There is an ever-increasing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) in the job application process, especially for larger companies. A single vacancy could garner hundreds of applications; if you multiply this by the thousands of vacancies that routinely need to be filled across organisations both big and small, there is an inconceivable amount of candidate information that needs processing. In these scenarios, AI is invaluable as it can sift through a massive number of applications with equal attention and consideration. And unlike humans, AI are more likely to assess CVs without unconscious biases giving one demographic of applicants an advantage over another.
For some organisations, it is tempting to let AI do most, if not all, of the heavy lifting in the initial stages of the recruitment process. However, an AI-centric strategy could adversely impact an employer’s brand.
Consider it from the viewpoint of a candidate: you are job-searching and find that a prestigious company is offering a position with skill requirements that line up perfectly with your experience. You begin your candidate journey by uploading your CV to the company’s job application portal, and perhaps you must manually re-enter much of the information that the system’s AI misinterprets.
An hour later, you receive an email from the company inviting you to complete multiple skills and ability assessments. You invest several hours in preparing for and completing these tests, and you exhale a sigh of relief after you submit your answers.
Several days later, you are invited to answer a few interview questions via another AI software which records your responses through your laptop’s webcam and microphone. Unbeknownst to you, the audio from your interview is converted into text, and your success hinges on an algorithm.
The following week, you receive an automated response from the company that they have reviewed your qualifications and have decided not to progress your application to the next stage. They do not provide you any feedback on your resume or any of the assessments you spent hours completing. However, they write that this decision ‘should not deter you from applying to other positions with us!’
The question is, what about this experience makes it worthwhile for you to apply for another position with this company? You did not have a single human interaction; instead, you felt like you had to navigate an obstacle course just to get the attention of the hiring manager.
The whole experience sours your impression of this company’s brand, and you decide to apply elsewhere.
The scenario above occurs far too often, and it is a lose-lose for both organisations and candidates. Companies that are hoping to lighten their workload with an AI-centric recruitment strategy risk sullying their employer brand. They also risk ruling out qualified candidates if, for instance, applicants are rejected by AI because they did not use certain keywords in their recorded interviews.
From the other perspective, navigating a rigorous application process and facing rejection without a single “Hello!” from HR leaves candidates feeling unseen and frustrated. Without any feedback, they have no idea what they have done wrong or how to improve for future applications.
For employers to protect their brands and for applicants to have a fulfilling experience, talent professionals need to engage with candidates throughout the recruitment process. AI might be a valuable tool for dealing with the volume of applications, but it is meant to augment recruitment – not to replace it.
Maintaining a ‘human element’ throughout the recruitment process is vital on several levels. Having recruiters tell the company’s story and establish a rapport will help candidates feel more connected to the employer. Candidates also often have questions or concerns related to their application, and these are better addressed by a recruiter than a chatbot that does not have a programmed answer.
Through building a relationship, recruiters can also ascertain candidates’ values and soft skills, and gauge whether they meet the culture fit of an organisation. This, too, is something that AI inherently lacks; digging deep to understand the culture and needs of an organisation requires the kind of expertise, engagement, and creative thinking that only seasoned recruiters possess.
The recruiter’s role is arguably most important in wrapping up the candidate journey with constructive feedback. Whether this is feedback from skills assessments or an interview, it is critical that a candidate understands why he did or did not get the position; and if he was unsuccessful, a recruiter can advise him on how to improve for the future. Giving this kind of closure will reflect positively on the employer, especially in an age when many candidates are left hanging after unsuccessful applications.
While AI might be necessary in modern recruitment strategy as application numbers increase, there are clear qualitative benefits to maintaining a human element in the process. The recruiter, acting as liaison to both candidates and employers, delivers value through a personalised candidate experience that protects the employer’s brand – and that simply cannot be programmed.