As CEO of Jobvite, I don’t just lead our company’s product and service innovation—I’m also responsible for understanding the challenges facing today’s workforce. And I take these challenges personally. Not only do they drive us here at Jobvite to develop more functional technology solutions, but they have a great impact on our society at large. In fact, what’s going on in our country with respect to jobs—how we find them, how we create them, and how we’re compensated for them—is increasingly influential to the global economy and the political landscape. That’s why I’ll be posting here on an ongoing basis. I’d like to bring some of the larger issues to light and provide others with a forum for contributing to the discussion.
That being said, one of the biggest concerns I hear about these days is the question of job automation. Our latest survey found that 56% of job seekers are at least a little bit (if not very) wary of their jobs becoming obsolete, outsourced, or given to robots. I get why this can be scary—and I’ve written about the subject before— but I have to confess: I think in many ways that movement in this direction can be a good thing. Particularly for recruiters.
Before I explain, let me provide a little background. I was at the Recode Code Conference a few weeks ago, where I had the pleasure of hearing a number of high-profile technology leaders address the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Obviously, AI technology spans a vast number of uses, from self-driving cars to devices like Amazon Echo and far beyond. But one thing really struck me. Elon Musk was asked about his take on AI and whether his new project OpenAI derived from fear of competition, and he said no. His vision is that AI and machine learning is ultimately about protecting our future. People are naturally wary of a world in which machines control us—Musk is as well—but he said companies like OpenAI are about making sure we develop, use, and share the technology in such a way that we don’t face that risk. He says we need to link AI power to individual will, so that AI really just becomes an extension of people themselves and not tied to a handful of powerful companies. If we do that, the good people will surely triumph over the bad ones.
The reason I recount this story is simple. Today in recruiting we are seeing machine-learning chatbots increasingly play a role in the sourcing and hiring process. They have the ability to answer questions online from potential applicants, for example, and increase the likelihood that they’ll submit a resume. They have the ability to screen or even interview candidates—and, in the case of one San Francisco startup, they can actually assign people to specific jobs based on how they answer. This is where AI is playing out in recruitment. And as big names like Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, and now OpenAI dive in to ensure that these chatbots can converse naturally with humans, I foresee more companies will leverage them to have dialogues with talent, learn from responses and engagements, and further the task of hiring the best candidates.
I don’t, obviously, foresee this future to unfold without mishaps. I fully expect to hear horror stories about great talent scrapped for one wrong response, or completely unfit applicants passed through to the next round with flying colors. Still, I prefer the Elon Musk perspective here. This type of technology is not going anywhere, and it’s going to help recruiters do their jobs better in the long run. AI’s are designed to learn, so these algorithms will continue to get smarter over time. And if recruiters and companies can learn to pair themselves with a specific AI, they can train it to understand a particular corporate mission and culture—so that recruiters feel like they leverage these chatbots and other similar technology as extensions of their teams, not as replacements for them.
Of course, AI has a long way to go, and I don’t think we’re in immediate danger of robots dominating the recruiting landscape. And there will always be—and should always be—a human element to the work of the recruiter. Recruiters, after all, are tasked with hiring people, so people should always have a hand in that process. But I do believe that we have some tremendous opportunities ahead of us, including ways to not just automate tedious administrative elements of the job, but actually help us refine our searches, target unique and competitive skills, nurture ongoing talent relationships, and so on.
What’s your take on automation and AI in recruiting? Have you worked with a chatbot before? I’d love to hear your experiences and predictions below.