AI: What is the future for executive recruitment?

Are recruiters still relevant with the rise of artificial intelligence?

Developers of new technologies, scaremongers, pessimists and people with something to sell are always predicting the demise of the recruitment industry and the end for recruitment consultants. We’re all going to be replaced by robots. We are doomed. Based on the technology arguments the recruitment industry has been at death’s door for at least twenty years.

Reality indicates that people are rarely in a job for life, and job moves mean active candidates in the job market. Particularly in management consulting, good candidates are constantly seeking new challenges. A survey by Prism last year indicated that at any one time nearly 90% of management consultants are either actively or passively job hunting. Therefore, there is a huge potential pool of candidates looking for, or open to, discussions about their next career move.

Despite the threat of AI taking over the recruitment world and stealing our jobs, experience to date has taught us that artificial intelligence and technology should be embraced. AI is not a threat but more a fantastic opportunity to expedite processes and make executive search more effective. Technology is advancing and executive recruitment, like other industries, can embrace the developments or get left behind. Just as in any walk of life, technological advancements mean some labour-intensive aspects of recruitment can be taken over by the machine. In particular, for more junior roles, where employers are looking for a particular set of qualifications, technology can provide a faster, cheaper way of doing things. If you are a company or client seeking a newly qualified graduate in a particular field or a jobseeker with one or two years’ experience in a particular industry, AI can help to identify suitable candidates.


AI is also excellent at addressing diversity in recruiting. Most of our clients recognise the importance of a diverse workforce and how essential it is to hire not based on a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation but on their abilities in the workplace. Not only is discrimination unlawful and unethical, but a diverse workforce can improve productivity, increase creativity and give the company a good reputation. Alongside training of recruitment teams to avoid unconscious bias in recruitment, the use of AI can help recruiters with their diversity hiring efforts. AI can be used to facilitate pre-employment assessments, for blind hiring and to assist in the writing of inclusive job advertisements. Automated systems can facilitate the processing of large volumes of applications expediting a potentially time-consuming process and unburdening the recruiter. But at what cost?

How far is too far?

Would you like to be interviewed by a robot? A robotics company in Stockholm has developed the first robot designed to conduct interviews. The human-like computer interface has been working with one of the largest recruitment firms in Sweden. Tengai the Swedish robot is currently carrying out test interviews, with an English version of the bot expected later this year.

Is this the future? Will there be a point at which interview or screening by robots is the new norm? It’s important to balance the benefits of using AI against the skills and process that a real person contributes to the hiring process. Competition for talent is fierce and with much talk of a massive skills shortage, it’s essential to shift focus and remember that the candidates you are rejecting through automated machine screening maybe your potential employees of tomorrow. What impression are you creating, if the job seeker passes through the entire selection process without any human interaction?

Does it depend on the kind of role you are applying for? If you are a technophile, applying to work with a technology consultancy firm, you may be attracted by the thought of interactive robots, at the forefront of technology, conducting your interviews. It always needs to be considered as to whether it would add to your candidate’s experience or detract from it.

Effect on candidate experience

Poor candidate experience can potentially damage your brand and reputation as an employer. How do you get the balance right? Machines, even the most advanced robots still have difficulty with emotional intelligence, critical thinking and conflicting concerns, so where appointments are being made at more senior levels it may be some time before they are an adequate substitute for human decision-making. It may be longer still before they are accepted by the general population as a recruiting tool.

With the rise of automation has come the ascent of social media power. Many people do not think twice about sharing a bad experience on social media, whether eating in a restaurant or applying for a job with a new company. In a world where there are increasing demands of people’s time: everything quicker, faster, more efficient, better, there is an increasing tide of resentment and a desire to be treated as an individual. Consider what impression you wish to project for your company and your brand.

As an executive search company with over twenty years of experience sourcing excellent talent for our clients, we have of course seen a surge in the use of technology to support our industry. However, we have also seen an increase in consumer choice and the importance of strong brands and demands for good candidate experience. Candidates don’t want to invest their future in a company who doesn’t invest in them from the outset. They want to find out more about the role they are applying for and the cultural environment they are considering working in.

Experience adds value

Technology and swift screening results are not a replacement for added value and good customer experience. There is no substitute for the experience of a recruitment consultant, either from the perspective of the hiring company or the candidate. It’s not always straight forward to identify the right blend of skills, and experience. The exact profile of the perfect hire is not always immediately apparent. This makes it very difficult to programme effective algorithms into a computer or a piece of software for auto-selecting a shortlist of suitable candidates. There are too many variables. There’s no substitute for human experience and the complex decision making the evaluation that goes on when deciding whether a candidate has the calibre and experience to make the shortlist. This is particularly true for management consulting jobs in a market which is complex and complicated.

Technology is not currently equipped to deal with the nuances found in peoples CVs or LinkedIn profiles, particularly those of more senior people. For every 100 CVs received, we receive many different formats and levels of detail. Furthermore, there are numerous different reasons why candidates feel they are suitable for the advertised role. Technology is great and it can allow recruitment consultants to do the things they do well, i.e. to place human interaction at the forefront of the recruitment process, to represent an employer’s brand and to promote their opportunities. The relationship with a trusted recruiter also gives candidates the reassurance that their future employer will invest time in them as an employee, in the same way, they have with the recruitment process.

Technology as a tool

Technology can aid searching and help produce a long list of potentially suitable candidates. It can screen CVs and disregard those which do not meet broad parameters. It can identify those individuals who meet baseline requirements. However, for niche markets or complex or more senior roles, there is no substitute for the experience of an industry specialist recruiter.

If you have any current or future opportunities and you are looking for an experienced executive search and recruitment firm with the integrity you would expect from your own employees, please contact Chris Sale, Managing Director Prism Executive Recruitment c[email protected] 01344 636 426 / 0203 143 5926 for an initial discussion.

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