The robots are coming!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in recruitment has been attracting lots of attention lately.  But the question remains, is this a useful technology?

Although there have been exciting advancements to this category of technology, it’s still far from perfect. Amazon recently discovered that their AI algorithms were discriminating against women. And if Amazon can’t get it right…

All evidence suggests that was because Amazon’s computer models were built using resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period – mostly resumes from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry. In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable.

Thankfully, Amazon have shut this programme down, redistributed the design team and have assured us that this algorithm was never used in a live recruiting environment. But it has raised some interesting questions about the use of AI, and its impact in the HR industry in general.

For companies facing stiff competition in the job market, particularly for jobs that attract too many irrelevant applicants, the possibility of using algorithms to do the grunt work is extremely attractive.

Erica Titchener, Global Head of Technology at talent management consultancy, Alexander Mann Solutions suggests. She states that algorithms, “can aid the identification of the right talent, remove a level of human error and reduce the risk of recruiters missing qualified candidates.”

Whilst we’re inclined to agree with her in concept, Amazon’s experience suggests that an AI programme is only as good as its makers – and the data it is built from. Can we remove human error from the source code? Can we accurately describe to the programme what “the right talent” is?

In our experience, when a firm is seeking to recruit to a role, it’s seeking a balance between a candidate’s personality fit within the organisation versus what the candidate has achieved and the skills they possess.

Currently, AI can identify candidates with the right work histories and screen for certain qualifications, educational history, work experience and other limited factors that may be useful in the role. But it’s basically playing snap with job descriptions and resumés.

This in itself is hugely useful in reducing the work load of sifting through potentially thousands of CVs. With each CV being given a fair assessment based on its content, without bias to the ethnicity of the name on the CV, the individual’s age or the school they attended. Reviewed by a programme that doesn’t get tired, have “bad days” or spill tea all over a pile of CVs.

At the heart of recruitment lays this insightful quote from Chris Nicholson, co-founder and CEO of AI firm Skymind, “the question everyone’s trying to answer through all the interviews, screenings, tech and coding challenges, is, ‘How can I predict someone’s performance?’”

Does AI have the ability to establish what an employee’s performance will be? We don’t think so just yet. But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the technology.

The main benefit of AI in recruitment is that it will save your organisation’s HR department time – certainly in the initial hiring phase. This saved time can then be spent working to improve the later stages of your recruitment process.


There’s a great article in the Harvard Business review by Satya Ramaswamy that dives deeper into the concept of AI in the recruitment space, it’s well worth a read!