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EACC Insights: Will AI cause the Death of the Recruiting Industry?

By: Len Adams, CPC, CTS

Originally printed in the European American Chamber of Commerce Newsletter

There has been great hype recently about artificial intelligence and its application to the recruitment process. Much has been written about the potential for the recruitment function to be replaced by AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being touted as the wave of the future, allowing HR and hiring managers to quickly narrow down their received resumes to just a few qualified candidates based on AI “learning” what their hiring criteria and jobs require. While in theory this sounds like a great idea, which I am sure will possibly assist in reducing the time it takes to wade through a large number of resume responses, I do not believe that AI will eliminate the human factor necessary to perform this function.

For as long as I have been in the executive search, recruiting, and staffing industry (over 40 years), every new innovation has been predicted to be the cause of the death of the recruiting industry.

First it was the fax machine, then it was monster, followed by the increased use of applicant tracking systems, then LinkedIn. The fact of the matter has been that through the advent of all of these innovations, the search, recruiting and staffing industry has not only survived, but grown. The reasons for this are simple: smart practitioners in the industry have been able to adapt and utilize new innovations to enhance the way they do business.

Search and recruiting is still a human function. I firmly believe that the same will hold true for AI. While AI will no doubt prove to be a wonderful tool, it will be just that, a tool that smart practitioners will use to perhaps make their jobs easier.

The function of search and staff always has and always will be a human function. A computer, no matter how much artificial intelligence it is programmed to have, will not have the capability to evaluate and identify soft skills and those skills that sometimes an HR professional feels in their gut about a prospective candidate. Yes, the key words will be there, and yes, the computer will learn what types of candidates are historically hired by the company, however, there are traits and skills that just cannot be determined by a computer. PEOPLE Hire PEOPLE.

I do believe that AI will be adapted by the industry and yes, it may change the way we operate. Clients will utilize recruiters for the soft skills that they possess. The intuition about a prospective candidate, the reputation a candidate possesses, the soft skills that are not always easily quantified. In short, the recruitment and staffing industry will still be called upon to search and recruit, but will also be heavily relied upon to attract, evaluate and negotiate.

Additionally, AI is great when resumes are received; however, in many cases, particularly for more senior or hard-to-fill roles, a computer will not be identifying, searching and recruiting passive candidates, or more importantly, those executives that are not even passive, they are just not seeking to make a job change. A computer will not have those relationships and pipeline that an active search, staffing and recruiting firm will maintain.

As a family owned search and staffing firm now going into a second generation, I look forward to the continued growth of the industry and encourage the third generation to come up behind us.


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