Why Technology Can Never Build Recruitment Robots

With the wonderful World Wide Web turning 25 years old last week its only natural to reflect back on how it has touched almost every part of our daily lives. The technology has helped develop new business models worldwide and changed our economies forever. It’s predicted that by 2020 most skilled professionals career paths will be disrupted by smart machine technology, which is capable of ‘absorbing millions of middle-class jobs’.

Technologies such as intelligent personal assistants, smart advisers and advanced global industrial systems are paving the way for automation to replace knowledge workers who once performed certain tasks. Technology is equipped (or very soon will be!) to make executive decisions; decide our safety with transport automation in cars and planes and of course what happens to our jobs. My last blog talked about the idea of technology replacing humans with driverless car technology. This sparked quite some debate, some in favour of the technology doing the work for us and some not so much. Regardless of our opinions, technology is enhancing our lives in more complex and exciting ways, it can be given a name, personality and even make us fall in love with them if the movie ‘Her’ is anything to go by.

Take IBM’s Watson computer system. It is transforming how organizations think, act, and operate in the future. With the ability to understand and offer personalised consumer questions, this technology is already capable of completely replacing humans in the banking, finance and healthcare sectors.

There is no doubt that technology is changing our careers forever, not only that, it is changing how we look for our next career with technology advancements already impacting the recruitment market. Smartphones are so widely available that the rise of mobile job searching was inevitable. Job seekers have the convenience of searching for and applying for jobs right from the palm of their hands, especially with the array of specifically designed apps. Job boards have already or will very soon redesign their strategies to incorporate mobile. Jobserve was the internets first job board and their mobile website received over 500,000 mobile job applications in the second half of 2013. Social Media has played a large part in this shift also, it is at an all time high with 93% of UK companies using some form of Social Media for recruiting, with twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Pinterest among the favourites.

Although highly convenient and seemingly easy, job searching on devices which are generally glued to our hands is in fact a double edged sword. The things which differentiate candidates and set them apart from the rest cannot possibly be conveyed in application which has taken literally 10 seconds  to complete, where little time has been taken to personalise the CV to the role in question or write a compelling and relevant cover letter because the person was on the move whilst submitting it. The importance of these things in an application is paramount. What our clients look for is a candidate to enhance their business, someone who fits the culture in their company, with not just the right qualifications and technical skill but with personality and soft skills.

And this is where recruiters add real value.

Despite the rise in technology and the prediction that computers will replace people in the jobs market what we have found is our clients still value skills such as product design, consultancy, communication and problem solving. Very often the driving factor behind success is the lesser tangible qualities, personality, passion and creative spark that thrives from us being the individuals that we are.

Technology will never be able to get to know someone and make recommendations the way a recruiter can. By working with candidates, recruiters provide feedback, get to know candidates and assess which role which would be ideal not only for their skills but also their personalities. The problem with job boards and social media recruitment is the restricted pool of candidates, they are limited to just those who have actually registered on those websites. What about those who haven’t? Recruiters networks extend much further than job boards and social media, the ability to reach candidates who may not have been actively looking but waiting for the right opportunity to find them, again not something a computer can do for you.

The much talked about War for Talent is still ongoing for software engineers in the UK.  Firms up and down the country are battling for these highly skilled individuals who are like gold dust in the current market. Interestingly a recent survey revealed who it is they value most to find their next career opportunity – Recruiters. A massive 81% of software engineers surveyed said they value the transparency of recruiters, those who will tell them the pro’s and cons of companies. The majority (70%) also said that this is how they hear about new opportunities. Not online job boards, not mobile apps but when recruiters go to the effort to research the candidate’s history and reach out to them about potential opportunities suitable to them.

Recruiters are in the unique position to get to know the candidate and the client and make recommendations based on what would be best on both their personal and professional levels. Any good recruiter builds a relationship with their client, gets to know their business and assesses candidate’s personality and skills against this. Technology may impact the job market in many ways but that human face to face interaction, building of trust, personal recommendations, shared experiences, and transparency is something I don’t believe technology can ever replace.

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Comment by Tom Bolt on March 17, 2014 at 1:06pm

Truth! This should not be a surprise, but people are still banking on the infatuation with technology as a solution to everything. Robots hire robotic solutions without feeling. Only people can recruit a whole person that can adapt to changing circumstances without crashing or reprogramming. When will we ever learn. 

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on March 17, 2014 at 3:08pm

Thanks, EPS. I also believe that recruiters should concentrate on those areas that can't be "tran-sourced ": no- sourced (eliminated), through-sourced (automated), or out-sourced (sent-away) for less than the cost of Western countries' minimum-wages. These areas include mentoring, advising, streamlining and improving hiring processes, and CLOSING. However, most recruiting ISN'T these areas, so while we'll still need people to do these things, we won't need anywhere near as many recruiters to do them as we now have, and most existing recruiters (who may be very good at what they do now) aren't able to do these higher-touch, higher-value add skills.



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