Despite major advances, it doesn't look like artificial intelligence will replace recruiters anytime soon
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rarely out of the news at the moment, whether it is robots threatening to put physicists out of a job as they learn to run complex experiments for themselves or Google's AI project learning to write poetry, it seems that in the future anything humans can do, robots will be able to do - if not necessarily better - at least serviceably well.
Understandably, this is expected to shake up the jobs market. It will make some roles redundant and transform others. Some commentators go as far as suggesting that recruitment consultants themselves need to be added to the endangered species list since the strength of AI's capabilities makes having a human at the helm of the recruitment process unnecessary.
At first glance, it seems like a reasonable idea. Recruiters match candidates with jobs that require certain skills - something that a computer could achieve with the right algorithms in place. Indeed, I launched a tech-based recruitment startup last year, The Work Crowd, which uses advanced algorithms to connect specialist freelance talent with businesses.
So do I think that recruiters should be brushing up their own CVs in earnest, ready for the seismic changes ahead? I'm inclined to think not.
A science as well as an art
There are many jobs where artificial intelligence could, in theory, be applied. A visit to the GP could be superseded with inputting your symptoms into a computer, which would then use data such as your age and medical history to determine the cause of your ailments before prescribing appropriate treatment. It could happen, but nobody in their right mind would ever think it was a good idea.
Why? Because no AI programme could substitute for the role of the doctor, with their abilities to understand all the things that make us human: the non-verbal signs, the meaningful omissions and the background stories that could never be accurately represented as fields in a database.
Just as there's an art to medicine, there's an art to recruitment. It's not just about matching candidates to jobs - if that was the case the consultancy sector would have died out a long time ago. It's about being able to accurately read a given situation to see what a client really needs, even if they don't see it themselves yet. It's about being able to build relationships that allow you to carefully calibrate all stages of the recruitment process to ensure the right result for all parties.
The limitations of AI
Certainly, AI will have a role to play in our industry, particularly in temporary or lower level roles where moves between jobs are more often motivated by measurable factors such as pay, working hours and location, rather than more amorphous things like status and opportunity.
Technological advancements are a great asset to recruitment, but not a replacement. There's simply no substitute for 'pressing the flesh' and applying old-fashioned human intuition, social skills, and good sense. This is something Microsoft proved when its own foray into an AI social media account led to a number of posts supporting Donald Trump, claiming that 9/11 was an inside job and confidently telling the world that "Ricky Gervais [sic] learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism". We can outsource all manner of tasks to artificial intelligence, but, as Microsoft learned, it doesn't mean we should.