The Rise of AI in the Recruitment Industry

BY Matt Burton   |  

If you think AI is nothing more than a hit movie from Steven Spielberg, you’ve got a rude awakening waiting just around the corner. The robots are here and are looking to take your place.

OK, perhaps that’s a little over-dramatic but there’s no denying the fact that AI is already playing a role in many industries and recruitment is no exception. In fact, it’s fair to say that recruitment has embraced AI with open arms, and it’s now one of the trending topics in the marketplace.

No longer just about Big Data, AI has evolved beyond simple data extraction and has moved on to far more fluid and interpretative tasks. So much so that some sources suggest that by 2025, AI will have become equivalent to the human mind. Yikes.

There’s no doubt that AI is here to stay but the real question is whether robots are a friend or foe to those working within the industry. Could the recruiter’s to-do list be whipped through more efficiently by an ardent android leaving the human workforce muscled out of their jobs? This paper examines the rise of AI within recruitment, its potential uses in the future and the opportunities, and drawbacks it presents.


Recruitment has been stuck in the Jurassic era, a real dinosaur that resisted all efforts to be dragged into the modern world. The introduction of AI has started to change all of that and for many reasons, it’s been something that’s long overdue. Many of the long-held established recruitment views are being challenged by some of the most forward-thinking companies in the world.

A notable example of this is Google who have switched to behavioural interviews rather than looking for a tick-list of qualities such as a degree1. Two thirds of millennials are expected to quit their jobs by 2020 according to one study2, and with AI the buzzword within recruitment, if you’re not on board you’re going to be left lagging behind.

The digital age means that modern jobseekers expect much more from potential employers, and it’s up to recruiters to keep up with demand. A recruiter must juggle several roles: marketing a company effectively, coaching candidates and hiring companies alike, negotiating deals, designing and implementing strategy plus analysing data. AI offers a way to delve more deeply into each of these areas by offering unique insights not previously available.

To keep up with the rest of the market and other industries, recruiters must be willing to adapt and evolve, giving up the traditional hierarchical approach and become more collaborative with their automated assistants.


It’s not unusual for graduate jobs to receive more than 40 potential applicants with high volume positions often attracting 200+, leaving recruiters with a big pile of CVs to sift through. The process of scrutinising and assessing the skills on offer is nothing short of drudgery, and a task that really sucks up valuable hours.

This kind of repetitive but objective task is where AI really shines. A task that could take a human worker many hours can be whizzed through in a matter of minutes by a machine. But it’s not just speed, it’s accuracy too. In testing, the robots come out on top once again with AI scoring better than humans for the accuracy of their work. Research suggests that candidate mining is performed far better by machines who are able to identify a greater range of potential candidates from sources that a human recruiter may not have contemplated.

The use of AI in this way enables recruiters to overcome any inherent bias, a real hot topic in the world of recruitment. If you want to be able to say that candidates were genuinely picked for their skills and CV alone without any whiff of unconscious sentiment, AI is the way to go.


Although the robots certainly have the upper hand in many ways, the human race’s role in recruitment isn’t entirely in peril. There are a few areas where AI really can’t fulfill all the requirements or even compete with their human counterparts. If recruitment were a simple box checking exercise it would have been automated a long time ago. However, to be a real success in recruitment you need to be able to sweet-talk and soothe both nervous jobseekers and cautious would-be employers.

This is where AI can’t really help; the human touch is needed to encourage and reassure to make sure the deal doesn’t falter at the last minute.

The very best recruiters do far more than simply match up skills and requirements; to be a true success, personalities must complement each other too. AI can’t replicate this easily as reading body language and interpreting unspoken communication is an executive function that are beyond the comprehension of a robot. 

And of course, there’s the business relationships that need to be maintained. Even the most genial android of them all, the legendary C3PO, is never going to be able to strike up the kind of rapport that top recruiters carve out with local managers and HR personnel. Even in the areas where AI is top dog such as data extraction and matching candidates, the results will only be as good as the programming. If a single parameter is left out, a machine can’t use its experience and gut instinct to suggest that something might be amiss. You’ll get exactly what you asked for, no more, no less.


Although there are limits to AI, it doesn’t mean that its use should be completely tossed out of the window. Utilised in the right way, artificial intelligence complements a human workforce, with man and machine working side by side. The only drawback is that robots may not be quite as useful in taking their turning going to the vending machine.

Viewing AI as direct competition for the job is not just an unhelpful perspective, it’s also inaccurate. Due to the limitations described above, AI couldn’t step into a recruiter’s shoes and forge the necessary relationships. And unless the average business owner fancies having a cup of coffee with a computer rather than a real person, there’s no substitute for human contact.

But the adeptness that AI shows for other tasks should be explored to its fullest because this leaves recruiters free to use their knowledge and skills more appropriately.

High volume tasks are an obvious use of AI, where there’s a high amount of repetition and a limited amount of skill required - such as matching CVs to a job - AI is the obvious substitute. Data extraction and mining are other tasks far better performed by a robot, allowing passive candidates to be identified. This may not sound particularly intelligent, nor advanced but the difference is this isn’t done by the recruiter entering keywords. With AI, the job description is first analyzed by the machine and then it conducts its own searches based on what it identified. 

Even the job description themselves can be enhanced with the use of AI. Research has found that job adverts can often be off-putting, with the use of too many aggressive-sounding words. This means that potential candidates may get the wrong impression and be dissuaded from applying. AI can carry out sentiment analysis on any job ads, suggesting alternatives where words or sentences hit a bum note.

Predictive analysis is another scorching hot area for AI, giving recruiters new insights into the likelihood of success as well as being able to identify the potential staff turnover in the future.

For those who want to take AI one step further, chatbots are an exciting new step. Communicating directly with potential candidates ahead of any interviews, chatbots can provide automated responses to any questions and enter into dialogue. This then provides enough data for sentiment analysis, based on text, allowing the questions to be customised to fit what the results show. This is an excellent solution to the age old dilemma of asking the same tired questions which never really get below the surface.

So, what does all of this mean for the recruitment industry? AI isn’t something that should be feared or fought against as it’s not about to wipe out the need for recruiters. Instead, it’s an exciting opportunity to shape a whole new role with recruiters becoming more specialised and able to focus on the expert functions of the job.

AI delivers new insights and offers knowledge that was previously out of scope, enabling recruiters to get better results all round.



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