April 26, 2021

#Blogpost: Artificial Intelligence & Recruiting - A basic introduction

Artificial intelligence as an important topic in almost every area of our lives, naturally also affects recruitment. First presentations of the phenomenon itself and basic ideas in the HR context will be given. If you are interested, deeper insights and important further aspects will be dealt with in another article.

#Blogpost: Artificial Intelligence & Recruiting - A basic introduction

Artificial Intelligence & Recruiting

I believe that in about fifty years’ time it will be possible to programme computers, with a storage capacity of about 10₉, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification after 5 minutes of questioning” -Alan Turing (1950)

This blog post aims to give a first feel for artificial intelligence in recruitment. An introduction to the partly still abstract topic, which seems to be more and more important. Alan Turing posed the question whether a computer can think like a human being by means of a game. His imitation game, which replaced the target question in the course of the test with different variations of questions, helped to establish important origins of the current performance of machines. His test was to investigate machine intelligence. It involved a teletyped dialogue between a human player, a machine and an interrogator. At this time, the first insights had to be drawn and according to literature references, the goal of the machine was to simulate a man imitating a woman. But actually the interrogator should determine which of the two contestants was the woman and which was the man. The interrogator was unaware of the real purpose of the test.

Other scientists and interested parties are also dealing with artificial intelligence and the development possibilities in digitalisation. Kurzweil, head of technical development at Google, described the inclusion of artificial intelligence as follows: "The art of creating machines that performs functions that require intelligence when performed by people". 

In today's everyday life, artificial intelligence has become a component that we hardly ever question or consciously keep in mind. Voice-controlled assistants, smartphone keyboards, navigation systems are just a few examples.

To simplify what artificial intelligence means, it is best to say that a computer is supposed to solve problems that actually require the intelligence of a human being. A distinction is made between strong and weak AI. However, strong AI means mechanising the entire human thinking process, whereas weak AI is intended to solve concrete application problems and thus supports the human thinking process. This will not be discussed further in the following.

Why is all this now relevant for companies? Why in the hiring process? Due to the industrial change towards Industry 4.0 and the developing demands of efficiency and effectiveness, together with the increasingly specific skills-oriented required profiles that companies are looking for, a significant increase in performance can be achieved with the help of machine systems. While many recruiters are initially apprehensive about this development, others, such as consultant Jonathan Kestenbaum (co-founder of Talent Tech Labs, a talent acquisition consultancy in New York), say that the implementation of AI software can significantly help solve problems, especially in everyday tasks and necessary data analysis.

Artificial intelligence is primarily intended to create a cost and time advantage in the process led by recruiters and HR managers. The most common problem behind this is that most people are not aware of the individual functions of AI in the process, but are guided by the image that the entire job is to be replaced by machines.  So what are the most common functions of AI in recruitment?

·        Screening of candidates and initial assistance on applicant pages through so-called chat boxes e.g.

·        Automated application processes and initial email responses to candidates to shorten feedback and communication.

·       Formal procedures that need to happen between hiring and onboarding can be taken over in the documentation by AI and thus offer the security for recruiters and candidates to continue the communication in the grey area.

·        Scheduling: conversations, appointments, phone calls

In this sense, many positive aspects can be attributed to the whole construct, but what are the points that primarily trigger discussions?

The most common points of discussion are those that machines would lack the empathy of a human being and that many perhaps good profiles would thus not have a fair chance in the process due to unusual turns in their CVs. The question of ethical regulations and impartiality in the process is also divided in two directions. While some assume that AI will strengthen a fair process, others assume the opposite. Some aspects can be named and rephrased in both directions:

Hiring of candidates takes place with machines and no involvement of human. So, it leads to unbiased screening and candidate selection.

Hiring of candidates takes place with machines and no involvement of human. So, it leads to biased screening and candidate selection based on the learning process of the machine which is oriented towards specific conditions.

Which aspects exactly should be included in this discussion and how the individual opinions can be discussed further will be clarified in more detail in a second blog entry if there is interest in the topic. More concrete aspects of the recruitment process itself can also be included. The connection between the change of generations and digitalisation also plays a major role here. The introduction given here is only intended to open up the basic interest and importance of the topic and to emphasise its everyday use without forming an opinion.