The first image that typically comes to mind when thinking of Artificial Intelligence is a human-like robot that is able to independently function as a part of society, however, the reality is quite different. In actuality, artificial intelligence is the process of mimicking human intelligence in computer systems, enabling machines to think and learn using algorithms.
Over the course of this blog, the Cooper Fitch recruitment specialist for Data, AI & emerging technologies, Ameera Taher, will delve further into the use of AI in new-age recruitment along with considering valid fears of intelligent machines making humans redundant in the workforce in the coming years.
I have been recruiting for the technology market in the Middle East for the last six years and during this time, I have witnessed a big shift in IT hiring trends across industries. Starting with a wave of Big Data Engineers and Data Scientists being employed in aviation, telecom and financial services, to the current increase in demand for professionals such as Computer Vision Engineer, NLP Data Scientist, Head of Data Analytics and Machine Learning Engineer by our clients in the Middle East region.
It is interesting how we use AI on a daily basis without even knowing it. Most recruiters are strapped for time due to strict deadlines and keyword searches are often a time-efficient way to sort through hundreds of candidate applications on an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This system helps identify candidates that, at least on paper, fit the client’s requirements. A more advanced version of this would be to use machine learning which works by auto-screening existing candidates in the ATS based on keywords included in the job description, therefore providing an initial list of candidates based on relevance. Reducing the time taken to prepare a shortlist of relevant candidates enables recruiters both in the recruitment industry and as part of internal talent acquisition teams, to spend more time on speaking to candidates to ensure best fit with regards to technical skills and cultural fit, as opposed to spending a large amount of time sifting through an ever-growing candidate pool. Ultimately this means a quicker turnaround on roles, every recruiter’s dream!
Where artificial intelligence falls short
One of the most widely acknowledged shortfalls of the recruitment industry is the candidate experience. At times it can be a challenge to provide feedback to every candidate who may have applied to a role or have been in the process for a role that has gone on hold. In an attempt to solve this, recruiter chatbots are being tested as a response. An advantage to this is that no candidate will go unanswered or will have to wait for an update on their application as these chatbots will be able to answer in real-time and be accessible 24/7. In addition to providing feedback and updates, chatbots can also answer questions related to the overall recruitment process. For a market like the Middle East especially, where a lot of talent is sourced from external markets, there are often frequently asked questions related to relocation, schooling and cost of living which chatbots would not only be able to answer efficiently (and without bias) but also be able to guide candidates to resources on the internet which would have more detailed information.
Conversation analytics is another branch of AI that is being implemented in the recruitment process, especially in some places with an emphasis on remote recruitment where interviews are conducted virtually. AI is being used to analyse and evaluate the speech and body language of applicants during interviews to derive personality traits and predict how the selected candidate would perform in the organisation long-term. This is an interesting use of AI, however I am unsure of how accurate AI would be on picking up on social cues and emotions such as a candidate being nervous or distracted due to environmental factors.
This leads me to the most obvious deficiency in AI, no matter how intelligent machines and computers become, they can only mimic human intelligence in a factual manner. When it comes to emotional intelligence, AI falls short, as much as sci-fi would have us believe otherwise. The ability of humans to actively listen and provide empathetic responses along with building deep connections is something AI is not able to emulate. While the candidate experience may be improved by faster responses, what kind of relationship would candidates have with virtual recruiters? Speaking from personal experience, every interaction I have had with a virtual assistant for a query that is not part of the dataset it has been fed with, the end result is almost always me asking to speak to a human. In addition to the candidate experience, having a mostly automated interview process could also lead people to believe that they have less accountability in the process and could result in greater challenges in closing candidates as the relationship built between candidate and recruiter over the process has been a lot less impactful.
Data that has breadth and depth in information is required for machine learning algorithms to become truly intelligent and provide relevant suggestions. Not all organisations would have access to these vast datasets which, ultimately, would lead to poor search results and suggestions. Although AI is touted to be a solution to recruiter bias, there have been multiple studies on biases being passed down to AI solutions as well based on the data they are fed, resulting in skewed processes. These could be related to race, gender, career gaps on resumes, preference for certain universities or employers, amongst other factors. Extensive due diligence would be required on any AI solutions being added on to an ATS to ensure that there are no built in biases. Computers can also sometimes have tunnel vision and only look for certain keywords if they have not been coded to also include any synonyms or other relevant terms and would miss out on potentially relevant candidates due to this.
As a millennial, I am all for taking advantage of technology that will streamline administrative tasks so I can actually put more time towards the fun part of recruitment, speaking to people! With any changes, there are always issues to work out with trial and error, but as with all other industries, I believe recruitment also stands to benefit hugely from the effective use of AI. While I understand the natural instinct is to fear and distrust anything new, feeling threatened by emerging technology will be a hindrance to us more than anything else. In my opinion, we need to consider the rapid acceptance of emerging technologies such as AI and RPA as the new norm, after all, there is a reason why this new age is being heralded as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It isn’t a matter of humans being replaced by Artificial Intelligence, rather a matter of applying Augmented Intelligence to enhance human capabilities. As a testament to this, we have seen a record increase in hiring with a demand for new skill sets which is reflected in updated education curricula. There are now a multitude of options being offered in STEM to ensure that there are no gaps in the workforce with the Gulf region itself catering to this with the likes of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence providing world-class AI programs.