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How will AI in recruitment change the role of a recruiter in 2020?

| Ameya Deshmukh
Artificial Intelligence

What will a recruiter in 2020 look like? Will a recruiter look like Captain Jean-Luc Picard after he was assimilated by the Borg? Will you have to get a neural interface installed underneath your skull so that you can connect to your AI recruitment tools through an ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interface?

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is, you can stop setting aside $200 each month for your cyborg fund. Seriously, go use the couple grand you’ve saved up by now to take yourself on a vacation. I suggest somewhere tropical, it’s colder in the Mya System’s SF offices today than a Borg’s perspective on a hive mind drone.

The bad news is if you know anyone that falls into the category of a “spray and pray” recruiter or as I like to call them “redshirt” recruiters, their time as a useful recruiting professional is soon coming to an end. If you’re a redshirt recruiter and you plan on staying that way – don’t go on vacation. You’re going to need Elon Musk’s neural link to be effective. You might have to become…a Borg.

the borg

The 2 types of recruiting professionals – which one are you? 

I’m launching a podcast in 2020, stay tuned. I was recording an episode yesterday with a new friend of mine – Michael. He works with ESL job seekers and trains them to overcome the unconscious bias they encounter when looking for work. We got to talking about the impact of AI on the role of the recruiter in the future.

We both agree there are two types of recruiters today – which one are you?

Type 1 – Candidate Centric:

This recruiter sees their role as a career. They’re constantly educating themselves, reskilling, and staying up to date with the latest strategies and technology. They pair this strategy and technology-orientation with an even bigger focus on the candidate.

These recruiters are completely candidate-centric. Their goal is to become a trusted career advisor for their candidates. They’re in the field to help people progress their careers and create value. They’re willing to try new things like creating content to help candidates with their job search or being active on social media.

Type 2 – Redshirt Recruiters: 

This recruiter is concerned with 1 thing and 1 thing only. Making a placement. They say they care about candidate experience, but their actions don’t show it. They often rely on sending out mass email communications. Their outreach/engagement to candidate comes across as spammy.

They don’t take the time to understand what the candidate is looking for or what the candidate’s goals are with their career. These recruiters are all about volume and it shows. Communicating with them often feels rushed and stressful.

One of these recruiters is going to be made irrelevant by conversational AI for recruiting.

Can you guess which one?

I’m not sure what the split in the market is between Candidate Centric and Redshirt recruiters.

Next, let’s take a look at how AI is impacting work in general and what the outlook is of US workers on AI.

What’s the outlook of U.S. workers on AI? 

AI is changing a lot of jobs these days. Manufacturing, journalism, even recruiting – it’s all being done to a degree by AI. Frightening? Yes.

As a writer, I was worried when I found out about OpenAI. It’s an AI Elon Musk created that can write entire news articles from scratch. (Side note, of course, Elon Musk made it.)

After I gave it some thought though I realized something. What’s the difference between an AI and a human? Well, for one an AI can only learn when its machine learning libraries are updated. It needs someone else to do that.

I can update my own libraries (and so can you). Furthermore, as a person, I can build relationships with my audience. It’s unlikely an AI will be created that communicates exactly as I do. (Although admittedly that would be flattering to me as a writer.)

Similarly, as a Candidate Centric recruiter, it’s unlikely an AI will ever be able to connect with candidates, bring them value, and communicate like you do. Besides, people want to connect with other people not with robots. Unless you’re in Japan, but they’ve got their own thing going on there.

What kinds of jobs are going to be disrupted by AI

Data suggests that workers in roles with a high degree of human interaction required like nursing, education, and training are the least afraid of AI automating their jobs away. Again, if you’re a candidate-centric recruiter, you’re safe!

Jobs that are highly repetitive and volume-oriented like telemarketers or retail checkout clerks expressed the greatest concern around being automated away by AI. If you’re a redshirt recruiter…don’t cash out your cyborg fund!

About half of all U.S. workers feel confident about their ability to compete in an AI-enabled workplace and don’t feel that AI has impacted their jobs. But this means that half don’t feel confident.

If you’re worried about your ability to add value in an AI-enabled talent acquisition environment, start focusing on creating more value for your candidates. Everything else will take care of itself and I promise it’ll turn out very nicely for you.

How is AI changing recruiting today? 

Let’s look at a typical day in the office or in a remote working environment, on your couch with your pet chihuahua Sparky sitting next to you?

The alarm goes off – Spotify starts playing Beautiful Day by U2. You sleep through it. Monday was a long day.

Your second alarm goes off – Spotify plays Seasons in the Abyss by Slayer. It scares the daylights out of you, but you’re awake which was the point of the second alarm.

Brush, shower, breakfast, Starbucks, commuting, now you’re in the office.

You spend the next 8 hours alternating between sourcing on LinkedIn, writing outreach emails, answering text messages from candidates, running ATS queries, doing data entry, and looking for scheduling emails.

You’re absolutely buried in the communication, scheduling, and data entry work. Somewhere around the 2nd double shot of espresso from your office coffee maker, you start to ponder…

I got into this to engage with candidates. I wanted to make a difference, an impact by helping people find work. I wish I could spend more time doing more of that.

Alas, this is the reality for many recruiters and on the other end, you’ve got engaged candidates who aren’t getting the attention they want from companies.

If you had conversational AI for recruiting your day would instead be filled with speaking directly to qualified, engaged candidates over the phone or in person. You’d also have time to make recruitment marketing content to further build the relationship between your brand and candidates by creating more value for them.

So one way AI is changing the lives of recruiters today is by taking data entry, scheduling, and screening off your hands.

It’s freeing you to create more value for candidates and for your company.

It’s a dream for candidate-centric recruiters and a nightmare for redshirt recruiters.

Because to learn to create value recruiters are going to have to reskill. If you’re scared of change or resistant to it that’s going to be tough.

The skills for the new AI-enabled recruiter

Here’s what I think is going to happen.

Recruiters are going to get to become career coaches, content creators, and agents for social good.

You’ll engage more with qualified candidates that really want to work for your company. You’ll develop relationships with them. You’ll help them navigate the complex world of work as they alternate between gig work, remote work, and full time work.

You’ll help them with internal mobility, with re-skilling, and help them plan their talent journey inside your company and outside.

You’ll be active on social media even more than you are now. You’ll be a known entity to candidates even before they apply. You’ll make videos, podcasts, social posts, and articles that create value for candidates.

Along the way, you’ll build your company’s employer brand.

You’ll get to be a stronger agent for social good. You’ll build even more expertise on unconscious bias and diversity. You’ll examine your company’s hiring process and identify problem areas that are introducing bias. You’ll eliminate them or work around them and track the results of your diversity efforts.

You’ll publish and communicate these results in a transparent manner. This will build trust with candidates and improve the standing of your company’s employer brand.

So the skills for the new AI-enabled recruiter are:

  • career coaching
  • relationship-building
  • empathy & understanding
  • marketing
  • content creation
  • creating anti-unconscious bias strategy
  • being a champion for diversity


Recruiting AI = a renaissance period for recruiting

It’s never been a better time to be a recruiter. As recruiting AI sees more adoption in talent acquisition, recruiters will get the opportunity to reskill to create an even bigger impact. You have an opportunity in front of you that’s never before been seen in recruiting history. You can impact people’s careers and lives like never before. You can engage and create value for candidates like never before. You can create more diverse teams and impact the performance of your company like never before.

But simply adopting AI isn’t going to make this happen. If you just adopt AI and continue to operate the same way you have before – you haven’t really understood the value of the technology. Its real value is in enabling recruiters to unlock their own potential to be agents for good. AI and recruiters together can partner to make a more equitable and accessible world of work for all.

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