Hey Recruiters — AI is Coming, Evolve or Die

By Mathew Caldwell, Founder at Rocket Power | PeopleTech Partners Advisor

We have heard it before, recruiters are going away. We will all be replaced by systems and technologies that will make our jobs obsolete.Soon recruiters won’t be needed by companies at all.

Unfortunately, this has been said so many times and by so many people, many of us in the industry have become numb to the idea that our jobs will be automated and streamlined away. However, it is time to pay attention.

We are on the brink of a major shift in the way recruiting is done. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) will be as disruptive to the business of recruiting as LinkedIn was to executive search.

Prior to LinkedIn, the best executive recruiters knew lots of people. Their professional value was linked to the size of their Rolodex; the number of people for whom they had phone numbers and email addresses. While this network size value proposition was critical in a world before LinkedIn, the emergence of LinkedIn exposed a fundamental flaw in the way executive recruiters of the past did business. While recruiters prior to LinkedIn knew a lot of people, they did not know a lot about these people. The only value they added was surface level — they knew who had what titles at what companies and had the ability to contact them. Then came LinkedIn.

Now everyone has the ability to know who has what titles and at what companies and has the ability to connect with them. Executive recruiters now need to know key things about executives that do not show up on LinkedIn. What is going to keep someone in their job? What will make someone lift their head up and consider a new role? What are the things that get that stellar executive candidate excited? What is their risk tolerance? What is their financial situation and how will that impact their career decisions? What are their family dynamics? Are they rooted in their current geo? Etc. etc. etc.

Good recruiters have shifted the way they do business and have survived and thrived. Those who can’t adapt don’t make it.

AI will have the same impact on the way recruiting is done today. Today, AI is starting to touch only a couple key parts of the recruiting funnel, but eventually, it will consume more and more of the process.

The two areas where AI will make an immediate impact are the top of the funnel and the administrative aspect of the funnel — otherwise known as sourcing and coordination.

In even just the last few months I have seen dozens of AI products designed to attack various stages of the recruiting process. I have talked with very smart people who are working on these tools and sat down with peers who understand both the value and the disruption possibilities of these tools.

While I think some of the products I have seen are overreaching and will not work (or at least not anytime soon), there are many solutions that are very, very close to being viable.

Recruiters should pay attention.

Many recruiters I know, I have managed, I have interviewed and I have interacted with tout their ability to find people and engage them for their target positions. This is a very valuable skill to have. However AI will soon do it faster, possibly equally well, 24/7, with more data, more flexibly and, very importantly to all businesses, with a much lower impact to OPEX than human sourcers. As these tools are coming online, recruiters will still be valuable to companies, but WHERE in the recruiting process and HOW they add value needs to shift.

This shift will be very hard for some. Many people are currently making a very good living specializing in sourcing. They are extremely valuable to companies because filling the top of the funnel with qualified candidates is key to a good recruiting process. However, like executive recruiters of old, this value is soon going to be replaced by a tool. Recruiters who are unable or unwilling to adapt will slowly find themselves less and less valuable to companies and will quickly become irrelevant.

So what can recruiters do to prepare? How can their value and role shift along with the emerging technological innovations?

Recruiters will need to shift from a transactional focus to a strategic focus. Recruiters of the future will behave more like Project Managers, managing initiatives at a high-level and leveraging solutions and suites of products to execute against business strategies.

By preparing now to take on this more strategic role recruiters can start to truly partner with their clients, to deeply understand their needs, the business drivers behind each need and how to navigate through the various stakeholders in the process to drive to a successful outcome while managing all the tools (including AI), resources, stakeholders, etc. within the process.

Surviving this shifting landscape means adding value in new ways and consciously acknowledging, mastering and learning to thrive alongside the emerging innovations in AI.

Mathew Caldwell is Founder of Rocket Power, Former SVP at Instacart and Advisor for PeopleTech Partners

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