AI (Artificial Intelligence) is getting a lot of talk right now. This is the second of two posts looking at the subject - it's not a short topic. The first post looks at AI in general. It questions whether it really does deserve all the hype it is getting in terms of delivering useful services right now and in the future (see- AI is it over hyped?). This follow-up post, looks at AI with particular reference to Recruitment and HR. If you work in the HR and Recruitment space then these two posts will be broadly complementary. For those not in recruitment or HR but interested in AI, this second post should still prove interesting as it provides a useful guide to practical applications of AI - many of which can be applied in other business areas as well.
AI for Recruitment and HR
As we outlined in our previous post round AI; it's a topic that is getting considerable interest right now. The marketeers seem desperate to include as many of their products as possible under the AI tag and branding. However, what are the useful and realistic possible applications for AI in Recruitment and HR? We seek here to; strip aside the hype you may have seen, review what is there, what works, and also what doesn't...
There are really only two reasons we can think of for looking at using AI (or many other tools) and applying them to HR or Recruitment Activity:
1. To save time and by extension also to save money and effort
2. Increase the quality of service
With this in mind, and after looking at quite a few market offerings with an AI dimension, the following areas are the main ones we have found that you can buy AI products and services in right now.
A chatbot is where an AI system picks up emails or e.g. Facebook messenger enquires and seeks to answer them or provide some feedback. They can also be used for answering phone queries. Done well, they can be a useful facility. They have some qualitative advantages over people - they are 24/7 - and they can provide a consistency and immediacy of service that also can improve quality. However - and here is the rub - from what we have seen, they do need a lot of setup. In addition to setup, the economics and cost savings (if important to you) from what we have seen only really work if you can cut some HR staff after taking on the service. In essence, these systems provide an enhanced and more sophisticated form of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). This is all very well and sounds good. But, unless you do the work upfront and spend the time and effort to codify the queries and questions (and their likely responses) then the service will feel clunky and end up not being very useful. If you want to see a more general use of Chatbots just try the; Google, Amazon, Apple services on your phone or home speaker device. You will quickly find that if the question/answer is not one that has been anticipated within the database, then you will get a "I am sorry I don't understand your question". However if you are a big organisation they can save you some money or staff if you are prepared to put in the effort up front. Done well they may also likely provide qualitative improvements in both HR staff services and also recruitment.
This is a modern enhancement of the CV parsing systems that largely fell out of favour a few years ago. The idea here, is that by using AI techniques the CV Screening system will be able to select those "ideal candidates" from the contents of their CV and put them to the top of your shortlist. The systems we have seen suggest they can screen out typically around 75% of your candidates up front. This initially sounds good. However, if you use questions on your online application forms, you can, if you do them well, generally achieve about the same - and without any additional systems cost. Once you have sorted the wheat from the chaff, there is no real substitute to a having a HR/Recruitment professional check over a refined list of CV's and covering letters. Once the chaff has gone this is typically very quick (for professional recruiters) and by triaging you can refine it down very quickly to a shortlist.
The market will always have offerings that promise the power to predict peoples performance and behaviour. It's not necessarily false in every case either. AI can have a role to play here. However, when we have looked at such systems they all require a good dataset of previous results for the AI system to analyse and use to make its assessment. In this sense, the AI system is playing the odds and numbers by correlating past experience in making its choices. This is all very valid and computers are good at evidence based reasoning. However, it does assume that you have the data (evidence) with which you can readily make such correlations. And that you have enough of it so that the AI system can be usefully configured. As we outlined in our first post on AI: we are largely still at the first of 3 stages, with current technology based round 'recognition intelligence' where algorithms recognise patterns. In practice, this seems to us to mean that using such tools productively, means you need big datasets and lots of codified information on performance. So in basic terms, you need to teach the system what good looks like. It is thus, an application area for only the larger organisations. And, also ones that have both lots of in-depth historical information and have this in a form that is readily accessible electronic form. Beyond that, we don't really see these tools - at least in their current form - of saving you any more money than what you can easily do with a good recruitment system and team. From a staff or candidate perspective they don't really add to quality of service either, unless your processes are amended to also significantly speed things up.
Psychometric and Intelligence tools can be thought of as an early form of AI, in that they consist of models where a candidate or staff member inputs answers to questions and the system makes a determination round their likely attitudes, and sometimes aptitudes, based on a dataset. We are seeing these broader techniques (if not models) now being applied more generally especially across employees. Staff surveys and attitude measurement has come a long way. It is now possible to have much more sophisticated survey models and techniques that seek to tell you about what your staff is thinking and their attitudes. So, expect to see more of these tools and now with an AI label applied to them.
Beyond this, we think that video interviewing also offers good scope for more automation (AI or otherwise). We think the market for these tools will expand and that the costs of having video interviewing that can analyse a candidate's emotion, word choices and even aspects of their personality will become more generally available and cost effective. They can also be applied to Interviewing - which is itself really just another form of assessment. Assessing a candidate and making a determination as to whether they are right for your organisation is key to both external recruitment and the internal hiring process. Interviewing especially, takes time. A physical interview involves both candidate and hiring managers in a lot of effort. Video Interviews can save you time and be integrated into your recruitment process fairly easily. Combining them with AI-type tools that provide further assessment, seems to us, like a good use of resources. They may well save you both time and provide an increase in quality, given you can likely afford to put more candidates though the process. Note - we don't suggest Video interviews should or will always replace a person-to-person interview. However as a step in the process it seems a good use of technology and AI.
These are the main areas that we are seeing AI tools within HR and Recruitment. As we outlined in our first post (AI is it over hyped?). We think expectations round AI will retreat from the 'sci-fi' to a more mundane and basic level. Indeed, if we set aside sci-fi hype and look at where AI might work, and work well., we think that AI has a very promising future in augmenting human intelligence and activity with HR and Recruitment as well as many other business areas.
If you are keen to acquire AI tools, please do take care. This is a fast evolving market and offerings can change significantly over time. As our first post on this issue illustrated, AI is very hyped right now. All that glitters will not be gold, and its likely many products and companies will very quickly come and go.