How AI will shape recruiting in 2019

It’s official—artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer a trend. It’s a living, breathing part of the recruiting industry. Almost two-thirds (63%) of talent acquisition professionals say AI has changed the way recruiting is done at their company, according to a Korn Ferry survey. And more than half say that since AI was introduced, candidates today are more qualified, and roles are filled in a more timely way.

Unfamiliar with its capabilities? For starters, AI can do a number of things for you, from weeding out candidates to helping you interview the 100 applicants who’ve made the first cut. It can even help with the administrative details.

No matter what level of familiarity you have with AI—if any at all—it’s going to impact the future in a big way. Here are a few key places that AI can really make a difference in your recruiting life this year:

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Does AI feel like something that’s out of reach? If that hasn’t changed for you already, this might be the year that it does.

“We’re really seeing a transition away from this pie-in-the-sky idea, something that only the biggest companies in the world can accomplish with proprietary technology,” says Brian Westfall, senior HR analyst for software company Capterra. “[AI’s] becoming a practical tool for your average business. You’re seeing more and more commercially available recruiting systems.”

You’ll have more time to get creative

One of the advantages of AI technology is that it can quickly perform some of the more mundane tasks of recruiting. For instance, sourcing. If you’re spending hours searching online resources for potential candidates for positions, you can save a lot of time by putting artificial intelligence to work for you.

“Instead of having to tweak Boolean searches and run through all the filters, it’s going to automatically do that for you,” says Mike Cohen, a recruiter at Wayne Technologies. “Typically to get through a good search for 100 candidates and [review] them, you’re looking at four hours of work, easily. With AI sourcing, you can probably go through the same task in an hour or an hour and a half.”

What that means is that you can spend less time slogging through search results and more time doing creative sourcing—like looking for professional meet-ups where great candidates might be congregating, or finding Facebook groups for people with a particular license or expertise. “With that extra two and a half hours, you can really delve deep into the market and get a better understanding of the industry and where these people are gathering,” Cohen says.

It will take the pain out of screenings

As a recruiter, you might be getting hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for a position you’ve posted. Going through all the applications quickly and surfacing the best candidates takes time. Enter AI.

“AI can compare resumes and applications to some sort of benchmark,” Westfall says. “Let’s say you use the resumes of your top 10 current performers. The AI will learn the qualities of your top 10 performers and compare any incoming resumes to those of your top 10, and will flag those that most closely resemble them.”

You could also give an assessment to your top performers, feed their answers into your AI system, and give the same assessment to incoming applicants. The AI can compare their answers and flag those that answer similarly.

You’ll have better access to your own data

Previously, in recruiting, you might see candidates for a job who were great but didn’t land the position, at which point, their information was filed with the rest of the non-starters. There was no efficient way to follow up with promising candidates from other job searches when another position opened up.

With AI, however, all that can change. Once a candidate is in the system, AI can pull them forward for a position if their stats match your needs, even if they’re employed elsewhere and not actively looking.

“Seventy percent of people with online job profiles are passively looking for a job at any point in time,” says Sarah Nahm, CEO of recruiting-software firm Lever. “One of the best applications for AI is in being able to have a stronger sense of the talent landscape that’s out there, and how they’re doing at converting that talent pool into hires and being able to do so predictably.”

It may be able to handle initial interviews

In some cases, if you’re interviewing a large number of candidates before culling for the next stage in your process, chat bots can take over for you.

“You feed the chat bot a line of questioning: ‘Based off your resume, I saw you worked in this position. How long did you work at this position?’” Westfall says. “As those answers come in, the chat bot can feed those answers into a recruiting software system or applicant software system. It’s a huge time saver.”

Not only can you whittle down a big group of applicants, but you also don’t have to sit through dozens of initial interviews—you can focus on the finalists.

Watch for potential downsides

The AI recruiting world isn’t all time-savings and celebration. There are some possible downsides to the AI equation. “If you don’t implement an AI thoughtfully, it’ll end up doing more harm than good,” Westfall says.

For instance, Amazon recently scrapped an AI tool it had developed because they found that it was showing bias against women. It had been trained to vet applicants based on previous resumes at the company, but most of those resumes came from men. “The AI was discounting any female-centric language in resumes and applications,” Westfall says.

In essence, the algorithms that power AI are only as good as the data set they train on. “In my opinion, the data set of job descriptions and resumes is not actually a great data set,” Nahm says. “Job descriptions are written with a lot of copy-and-pasting things from other job descriptions, and resumes are open-ended descriptions of what somebody thinks is the best way to represent their career. They’re not very structured or consistent.”

Implementing the best AI requires consideration and the willingness to tweak the process for best results. And of course, some things are best done by humans. “I think people are very excited about the possibilities with AI,” Westfall says. “But they’re realizing there’s a lot of work that needs to be done first.”