Businessman and a robot shaking hands in an office setting

There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) in recruitment has many advantages. It can effortlessly scan thousands of “paper” applications in a flash. During video interviews, it can analyze your answers to certain questions, the tone of your voice and your facial expressions. (baona/Getty Images)

Innovation | Artificial Intelligence

Should we be afraid of robots taking over recruiting humans?

Today’s artificial intelligence systems recruit faster, with better results and at a lower cost. So what’s the problem?

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The next time you apply for a job, will a robot be assessing your resumé and experience? Given the popularity of robot recruiters in today’s job market, maybe this has already happened, but you just didn’t know it. 

Major companies, like Johnson&Johnson, Adidas and Ford, currently use robot recruiters, and the automation of certain tasks is well underway (read AI and automation: The new unstoppable reality to learn more).

There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) in recruitment has many advantages. It can effortlessly scan thousands of “paper” applications in a flash. During video interviews, it can analyze your answers to certain questions, the tone of your voice and your facial expressions. What’s more, AI is cost effective for large companies, which explains why the technology has been adopted by corporations like Unilever, which uses it for 95 per cent of its recruitment. After one year, the company noted a decrease in staff turnover (a leading indicator for the recruitment process). In other words, the machine (HireVue) got it right. 

Manon Poirier, CRHA, is the executive director of the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés du Québec (Quebec’s HR management association), which has 10,000 members. She acknowledges the trend but puts it in perspective.  

“The phenomenon is still relatively insignificant in Canada, compared to the U.S. or Europe,” says Poirier. “People are wary, but we have to look at robot recruiters as a rigorous tool that selects profiles without bias, unlike humans. Interviewing two dozen people for a job has never been the best idea either. More sophisticated systems will allow us to find a few good candidates based on relevant data.”  

Recruiters aren’t starting from scratch. They already rely heavily on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) such as Taleo or Jobvite to manage recruitment using software that considers key characteristics of candidates (enthusiasm, confidence, ambition, etc.). But next-generation robots go even further, particularly in sourcing. “With the current labour shortage, companies can no longer post a job and wait,” says Poirier. “They have to continually look for candidates, and robo-recruiters are very good at that.” 

The message is clear. Just as people no longer send out one single resumé for different jobs (but several containing key words used in the job description), they need to promote their cross-functional skills that aren’t related to accounting or finance, but that help them stand out from the crowd, such as communication or negotiation skills. That’s what these machines look for—since robots are excellent at putting together psychological profiles—using online discussions with applicants during interviews or by searching the web.  

“We’re beyond the stage of a few embarrassing Facebook photos. Robots dissect comments as well as the tone of communications and opinions, and not just on social media, but all over the web,” says Poirier. “You can’t just think about it when you’re job hunting. You have to consider this well before you begin the process. Young people especially, who sometimes express strong views, simply don’t realize this.”   

In some respects, we’re more of a danger to ourselves than the recruiting robots. 

CALM YOUR FEARS ABOUT ROBOTS IN THE WORKPLACE  

Not sure robots are our friends? Gain some insight by reading Friend or foe, the rise of the robot is a chance to reinvent yourself. Also, Jim Carroll, an accountant turned futurist, has some reassuring words in How I learned to stop worrying and love the robot. Finally, take advantage of the free webinar, Technology issues facing CPAs, which will help you respond to the current trends.  

Also, CPA Canada will be releasing a primer on artificial intelligence this fall as well as a publication examining the impact AI may have on the profession.