Artificial intelligence and machine learning have made notable progress into HR departments over the last 18 months. The market for AI recruiting tools, in particular, has expanded.
Why? "Automation, baby!" said Joel Cheesman, a well-known observer of talent acquisition technology and co-host of the recruiting-focused Chad & Cheese Podcast. Because of AI, "entire conversations can happen via chatbots and automated messaging without recruiters raising a finger."
Candidate sourcing is seeing similar benefits. For example, LinkedIn now offers recruiters a customized list of candidates as soon as they post a job, Cheesman said. Then, there's programmatic advertising, which uses algorithms to buy, place and optimize employer messages. As products like the programmatic advertising platform JobAdX and the screening system Uncommon become more popular, Cheesman said, "the days of posting and praying are over."
While the technology is complex, AI recruiting tools often provide practical help for the challenges that make talent acquisition and the hiring process a subjective and overly labor-intensive process. By eliminating many of the menial tasks involved and using data to more closely match candidates to jobs, AI recruiting tools can make the process both more streamlined and more intelligent.
One result is that recruiters can devote more time to providing a candidate experience that sets their company apart in a competitive labor market.
"Today, smart companies are refocusing their process methodology ... to ensure that candidates have a great experience," said Chad Sowash, a talent acquisition consultant and Cheesman's podcast co-host.
"Recruiters are no longer spending copious amounts of time on one thing, like researching one specific candidate on 12 different sources or spending 30 minutes Googling a candidate's contact information," said Madhu Modugu, CEO of the recruitment platform developer Leoforce. "AI is doing these things behind the scenes, then giving you the data instantly, which frees up time to spend on other things."
That begs the question: How can employers best apply AI recruiting tools? What are the best ways individual recruiters can put AI recruiting tools to use? And what difficulties of using AI should recruiters understand? To understand the answers to these questions, you must look at how different tools work within distinct parts of the recruiting process. Here are three types of tools that recruiters should consider.
1. AI candidate screening tools
A number of AI recruiting tools are available to help recruiters with the first and perhaps most daunting aspect of a search: identifying candidates who have the skills, experience and traits necessary to succeed in a job. Typically, an intelligent feed distributes job postings to internal and external job boards.
"It's an XML feed that goes out programmatically into the interwebs to target the right types of candidates on the right types of sites," Sowash said.
When applicants respond, AI guides the system to make better matches.
"It provides a mechanism for making sense of the data in a way that's not really possible to the human eye," said Keith McCook, a vice president at talent analytics platform OutMatch. Machine learning in particular, he said, can identify patterns and make sense of data whose variables put it beyond the analysis of humans alone.
This is particularly important today, when the range of information on any given candidate is continuously growing. Whether AI recruiting tools are parsing resume content, identifying keywords or capturing assessment data, they interpret myriad candidate data to help recruiters make sense of what McCook calls "the stacks and stacks of digital resumes that flood into their systems."
AI also allows companies to put candidate data to greater use by looking at it in a more contextual way, Sowash said. Not only can AI see candidates in the context of positions they've applied for, the tools can match them with other job requisitions that might better meet the needs of both the individual and the companies.
2. AI tools for an improved candidate experience
Because today's labor market is tight, companies want to develop relationships with candidates even if they don't receive a job offer. Part of accomplishing that is ensuring all the applicants come away with a good impression of the employer brand. Just because a person doesn't fit with one opportunity doesn't mean he won't be a contender for a future position, according to recruiters.
Streamlining the application process is an important part of providing a good experience. AI-powered chatbots and other messaging tools can help by allowing candidates to complete their applications in just a few minutes. These tools can also answer questions and automate interview scheduling so candidates and HR can arrange phone interviews without having to exchange numerous voicemails and emails.
"It's just walking them through the process with technology instead of having a recruiter do every single one of those steps," Sowash said.
The result is a more cost-effective process, Sowash said.
Chad SowashTalent acquisition consultant and co-host of recruiting podcast 'Chad & Cheese'
"The last thing a company needs is five recruiters sitting in a cube doing nothing but administrative tasks every single day," he said. When AI systems simplify screening or perform organizational chores, recruiters "can have an actual human interaction with the hiring manager, as well as with the candidate."
3. AI tools to customize hiring decisions
When properly used, some AI recruiting tools can do more than simplify processes. They can enable recruiters and hiring managers to identify the best-fitting candidate for each role with more certainty.
"It allows them to say, 'Well, it looks like this person has some potential for the job. Now let's look a little deeper into the specifics of that situation,'" McCook said. "Who's the manager? What's the team? What's the level of experience and kind of relationships that are required for that specific opening, not just that job in general?"
That kind of ability offers "a huge opportunity to increase the value proposition for recruiters," McCook said. "Now, they're spending time doing things that a computer can't do."
Rather than follow a rote decision-making process, recruiters gain the time to consider different information as they navigate the final steps of making an offer or a hire.
"It really helps them to make an effective hire in a way that the machine alone never could," he said.
The challenges of AI for recruiting
Of course, implementing AI recruiting tools comes with certain challenges. AI recruiting tools can include bias, as the recent Amazon debacle showed. Correcting bias will require a number of strategies, including better development practices. And there may be other issues.
In some cases, recruiters don't use AI to its fullest potential, Sowash said. Many have been slow to adopt new tools because they're used to conducting searches a certain way and don't see a reason to change their approach. According to Cheesman, that's dangerous.
In his opinion, recruiters who don't embrace and understand automation technology will fall behind. "Unless you're leveraging AI messaging solutions like TextRecruit's Ari or Canvas's Canvasbot, you're going to lose out on top talent," he said.
In other cases, organizations try putting tools to use in ways for which they weren't intended.
"They're trying to jam all of these square pegs into round holes because they say AI or machine learning on them," Sowash said.
On top of that, employers haven't done enough to enable the adoption of AI recruiting tools, Sowash said.
"This is process methodology," he said. "Companies are looking at recruiters and saying, 'Why doesn't this work?' But it's not the recruiter's fault. It's because the company didn't re-engineer the entire process, and that's what needs to happen."
In Modugu's view, that's changing.
"Even one year ago, HR managers had to make the case for AI. Now, they're in the 'we need it now' mindset," he said. "With unemployment at a low right now, many HR managers say they're struggling to find candidates who have the right skill sets. They're looking for tools that can help fill this gap."