There’s no denying it: conversational systems has become a new standard in a range of different industries. Built on artificial intelligence, they help direct customers to the right answer — or, in recent years, give the HR department feedback on which candidates to shortlist for a new job. We take a look at the story of Eric’s garden, and seven incredible ways AI is changing recruitment today.
Eric’s garden and finding the perfect employee
Let us paint you a picture. Eric owns a house with a garden he doesn’t know the first thing about keeping. What he does know a lot about, though, is how he wants everything to look; the right length of grass on the lawn, the color composition in the flower bed. He just doesn’t know how to get there. For the past five years, Bob has been working as Eric’s gardener. Bob is incredible. He understands exactly what Eric needs and wants, he’s never late, he comes with thoughtful suggestions, and Eric gets along with him well. Now Bob tells Eric that he’s moving, and so Eric is faced with a seemingly simple conundrum: he needs to find another gardener.
The thing is, this isn’t simple for Eric at all. It’s a juggernaut 10-step process — minimum — just to figure out a handful of people he’d even like to speak with in person. Then he has to ask the right questions, negotiate prices and figure out if he even likes the individuals he’s evaluating. And what happens if Eric, during this process, realizes that Bob has been doing too little — or too much? Should he invest in new gardening equipment? Were there things Bob did by hand that could have been done by a machine? How can he know that the next gardener he hires will even get it right?
Unlike Eric, professional recruiters are trained to find the right person to hire for a job. But the garden analogy still works well. A garden is a living, breathing thing — just like a business. The perfect gardener is near impossible to find — just like the perfect employee for a given position. And the process of identifying that ideal candidate is pretty much exactly the same, except that for a recruiter, the list of candidates may grow into the hundreds. So in other words: finding the right person for a job is like searching for a white cat in a snowstorm.
How did AI for recruitment emerge?
Now, if you had an indefinite amount of time to look for the cat, you’d find it eventually. But if someone told you that you had to find it within two hours, it’d be a very different story. The main problem HR professionals everywhere face is the problem of time. How do you go through hundreds of resumes and applications when time-to-fill (the time from a position is published until a candidate accepts an offer) is a metric you as the recruiter is being judged on?
When the recruiter isn’t given the time needed to go through all interested applicants, there is no other solution than to do the work faster. Which is very, very rarely a good idea in recruitment. It tends to lead to poor matching, sloppiness, or burnout. Enter: AI-powered systems. Software that holds the power to do what a human needs hours for in seconds. Effectively, artificial intelligence can solve the problem of HR time. And to add even more icing on the cake: it can help solve the problem of finding that damn cat.
1. Chatbots are reducing human recruitment man-hours — by a lot
So we’ve already mentioned that AI for recruitment can save recruiters time — but what does that look like in real life? So how much hassle is the actual implementation? The short answer? Not much. There are already some big service providers in the game, so implementing a recruitment chatbot and other artificial intelligence solutions are almost as easy as plug and play.
HireVue is one such vendor, and it’s helped more than 700 companies make their recruitment more efficient. Unsurprisingly, some of the most impressive case studies come from big corporations. Companies that have outdated recruitment systems — and so spend a lot of their time on unnecessary stages of the hiring process.
The consumer goods giant Unilever implemented AI-powered candidate screening provided by HireVue for their Future Leaders Programme. To give you an idea of the scope of this project: The selection process consists of 250.000 applicants (yes, you read that right) for 800 positions (and that). By using AI, Unilever reduced their recruiting time by 75 % — and saved 1 million pounds in the process. The candidates had benefits as well. They saved a total of 50.000 hours combined.
2. AI-powered interviews = interviews on your own terms
And speaking of candidates: It’s not like chatbot interviews only benefit employers in terms of saved costs, reduced unconscious bias and better candidate experience.They can seriously alleviate time pressure, performance anxiety and a range of other recruitment concerns for the candidates, too. The thing about a machine-powered interview is that it allows you to go through the hiring process on your own terms. You can take the interview when it works with your schedule. You can wear whatever you like. And you know you’re likely to be judged fairly (more on this later).
Finding a job isn’t what it used to be. For most positions, a candidate is competing with hundreds, or even thousands, of other individuals. That means long processing times, at every stage of the hiring process. It’s not uncommon to not hear back from the companies you apply with. And really, who can blame them? No matter how much of a super recruiter someone is, replying thoughtfully to hundreds of potential interviewees is undoable.
When hiring processes are done through AI tech, the unnecessary steps are removed, and the tedious ones are made shorter. For the candidate, that means:
- Faster feedback at the initial screening stage
- Feedback (some businesses won’t just tell you that you didn’t get the job — they’ll also tell you why)
- Flexible interview times and scheduling
- More information about the interview, before it actually takes place (like getting to practice the questions the chatbot will ask you)
- A more responsive hiring process all-in-all
- Answers to frequently asked questions about the open position and employer
Because automation in the hiring process saves so much time, recruiters get to focus on the steps that truly require human oversight. For the person applying, that means a more efficient and pleasant recruiting process.
3. When it’s built right, AI holds minimum bias
AI bias is a massive discussion topic right now, especially when it comes to recruitment. Why? Because people are worried that putting human decision-making into the hands of a machine is far too risky. Particularly when the decisions being made are about who to exclude from a hiring process and who to include. And we’ll be the first to admit it: There is definitely a risk of bias in recruitment systems powered by artificial intelligence. BUT (and this is a big one), AI built right also holds the potential to remove almost all human bias from a hiring process.
Simply put, AI bias is when machine learning becomes skewed, and so creates an unreliable output. Because these systems are trained to look for patterns, sometimes correlations that are completely off are found. The bias always comes from either poor programming or bad training data (the AI’s input). So the idea is that you have to build a system that takes the potential for AI bias into account, by coming up with checkpoints that ensure human bias isn’t transferred into the system.
This is obviously a very complicated process that needs to take a lot of different things into account. But the beauty of it is: Once service providers manage to remove the bias, it’s gone forever. No unfair judgment on your choice of shirt. Or skin color. Or gender. Or name. Once the AI is programmed right, it won’t discriminate — it’ll just objectively evaluate.
4. Matching jobs to candidates and vice versa
Let’s get back to the white cat in a snowstorm analogy for a second — it’s important to talk about what happens after you find it. What’s the biggest concern for any business and HR department when starting the hiring process? What was Eric’s instant dread when Bob told him he couldn’t do his gardening anymore? It’s the possibility that, even after spending a considerable number of hours and amount of resources on the process (ie, on finding the cat or the next Bob), the candidate you do end up with isn’t actually the right one.
For this simple reason, hiring is complicated. It has to be stringent and comprehensive, and really test the candidates properly. Securing the right human capital is one of any business’ most resource-intensive tasks. Even experienced recruiters can’t get it right all the time. And this is exactly why AI interviews can be so beneficial to both sides of the hiring scale.
AI-systems are programmed to look for specific skills, experiences, and traits in a similar way a human would. The difference is that the automated system can keep on working relentlessly around the clock to find the best candidate for the job. Even comprehensive testing is possible, without even breaking a sweat and so make sure that the right candidate shortlist winds up in front of the human recruiter. This means that these systems increase the chance of a win-win on the first try. By a lot. With AI, it’s more likely that the new employee will be better matched with the right job. That equals happier recruiters, happier employers, and a happier workforce all around.
5. Finding talent att scale
The perfect candidate is out there somewhere. With so many individuals on this planet, that’s a certainty. And with the magic of the digital revolution, a company hiring actually has the potential of finding that special someone. OK, but the biggest problem a recruiter has is that they cannot, no matter how hard they try, manually go through massive applicant pools in a considerate and thorough way. So why on earth would they want to broaden their candidate horizon?
Well, this is just another context of saving time — and spending that time on a better and more accurate hiring process. If a chatbot, and its underlying screening system, can power through thousands of candidate profiles in no-time, why shouldn’t it? And why shouldn’t that screening process expand to include individuals from the entire world?
AI merges the need for time with the desire for a larger applicant pool. That’s good news for recruiters. Instead of fretting about the number of applicants, they can get excited about it. By processing more applicants faster, AI-powered interviews hold incredible potential and fuel recruitment without removing the human touch in HR.
6. World-class candidate database management
A second problem for HR and recruiters is data. Information on the hundreds, or thousands, of people that pass through a business. You need their contact details, their experience background, the school they went to, how long they worked in the company for, and the list goes on — multiplied many, many times over. Ideally, you want a library with a brilliant search function. You want a system where you can find exactly what you’re after in no-time. What you’re essentially looking for is an all-knowing librarian.
AI holds the power to build, maintain and expand on complex databases, such as employee data. It doesn’t get tired looking for that person who did accounting five years ago. Or the candidate you almost hired for a job a while back, who would be perfect for something coming up. Because it’s built to record and process automatically, artificial intelligence can be that perfect search tool. And that’s an incredible, resource-saving power for anyone working in human resources.
Continuous and automatic maintenance is key in this respect. One of the major benefits of AI in handling your employee database is that the software can scan for potential candidates in a really sophisticated way. On top of contacting people you’ve been in touch with earlier, it can also look for current job situations, length of contracts, plans of relocation and so on and so on. The AI is able to keep track of incredible amounts of data points at the same time and check them against each other.
The result? You wind up with an ever-growing catalog of potential human capital — always up to date — at your fingertips. This benefits job seekers, too. If the company is transparent about its record-keeping, an unsuccessful candidate will know that they might be included in the next round of hiring.
7. Chatbots means more time for human recruitment
One of the biggest arguments against chatbot and AI recruitment is that it removes the critical human aspect from human resources. How can a machine understand everything that goes into evaluating a person? Which layers does it miss? And in a worst-case scenario: What if it removes the next Bob from the gardener hiring process before Eric even gets to meet him? It’s a valid concern.
Automated candidate screening is a tool for the early stages of a hiring process, though. It should be used to separate applicants that fulfill the minimum criteria from applicants that don’t. And the results that the tools produce should always, always be checked and OK’d by a human recruiter. When you do that, AI doesn’t take away from the human side of recruitment. It actually adds to it.
By doing the sifting and screening and checking, a chatbot creates more time for HR. The recruiter can spend more time preparing for each shortlisted candidate. Be more thorough in the interview. And evaluate the applicants with more precision. Time is the biggest problem for recruiters because they’re in human resources. Humans take time. There are so many layers and pieces of information that go into evaluating them. So by letting software take care of the non-human components, chatbots allow recruiters to be more human-centered. Which we think is very good news.