Is AI To The Recruiter What Netflix Was To Blockbuster?

Brent Ellis

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest buzzword in HR software-speak, and for good reason: It’s real and it works. AI is a type of technology automation that leverages machine learning and Big Data to actually learn how to better perform the tasks it is automating. Technology that actually learns? Yes. Technology that can make calculated decisions based on logic and reasoning and digitally communicate accordingly? Yes.

Will AI replace the recruiter? That is a very bold assumption. Did technology replace the need for airline pilots? No, but pilot engagement and how they operate their aircraft has changed radically due to innovations in the technology used to fly planes.

Research from SAP and the Economist Intelligence Unit recently found that 75% of companies that are leading in machine learning will retrain employees to perform higher-value tasks as more processes become automated, rather than replace them with technology. AI is unlikely to eliminate recruiters, but it will change a recruiter’s engagement in various aspects of the recruiting process.

Once adopted, AI has the potential to be the most impactful and productive innovation the recruiting industry has seen since the move to web-based staffing methods. In fact, 22 percent of machine learning leaders are already seeing significant benefits from the technology, indicating that returns on AI investments are quick and measurable.

Let’s take a look at how AI could impact recruiter productivity. This is a key success metric that recruiting software directly supports. There are dozens of steps and stages, approvals, and complexities in a hiring workflow that recruiting software organizes for recruiters. However, manual action is required for many of these. For example, recruiters often spend considerable time writing job postings, reviewing resumes, scheduling interviews, and refining candidate searches based on interpreting feedback from managers on candidate qualifications.

AI has the potential to automate many manual aspects of these recruiting tasks with learned logic and reasoning.

In fact, we’re already seeing this kind of AI hitting the recruiting software marketplace. One new vendor uses AI to automate interview scheduling tasks traditionally performed by a recruiter or recruiting coordinator. The AI platform communicates with the applicants, interprets responses, humanizes feedback, and automates the selection and timing of interviewing slots coordinating with all required internal resources. It is fully automated using natural language processing and machine learning to manage calendaring and coordinating needs. In essence, the recruiting coordinator task is being replaced by AI.

We are also seeing AI enter the sourcing cycle of recruiting using machine learning to bring together potential candidates and employer jobs. This helps reduce cost-per-hire and time-to-fill. In this scenario, AI scouts the best candidates matching them to an organization’s available roles. But, AI takes the process further by approaching matched candidates via automation, acting as a corporate recruiter or headhunter. Manual sourcing by recruiter and manual or active seeking by a candidate and all relevant communications are replaced by AI.

Another example is the SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting feature, Job Analyzer, which utilizes AI and machine learning to provide recruiters with market data on competitive jobs, skills, and salary information. It allows recruiters to review the hire-ability of their requisitions before they are posted, can identify workforce availability by geography, and can even support diversity efforts by scanning for gender-biased language. This information will help the recruiter recommend potential adjustments to a requisition to ensure a high quality and timely fill before it is posted.

Innovation to drive efficiency and process optimization is key in the continued digital transformation and evolution of recruiting software. AI can provide massive gains in recruiting productivity. But companies should not view AI as a replacement to human recruiters. It should be viewed as a tool to make human recruiters more effective in how they use their time. The essence of quality recruiting remains a very personal, human, and relationship-oriented practice. While 41% of machine learning leaders are finding that the technology is translating into higher customer satisfaction, these results can only be achieved in concert with human agents. AI can do amazing things, but it cannot duplicate the uniquely human connection that occurs when people talk to other people about career and life choices.  Human recruiters will continue to be critical to nurture relationships and leverage more subjective data to review and process the best decisions to fill vacancies. But AI will certainly create tremendous efficiencies to complement the recruiting process.

Will AI directly and positively impact the core recruiting software KPIs and value propositions? It’s already happening today and will expand to many areas that comprise a recruiting cycle. This buzzword technology is real and it’s going to be exciting to watch it mature and develop. But anyone who claims that AI will eventually replace the recruiting profession is misguided. To revisit the earlier analogy to human pilots and aviation automation, technology is great, but we still want and need a highly qualified person up at the front of the plane.

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A version of this article originally appeared in SAP SuccessFactors


Brent Ellis

About Brent Ellis

Brent Ellis is a Global Vice President, Solution Advisor & COE leader for the SAP SuccessFactors talent acquisition and onboarding solutions. In this capacity, he oversees presales and sales strategy with specific responsibilities including year-over-year revenue growth, go-to-market messaging, commercialization strategy, sales enablement, prospect & customer engagement, solution partner development and product thought leadership and innovation. With 20+ years of experience in cloud HCM solutions, Brent has helped emerging companies like Hire.com, Taleo and SAP SuccessFactors bring innovative cloud recruiting solutions to market. He has worked and consulted with hundreds of global organizations in all industries assisting their digital transformation in talent acquisition. Joining SAP SuccessFactors in 2011, Brent brought his product and domain expertise to directly enable field sales and product strategy to launch the company’s new recruiting solution. Today, with over 2,000 global customers representing the world’s largest brands, SAP SuccessFactors recruiting and onboarding revenue is among the highest contributors to the overall HCM suite. In his seven years with SAP/SuccessFactors, Brent has advised and managed three acquisitions, their SAP go-to-market and SAP integration. Working closely with product management and product marketing, he continues to serve as an advisory on product innovation, industry trends, competitive intelligence and roadmap prioritization. Brent has a bachelor of Journalism, Communications from The University of Texas @ Austin. He lives in Austin, Texas with his husband and two girls.