In recent years economists have expressed concern that Total Factor Productivity (TFP) worldwide has weakened substantially over the last decade and, as a result, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has also been steadily decreasing.
This economic backdrop is partly the reason that the world is so excited about the recent developments in machine learning, robotics, and deep learning. It is estimated that artificial intelligence technology has the potential to increase Total Factor Productivity by as much as 37% by 2035 (source: Accenture and Frontier Economics). This increase would, in turn, lead to a likely increase in global GDP.
Artificial Intelligence technology has the potential to disrupt many industries by automating manual and repetitive tasks which are currently carried out by an entire workforce. Many column inches have been written about how Artificial Intelligence will lead to vast job losses within many industries including manufacturing and retail.
Jon Andrews, the Head of Technology and Investments at PwC, said: “There’s no doubt that AI and robotics will rebalance what jobs look like in the future, and that some are more susceptible than others".
Recruitment is one of the industries expected to be heavily disrupted by AI technology and there is much speculation as to what extent it will affect the industry.
"Does the rise of AI mean the death of the recruiter?" asks Personnel Today. (July 2016)
"Your next job interview could be with a recruiter bot" speculates CNN (May 2017)
This is not the first time that many have speculated about how a new piece of technology will herald the downfall of the recruitment industry. Countless articles were written in 2013 declaring that LinkedIn would see the end of the industry; yet four years later the industry is stronger than ever and has now worth a record £35 billion.
Personally I don't believe that Artificial Intelligence is the threat to the industry that some perceive it to be. LinkedIn wasn't able to replace the role of the professional Recruiter; if anything it made good Recruiters even better, and I expect that Artificial Intelligence will do much the same.
The reason that no technological advancement can replace the role of the Recruiter is because they can never imitate the impact that a Recruiter has on the recruitment process.
Recruitment is not simply about having a network of contacts; which LinkedIn can replicate. The real talent lies in the ability to engage with and attract those contacts to a range of suitable job opportunities. The fact that your client has the ability to build a network of potential hires on LinkedIn themselves does not mean they are automatically able to hire them directly.
A professional Recruiter will not only have an extensive network of contacts, but they will have spoken to and engaged with those contacts consistently over a period of time to build a detailed understanding of what their skills are, what motivates them, and what they're looking to achieve in their career. When a suitable position arises the Recruiter will know immediately which of their connections it will be best suited to, and will be able to convincingly sell the opportunity to them based on their previous experienced and their key motivators.
Artificial Intelligence can most definitely impact many parts of the recruitment process; from using chatbots to engage with candidates when they initially apply for a role through to managing CV submissions and interview scheduling. However there are multiple points throughout the typical recruitment process when a Recruitment Consultant has a direct influence on the success of the process. Whenever a candidate has a concern, a question or an uncertainty, the Consultant works with them to understand and overcome the issue. If a candidate is offered a job with more than one company, then the Recruiter will work with them to decide which one is best for them based on a number of different deciding factors.
These moments of influence are based on emotional intelligence. The Consultants helps them reach a decision by listening, empathising and advising the best course of action. These are skills which even the most sophisticated of computer programs is not able to replicate effectively.
Admittedly there are some Recruiters in the market who work in a very process driven and transactional manner. If a Recruiter is simply posting job adverts on behalf of a client, reviewing responses, submitting CVs and arranging interviews, then it is feasible that Artificial Intelligence could pose a threat to their job, as they aren't adding any additional consultative value.
However, for more consultative Recruiters, artificial intelligence should be viewed as an opportunity. It is a chance to automate many parts of the process which can be time consuming and administrative, and will free up Consultants' time to spend more of their day communicating with their network of contacts, getting to know them better, and leveraging these connections to make more placements.
In conclusion, I fully believe that recruitment is a human-driven business which can never be automated or replaced. As long as Recruiters are spending their time speaking to people, building relationships, gathering knowledge and sharing insights, there will always be a successful recruitment industry.