some recruiters with fewer hires to make. However, many thinkers in this space are now united by the belief that AI and robots will actually create new jobs – perhaps more than they will eliminate.

After all, specialists will be needed to manage the implementation and use of these new technologies. In addition, the productivity gains afforded by using automation and AI will mean that employees will perform better and be rewarded in kind with higher wages and more responsibilities. So, AI will in fact help move people away from lower-skilled jobs and towards more rewarding, better remunerated positions.

It is true that those who have admin and process heavy jobs are most vulnerable to advancements in automation and AI. Recruiters are in a lucky position that their job requires so much more than this – relationship building, consulting and strategising – AI cannot do this on their behalf. It is these elements of the job that make recruitment so worthwhile and rewarding, and AI stands to let recruiters do more of it.