AI Hiring Platforms are Getting Big Funding – But Will They Actually Make Hiring Better?

May 9, 2019

A new suite of AI hiring tools promises to automate job interviews and drive recruiters and hiring managers ever closer to being obsolete. But will they? 

Let’s make an obvious point: digital technologies have transformed hiring, and the rise of social media has transformed recruiting. Compared to the recruiting in the late 90s, when applications were all pen and paper, it’s scarcely recognizable. The in-person interview and resume will probably never go away, but tons of new technologies and processes have made the process faster and more efficient.

First, it was job boards. Then it was Applicant Tracking Systems. Soon it will be AI systems. All of these technologies have changed recruiting, but they’ve also promised to make recruiters pretty much obsolete – turning the process of hiring into a task as easy as ordering an Uber. But curiously, the job of human recruiters persists.

AI is the latest trend. In 2017, we blogged about some advances in AI recruiting systems that promised to automate hiring and make recruiting “more spotify, less craigslist,” by using algorithms and user ratings  to serve people job ads closer to their dream jobs. Since then, new systems are hitting the market that promise to go even further and use AI to pre-interview candidates before a hiring manager ever sees a profile.

A new article in Gizmodo profiles some of these “digital recruitment” firms. Titled, “Applying for Your Next Job May be an Automated Nightmare,” (ignore the alarmist title), the article digs into what these new solutions offer, and their implications for candidates. The banner firm is VCV, which just received $1.7 million in early investment and counts companies such as L’Oreal, PwC, and Citibank among its first adopters.

Here’s how these new digital recruitment tools are supposed to work:

  • An AI will scan thousands of resumes and select a few with the best keyword matches. This part is old news, an outgrowth of a hiring process that already exists at a number of large companies and is pretty ineffective.
  • The AI then reaches out to selected candidates via chatbot to set up a phone interview.
  • The AI will then conduct a phone interview using voice recognition. Anyone who’s ever spent a few minutes verbally tussling with Siri will tell you just how successful this process will be with current technology.
  • If you pass the robo-phone-screen, the system will invite you to submit video responses to interview questions. It will then use facial recognition and predictive analytics to algorithmically assess your behavior patterns, mood, and facial expressions, presumably to arrive at a highly-relevant judgment about whether speaking to a robot makes you nervous.
  • The company who has purchased the software will then be able to use the AI’s assessment to determine if an individual should move to an in-person interview.

How does that sound for a candidate experience? In a job market where companies are competing for talent like never before – especially in areas like Supply Chain Management and software engineering –can you really afford to risk losing the highest performers because you’ve put yet another barrier between their candidacy and a real-life human presence?

You can’t.

Make no mistake, we’re not luddites. We’re recruiters who are big fans of social sourcing, LinkedIn, Skype, DocuSign, and all kinds of other tools that reduce friction in the recruiting process, and we’re always interested in what’s coming up. But companies offering solutions that put a clumsy bot in between an applicant and hiring manager are trying to capitalize on a fad technology, and companies that buy these solutions are creating an experience that will send all the best candidates running in the other direction.

But put aside the question whether these systems will make people not want to, you know, actually work for your company in the first place, will these systems even be effective?

Founders of some of these firms claim that AI systems will reduce bias in the hiring process. But as Gizmodo outlines, studies have shown that facial recognition software is ineffective and actually introduces (often discriminatory) bias. Algorithms, no matter how advanced, tend to reflect the biases of their creators.  These systems also add unnecessary process to hiring, with little evidence that they’re more effective than human-based hiring methods. They’re hyped as being able to save money through automation, but until there’s evidence that they actually produce better outcomes (i.e. better hires, improved working culture), they actually represent a huge increased risk for companies who are looking for the best talent.

In our opinion hiring is and always will be hard, human work. It relies on emotional intelligence, intuition, social intelligence, cultural awareness, and other “soft” skills that are decades off for AI solutions, at the minimum. The ability to quickly process and screen candidate profiles is a part of the job, but it’s the smaller part of the pie. It will get you from making a terrible hire to making a decent hire. But to get a good, great or truly game-changing hire will require a human eye, right now, and for the forseeable future.

Bet on it.

But what are your thoughts about these and other similar technologies? Will they make the job of real-life, in-person recruiters obsolete? Are they a whole lot of smoke and mirrors? Or something in between? Let us know in the comments!


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