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NEW YORK CITY—The growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help recruiters become smarter and faster at finding and engaging the right candidates. It may also fundamentally change the future of work and hiring, according to industry analysts.
Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions with companies will not involve human representatives. And that has big implications for talent acquisition.
"There's so much that you can do with a candidate … before a human being has to touch them," said Glen Cathey, senior vice president, global digital strategy and innovation for Amsterdam-based international staffing firm Randstad. Cathey spoke at this month's HIREconf NYC, a conference for talent acquisition professionals.
AI is generally defined as using computers to mimic cognitive human functions such as learning and problem solving. It's used to understand human speech, to interpret complex data and for self-driving vehicles. As computing becomes more powerful, AI may be extended to even more complex tasks.
But there's no need to fear an "AI apocalypse," Cathey said. "It does give you superpowers, and that's the way you should look at it. Embrace it and see if it actually does help you. Because in many cases, it will."
Cathey said it's not necessarily a bad thing if AI displaces some workers. "I think people get displaced into other roles."
The growing arsenal of AI tools can help with sending routine e-mails, setting up meetings, writing job descriptions and following up with standout prospects who might fall off the radar.
Bots Help Avoid Tedious Work
One example of AI in the workplace is Amy, an AI-powered personal assistant that can scan an e-mail to someone and step in to handle the tedious back-and-forth that often comes with scheduling meetings.
Cathey said people often don't realize "Amy" isn't a human. He said he began to appreciate the technology after reading accolades like this tweet from @D4wud: "Just completed 30+ hiring interviews. The scheduling would have been a nightmare without Amy."
Bots like Amy could potentially replace administrative or career coordinators, or even some recruiters.
"We should welcome this kind of stuff," Cathey said. "I would much rather have Amy or some other artificially intelligent machine do this for me so that I can spend more time focusing on things that are high value."
Another AI tool that's taking over some human roles is Amelia, a chat bot from IPsoft that can take on a variety of service desk roles and transform customer service and potentially recruitment. Over time, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, Amelia will be better able to detect emotion from the way people interact with her.
Better yet, a bot doesn't get angry if the person it's dealing with is ticked off, Cathey said. "She's available 24/7, and she's not emotionally unstable, either—she doesn't have bad days." In 2016, Accenture rolled out a new line of business designed to accelerate client adoption of artificial intelligence to improve business outcomes.
AI Will Make Sourcing Smarter
Another growing area for AI is in job-candidate searches that fine-tune results by providing recommendations based on previous searches—a feature that could fundamentally change recruiting by helping to better identify candidates, Cathey said.
One example is Textkernel, which helps recruiters quickly identify promising candidates based on what the tool sees in their resumes. Textkernel's multilingual resume parser and semantic search studies the intent and contextual meaning behind words, which is important because employers and job seekers often use different words or phrases to describe the same thing when they type in a search box, write job descriptions or build their resumes.
Someone searching for a candidate experienced with the "cloud" or with "cloud computing" might type those terms in Textkernel, which would build a query of 40 words or more using related or synonymous terms, based on its past search experience.
HiringSolved offers Recruiting Artificial Intelligence (RAI) to provide a Siri-like conversational dialogue for finding candidates. RAI can mimic discussions a human recruiter might have with a hiring manager. It asks a series of questions—such as what sort of person the user is looking to hire, where they need to be located and what skills are needed to narrow the candidate pool—using artificial intelligence, real-time web crawling, data mining, and machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being programmed.
Tools Will Improve the Candidate Experience
AI tools also can help with engagement, Cathey said. TalentBin can follow up with an unresponsive candidate and give them more chances to read your e-mails. It offers automated e-mail messaging campaigns so there's no need to manually type e-mails or remember if you've followed up with someone. The idea is that if you reach out once to a candidate and give up after not hearing back, you may assume they're not interested and miss a chance to continue talking to someone who could be an ideal hire.
TalentBin's interactive template can be personalized based on information that it finds about a candidate online, so there's no need to write a message from scratch. By learning who responds to what types of phrasing, it can make a recruiter more effective because "you get a higher response rate on autopilot," Cathey said.
How a job description is written can also make a big difference. Textio is a machine-learning platform designed to help an organization analyze and write better job postings. Someone who writes the clichéd, "In this position, outside-the-box thinking is a must," might get a prompt that says: "Try 'creative' instead of 'outside the box' to make it better."
In the end, Cathey said, recruiters need to figure out how to work with AI tools to be more productive. If you aren't willing to, he said, "it actually could affect your value to the organization."
Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.
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