Would You Trust An AI Bot To Hire Your Team? Gen.T Listers Weigh In

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November 9, 2017 | BY Lee Williamson

Recruitment AI is so smart it knows how reliable a job applicant is based on their decision to own a pet. But there’s a lot it doesn’t know, too. Five Gen.T listers give us their take on the technology that’s set to change everything

Both 2016 and 2017 have been paradoxically billed as ‘the year of AI’. Wherever you stand on the precise timeline, the speed of AI’s shift from plot of a bad sci-fi film to a very real technology—with the potential to impact every aspect of your business—is staggering. 

In the two years since Amazon brought machine learning into our living rooms with its intelligent personal assistant Alexa, we’ve increasingly relied on AI to determine who we date, where we travel, what we watch—even the temperature in our homes.

The technology is set to become increasingly pervasive. The market for AI, which was US$8 billion in 2016, is expected to grow to 47 billion by 2020, according to research firm IDC, impacting practically every industry in the process.

A key area where AI has had an immediate impact is corporate recruitment. Artificial intelligence is disrupting hiring processes across the board, from machines that comb through thousands of CVs in seconds to software that can analyse a candidate’s performance in a video interview. Systems such as HireVue, which is already being used by multinationals including Goldman Sachs and Unilever, analyse word choice, tone of voice and facial movements to screen candidates before they’re seen by a recruiter.

Intelligent chatbots, such as Mya, can also be used to conduct an early-stage interview, asking objective, performance-based questions and analysing the results. Even Google, which is famed for its idiosyncratic hiring process, uses its own AI tool, qDroid, to generate suitable, bias-free questions for a human interviewer to ask.

Given the potentially huge impact of AI on recruitment over the next few years, we asked five Gen.T listers to weigh in on the subject. All come from different industries, hire scores of people every year, and have varying levels of experience with artificial intelligence. Do they think AI is the future of recruitment?

Xania Wong. (Photo: Olivia Tsang)

“You can use AI for any level of recruitment”

Gen.T lister Xania Wong, founder of employment marketplace Jobdoh, which uses AI to match companies with temporary workers.

What are the benefits of using AI in recruitment?
“Currently, the most obvious use of AI is in the screening stage. If you’re processing thousands of applications at a time it’s easier and faster to use a machine. The positives are cost-effectiveness and accuracy, but also better job satisfaction as a result, because the candidate will be a better fit with the company. Plus, if you can remove the more mundane tasks from HR, they can focus on building culture, training, engagement—more high-touch and intangible aspects.”

Is it true to say that AI has so far proven to be more effective in recruiting for entry-level positions?
"AI is [being adopted] faster in the West than it is here, especially for mass recruitment, where there is less of a need for a human to do it."

"But it’s all about setting the right parameters. For example, in our assessment we test for conscientiousness, and one data point we discovered was that if you are a pet owner, you’re more likely to show up for work. So it depends on what you’re testing. In this case we are testing for conscientiousness—actually showing up for work—but if you put in the right parameters I think you can use AI for any level of recruitment ."

Verdict The future is now.

Aaron Lee.

“Cutting down the labour-intensive side of recruitment could be very beneficial”

Gen.T lister Aaron Lee, founder of Dash Serviced Suites.

What are some of the challenges your business faces in recruitment?
“Definitely [lack of] manpower. Some things in the recruitment process are very labour intensive, and we have a very “backwards” approach in terms of hiring as I do a lot of the filtering myself first. Over 90 per cent of our hires are people who haven’t actually applied. If you just post a job ad you’re relying on fate that the best candidate sees that post, which is very unlikely.”

In what stage of the recruitment process could AI be most useful to you?
“Cutting down the labour-intensive side of it could be very beneficial: filtering, matching the right candidates or sending out certain pre-screening questions. Not necessarily among people who have applied, but among a big pool of people with certain expertise or skill sets.” 

“In terms of human-to-human touchpoints, they can’t really be replaced. AI can’t look for whether a person will fit a company’s culture, or whether they are loyal—a robot can’t tell me that.”

Verdict Cautious optimism.

Syed Asim Hussain.

“You can’t replace the human touch with an AI bot”

Gen.T lister Syed Asim Hussain, co-founder of restaurant group Black Sheep.

Would you consider using AI to assist in any stage of the recruitment process?
“No. I staunchly believe that restaurants will be one of the last few non-digital frontiers. We are in the people business. The things we look for in people, they aren’t things you can read off a résumé. I can’t tell a system to look for high emotional intelligence, or high empathy. That I can only determine through a conversation. I think because of the nature of our business, the notion of using AI to even filter résumés is not one that resonates with me. It contradicts the principals of hospitality.”

Given the large churn in more entry-level restaurant jobs, do you think AI will come to dominate recruitment in the wider industry?
“I don’t believe so. I think the best F&B operators understand that this is a people business and you can’t replace the human touch with an AI bot, even at the first step.”

Verdict An unequivocal no.

Alexander Bent.

“It still has to be programmed by a human being”

Gen.T lister Alexander Bent, co-founder of property company District15

Would you consider using AI to assist in any stage of the recruitment process?
If the technology develops and becomes able to screen candidates more effectively, then ultimately it might be quite useful. But I just don’t know the way it’s going to go, and I’m old-school so I still think it’s good to chat to people.”

What are the potential drawbacks?
“At the end of the day, it still has to be programmed by a human being. I understand that it can evolve and ultimately become more intelligent, but you’re still relying on someone else’s definition of a good hire. When I look at a CV, I don’t usually look at their academic record. Some of my best employees have had a terrible academic record. I don’t know how AI would be programmed in that instance, if academics would be an important measure, but I’m sure it would. And [by rating people that way] you probably miss a lot of good employees.”

Verdict There’s a lot yet to be developed.

Arthur Law.

“If I was a headhunter I’d be worried about my job”

Gen.T lister Arthur Law, co-founder of late-stage tech investment firm Vectr Ventures.

Currently, AI is most commonly used for CV screening. Do you think tools such as chatbots and face recognition will become more widespread over the next few years?
“Yes, but right now it’s very fragmented. I haven’t seen anything that incorporates all of these things into one solution, and I don’t think we will anytime soon. If that does exist, I hope you let me know because I would definitely invest in that!  [So far], the more complex the AI gets the less success I’ve seen.”

“We have this recruitment company [in Vectr’s portfolio] based out of Los Angeles called Workpop. They only recruit for entry-level positions such as busboys or waiters, and the reason they are successful is because their data points are more generic, which means you can effectively assign metrics to them. When you hire more skilled workers, it gets more difficult [to use AI] because you’re looking for skill sets that are more subjective, like the ability to network.”

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of incorporating AI into your recruitment process?
“The positive thing is there shouldn’t be bias. So essentially, racism, sexism, aesthetic subjectivity should all be thrown out the window—unless you programme the AI to analyse faces for high cheekbones or big eyes, for example. If you take all that away you eliminate hiring based on attraction.”

“A positive or negative, depending on how you look at it, is it could remove the need for headhunters, which would eliminate a huge cost. If I were a headhunter I’d be pretty worried about my job.”

Verdict AI could change everything, but there’s a long way to go yet.