Why we won’t all turn into robot recruiters

Recruitment technology is changing the industry. But rather than fighting the inevitable march of progress – or, worse, running from it – recruiters can adapt and grow in a digital tomorrow.

The Future of Recruitment Technology

What are the common themes that industry forecasts all seem to share? Usually, they put recruitment technology at the top of the agenda. Automation inevitably gets a mention. Artificial intelligence is a given. And then, perhaps, more specific use-cases of digital systems like chatbots and smart semantic search programs get a look in.

In short, the big story is any technology which limits or removes the human element from the hiring process. And it can be difficult to put a positive spin on that, if you are an agency owner dreading the arrival of the robot recruiters.

Combine that with the industry boom in 2017 (and the expectation of a repeat performance in 2018), and you can appreciate why some within the sector feel like recruitment is undergoing its own Last Days of Pompeii moment.

But are they right?

It should be no surprise that the digital transformation of work fills many with dread. It will mean changes in technology, behaviour, and processes. And, when the short-term consequences all appear to be a reduction in human interactions, traditionalists may feel squeezed out of their own industry. “If I automate my whole office,” the train of thought goes, “what will be left for me to do?”

Tomorrow’s problems are today’s problems – only bigger

In some ways, you might argue that it’s actually worse than that. Because what this view sees as the worst part of digitisation is actually its main plus point. In fact, this thinking is flawed, because it misses the bigger problem facing the industry.

Skilled workers are an endangered species

If an invention only makes a situation worse, it is unlikely to become very popular. So, rather than asking whether automation is going to send every recruiter off to the unemployment line, we should be asking “why is automation necessary?”

It is not simply about being faster, more agile than your competitors. The answer is that recruitment in the future is likely to become ever more complex. Agencies will need intelligent software to support them. The free time they create is not luxury, but necessity. Because the core task – of finding skills for vacancies – is getting harder by the day.

The education – employment disparity

Technology makes industry more efficient. Industry puts those saved resources back into improving its technologies. In this way, the modern workplace keeps evolving. But it’s happening at an exponential rate. Working life is accelerating away from our educational systems, making it almost impossible to prepare young professionals for the world of work. It means trying to predict today which skills will be valuable to a pupil entering the workforce in 2031. It simply cannot be done.

But tech-savvy recruiters can play a vital role in solving this imbalance. Instead of predicting which skills will be valuable to every pupil a decade from now, might it be better to predict which individuals are most able to take up new challenges and adapt to fresh demands, instead? Recruiters who source not skills, but learners.

This re-defined role would require long-term talent nurturing. But the tools to allow this already exist. Today’s candidate uses social media for recruitment just as much as a talent manager. Gamified assessments turn extended interviews into an enjoyable experience for every applicant, while providing the necessary data to inform hiring decisions. Chatbots in exit interviews improve the perception of candidates leaving the process.

And does this all reflect well on the client brand? You bet. Recruiters, once again, adding value to the talent acquisition process.

Automation can structure assessments and collect data. But an intuitive understanding of both clients’ needs and candidates’ aptitudes and ambitions is needed to find the best match. In short: it needs a human touch.

…And it will all be fine in the end

There is a mural, on Charing Cross tube station, which shows a range of medieval professions. Each is still recognisable today – albeit in an updated form. We no longer sieve flour by hand but, like the figures in the image, we still have bakers. Why? Because we still need bread.

Organisations, too, will always need a reliable source of skills, talent, and personnel. In that sense, a good recruiter is just as vital as those bakers. They are not married to a single process or approach in achieving this. Just like nobody mourns the flour-sievers, no-one is going to miss the manual reporting, data-mining and network building that preoccupies traditional recruitment – once the alternative is fully realised.

The core tasks of recruitment will always exist. The methods that the fastest, smartest, and most productive recruiters employ – those will continue to adapt.