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What do automation and AI bring to the hiring process?

21 Jun 2023

Hays’ Jacky Carter takes a closer look at how automation tools can help enhance the recruitment and hiring profession – but only if done right.

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For most talent acquisition teams – whether corporate or agency, the problems associated with moving at scale to handle large volumes of requisitions or candidates have generally been constrained by our human capacity.

What automation and AI does is enable processes to be completed at a scale that is simply unachievable by humans. The need to do this is about to be ramped up significantly given the environment we face and the levels of unemployment that are predicted – the likes of which most of us will have never seen, meaning the rate of applications and candidates seeking roles will increase tenfold. It’s tempting then to use automation more broadly to help us handle those volumes.

However, the decision to change jobs, seek career advice and understand the dynamics of the current job market are deeply personal to every individual, and this is where I believe the art – the human face of recruitment, where personal needs are understood and the nuances of roles, teams and organisations are considered – needs to blend seamlessly with the science. The science being the way we develop our capability to make our processes more efficient, more effective and seamless for our users, our customers.

We need to think about the objectives in using automation from a human perspective – in Hays’ case, a key outcome we’ve been looking for has been to increase the level and capacity we have for the human aspects of the work we do – everybody benefits from that – giving us more time to focus on the subtleties and relationships that are so valuable and important in the longer term.

There has been much hype and promise about AI and how it will help us rid the hiring process of bias. The reality of this, however, is that most solutions in the marketplace today rely on previously gathered data, including decisions, which therefore puts bias back in the process.

In our view, it would therefore be wrong to assume that using AI makes the process inherently fairer. The ethics around the use of AI in the screening process is still to be bottomed out.

People want transparency, so whenever we involve the application of AI, we need to have the ability to clearly explain why recommendations have been made and on what basis.

What you need to know about AI and automation in hiring

There’s often a trade-off. For example, by collecting more data, you’re able to personalise each customer’s overall experience. That might be understanding more about candidates as individuals, more about the hiring manager’s expectations or about an organisation’s culture.

But asking for the wrong data at the wrong time can completely negate the benefits of those potential outcomes. What you don’t want to do is bombard someone with questions at the first encounter. So, what is it that might prompt them to be open to sharing more? Is it as a result of receiving something that is useful to them in terms of advice, be it one to one or via content?

This is where understanding the customer view is so critical, and of course when you do ask for that data, being clear about how it will be used, stored and managed is critical to establishing trust with your organisation.

You need to put the customer at the centre. I did a piece of work with Google and their approach to customer-centric design was quite an eye-opener. They have a lot more patience than me. But it taught me that understanding the perspective, the joys and the frustrations of being a user in any digital environment can only really be achieved by sitting with them as they experience each part of the process, taking time to understand where things could be better and where they are working well.

Doing that is time consuming but so incredibly useful and gives a totally different perspective on the way people are interacting with your environment. Taking those insights and building them in to the design of a product is paramount to its adoption and success, which is what any product designer wants to see.

Map out each customer journey. All of us have a range of customers – and a multitude of touchpoints and interactions with each of those customer groups. Often across a huge range of separately built products and processes – think careers website, email responses, application and compliance processes, and engagement marketing to name a few.

Understanding how each of these fit together, from the customer’s perspective, is important to give you a baseline for any future changes as well as the benchmark from which to measure improvements. It’s a complex project to undertake but once you have done it, the review and adjustment is much easier to do and with clearer outcomes and results.

Use tools to help you continually evaluate the customer journey. A/B testing is an oldie but a goodie – seeing how people actually use your website for example, testing out new designs and seeing what response you get can be incredibly useful. Especially when supplemented by tools like Hotjar, which can give you an instant reading of how people feel about what you’re offering or asking them to do. We’ve dumped many ‘fabulous’ new designs and schemas for various aspects of our websites when the evidence was clear that even though we thought it was fantastic, our customers didn’t.

Want to bring AI and automation into your tech stack?

First, work out what the problem is you’re trying to solve. Focusing on the outcomes you want will help you enormously throughout this process and help you keep a clear vision on what good will look like

Secondly, look at the process through a customer’s eyes. If you haven’t mapped their journey with you and all the associated touchpoints along the way, that’s a great place to start. Experience all the touchpoints and put yourself in the customer’s chair – if you can, do some research directly with customers to truly understand their point of view.

Once you know which part of the process you want to improve, look at redesigning it – could it be better? Could it be easier? What are the implications of making changes on each of the stakeholders?

Once you start to look at technology, think about how easily you can explain it to customers – will it be transparent? Does it align with your organisation’s commitments and values? Are you comfortable it doesn’t add bias into the process?

Have a customer advocate in every project – make it their job to be the voice of the customer and think about how it feels to use that product among the other tools and technology you use.

If done properly, automation should never negatively impact the customer experience – it should only enhance it.

I also firmly believe that people, not machines, will continue to play the dominant role in hiring and staff engagement. We need to set the criteria, we need to bring that magic of human nuance to the table and we need to build the person-to-person relationship which is all that ultimately matters when our customers make career and hiring decisions.

By Jacky Carter

Jacky Carter is the customer experience director at Hays. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays blog.

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