Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Recruiters?

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The fear of losing jobs to AI, in the minds of human resource (HR) recruiters, was the compelling reason for writing this article. The HR department has the monumental responsibility of sourcing the right people, to ensure that work efficiency and productivity are not compromised. However, in the past few years, the AI bandwagon being portrayed as disruptor of jobs has induced concerns across all sectors, including HR department.

The fear of losing jobs to AI is unwarranted and stems out of ignorance. People fear what they do not understand.

What AI Can Do

Given the exponential rise in computing power, AI systems can process millions of data within seconds and learn from it. For example, Google’s DeepMind AI — AlphaGO — had beaten Lee Sedol, the world champion of GO (A game like chess) in four out of five rounds in 2016. This is because AlphaGO had learnt winning moves by assessing millions of GO games played by people. Now let us consider a job where someone is doing repetitive work, like a data-entry operator at an accountant’s office. This job can be easily replaced by an AI system.

There are monotonous jobs that AI can learn by assessing millions of data that previously existed. Jobs where analytic and creative skills are not required can be replaced by AI. This is evident in some supermarkets, where cashiers have been replaced by automated kiosks. There are robots now for making gourmet hamburgers. People should note that performing repetitive work on a daily basis will eventually lose their jobs to automation.

What AI Cannot Do

The best thing about AI, the ability to learn from millions of data within seconds, is also its drawback. The drawback being it needs to learn from millions of events from the past. Although Google’s AlphaGO beat the world champion Lee Sedol in the game, he can do other things that AlphaGO cannot, like decision making, thinking creatively, etc. Let us assume that AlphaGO spent 10 years with Lee Sedol, by learning his knowledge and experiencing the emotions, this would still be learning from one person and the AI system can’t justify that all humans are like Lee – unlike GO game that has limited set of rules to be followed by all players.

One might argue that with the advent of cloud robotics, where AI systems across the globe interacting and learning from humans, can share data and knowledge across a common platform, that AI will be able to think and act like humans. However, this would be a hypothetical assumption. We need to remember that a robust AI system will run algorithms that: 1. Require millions of data points to recognize patterns and learn from it, and 2. Make predictions based on past outcomes. By point no. 1, this would make AI systems ideal for performing repetitive tasks (automation), like providing insights by detecting patterns, and even engage with humans to address high frequency issues with readily available solutions. But what about tasks that require analysis, leadership, creative thinking and innovation?

With respect to point no. 2, an important point is to be noted: An AI algorithm will run explicitly as it is told. It is subjected to developer’s influence. It will make predictions because it has been “coded” to do so, but it cannot explain the rationale behind it. Another dark side to this implies algorithm manipulation. What about the credibility of millions of data fed into the AI system? It can’t assess what is right and wrong. It takes an input and churns out an output without discerning data quality. This is AI’s fundamental weakness. Now consider applying this to HR, where hiring involves assessing a candidate’s attitude and credentials.

An AI system cannot learn from 100 Fortune company leaders in order to make an important decision for company growth. Even if it learns from 100 leaders specific to one industry, each leaders’ rationale in justifying their decision will vary uniquely. What is unique about the human element – more than acquired knowledge – is our decades of experience and emotions, combined with the penchant for risk-taking, that has been the foundation of innovations. These experiences are unique to each of us, in dictating our lifestyles and achievements, and this makes it hard for an AI in recognizing patterns. The intellectual workforce of tomorrow therefore, will be a combination of the human element and AI enabled insights. We will work with AI machines in tandem.

So, will Recruiters be Replaced by AI?

Based on justifications above, the answer is obvious. AI systems cannot replace HR recruiters. A great recruiter looks beyond a candidate’s qualification. They look for passion, assess their attitude to sync with existing teams, and they gauge a candidate’s personality in line with company culture. In fact, a great recruiter won’t even care for a candidate’s resume. Recruiters are people-centric personalities who serve as catalysts in building efficient work teams. As long as there are humans in the workforce, the demand for great HR recruiters will remain intact.

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