Recruiting teams have been using artificial intelligence (AI) tools in one form or another for quite some time, but the emergence of generative AI like ChatGPT has brought a recent wave of disruption. Newer AI technologies are unlocking more possibilities for efficiency and innovation, but they’re also causing confusion and even worry. The reality is that AI is positively transforming the recruiting function, and it’s only going to get better from here. Whether AI is being used to improve diversity hiring efforts or automate the tedious (and not-so-fun) tasks of your job, recruiters are leveraging this technology in their favor and excelling in their roles.
Ahead, we’ll break down the basics of AI recruiting. You’ll learn about the benefits of AI to your role, how AI is used to assist—not replace—human decision making, what it means to use AI responsibly, and how AI is something to be excited about, not something to fear.
What is AI recruiting?
AI recruiting is the act of recruiters using AI software to improve their quality of work and to simplify or automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. AI can be used to supplement nearly every step of the recruitment cycle from sourcing to job offer and even extend through talent management to help retain employees. AI recruiting software is intelligent, built to keep you moving more efficiently throughout your day and help you make smarter decisions.
As one example, AI recruitment tools can be used to parse through hundreds of passive candidates' applications, so you don’t have to spend hours assessing qualifications one by one. Based on your specifications, AI tools can bring only qualified candidates to the top of your pile, so you can go straight to determining who you want to contact regarding an open role.
Broadly speaking, AI is “a machine’s ability to perform the cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with an environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity.” So when AI is applied to the recruiting process, it’s supercharging your role as a recruiter, helping you reach the finish line of your tasks more quickly by doing some of the lifting while keeping you in control.
How machine learning relates to AI recruiting
Machine learning powers the intelligence of many AI recruitment tools. AI and machine learning are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two.
AI refers to the technologies that mimic human intelligence to solve problems. Machine learning is a subset of AI that enables machines or systems to learn and improve from experience without human programming. Machine learning needs lots of data to learn how to make accurate predictions.
As we’ll note later in this guide, machine learning is only as good as the data that it’s fed—and this can have a huge impact on the quality (and potential bias) of your recruiting efforts.
AI in recruitment examples
Chances are, you or your team are already using AI in some capacity. According to a survey from the Society of Human Resources Management, nearly one in four organizations use automation and/or AI to support HR-related activities, and 79% of those that do are applying these technologies to recruitment and hiring.
Today, AI can be integrated across your entire talent acquisition tech stack. AI features can be built into applicant tracking systems (ATS), they can be add-on software that connects to your ATS, or they can be standalone tools. This section goes over a few AI recruiting and recruiting automation examples and how you might use them day to day.
Using AI to create content
Generative AI tools—algorithms that can be used to create content like audio, code, and text—have recently exploded in popularity across both personal and business use. Arguably, the most well-known example of generative AI is ChatGPT, which was publicly launched in November 2022.
Steal this: Top 10 ChatGPT Prompts for RecruitersDownload now
ChatGPT is designed to hold a conversation with you and can be thought of as a personal assistant, answering your questions and performing tedious tasks via prompts you pose to the machine. You can ask it one-sentence questions, or you can post longer, more nuanced prompts by providing the machine with relevant context. As a recruiter, tools like ChatGPT are transformative to your daily workflow.
Recruiters are using generative AI to speed up or even automate content production, including:
Writing job descriptions
Crafting candidate outreach emails
Choosing strategic interview questions
Generative AI can even help you research and kick off your candidate search with less effort. For example, it can:
Condense market research to prepare for your meeting with the hiring manager.
Generate lengthy Boolean search strings in seconds.
With the success of ChatGPT, generative AI tools are now being built into talent acquisition software to address the specific needs of recruiters and integrate into a team’s workflow.
Discover SeekOut Assist: A first-of-its-kind ChatGPT built for recruitersLearn more
Consider generative AI tools as giving you a leg up in your day, presenting you with a foundation of text to work with so you’re not starting from scratch. Your role shifts to that of reviewer: Look over the content the tool has generated and make tweaks to ensure its accuracy and that it appropriately satisfies your needs.
Using AI to source better, higher-quality candidates
The core of your work as a recruiter is to ensure that open roles within your organization are not only filled, but that they’re filled with the best people for the job. AI recruiting can help you do that with data-driven search engines that analyze candidates across a number of criteria, such as job experience, skills, credentials, and professional certifications.
Automate searches. Some tools can create a candidate search for you by pulling relevant information from the job description.
Automate applicant screening. AI can help you review a pile of applicants by focusing on objective criteria and qualifications while avoiding unintentional bias against historically underrepresented groups.
Automate external sourcing. Instead of spending hours searching for candidates one-by-one across different talent websites, AI can pull that data together and show you only the most qualified external candidates.
Match internal talent. AI can provide the insights you need to determine which of your employees could be the right fit for a given role.
Think of recruitment AI tools as supporting you throughout your candidate search. You’ll still have the final say in choosing which candidates to interview, but you’ll have greatly cut down the steps taken to get you there.
Using AI to communicate with candidates
AI recruiting companies are also creating tools that help create a better experience for your candidates—including:
Conversational chatbots. You can set up chatbots to answer common questions from candidates and even guide them to apply for a role that matches their interests.
Video interview platforms. Your candidates can interview for a role on their own time using AI-powered interviewing tools to self-record answers to questions. AI can analyze a candidate's responses and help you determine if they are a good match to the job.
These tools can also give you insights on how to run a more equitable interview for candidates. For example, a video intelligence platform could give you insights into how differently women and men are being treated. The platform might show you data on how much time women were given to answer questions versus men in other interviews.
Using AI to create diverse pipelines
Many organizations struggle to reach their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) goals. A large problem in reaching success is access to data-driven tools that can help create a pipeline of diverse, qualified talent. One way AI recruiting can help is through diversity search filters that specifically help find groups you're looking for, such as veterans, women, or historically underrepresented groups.
Keep in mind that recruiting with AI alone won’t solve your DEI efforts. These tools should be a part of your overall DEI strategy, supplementing practices that should be embedded in your culture.
Learn more about how to make your DEI efforts stick.
Benefits of AI in recruitment: How your role and your team can thrive
The examples you just read may have already given you an idea of how AI recruiting might simplify your everyday work. This section offers a deeper look into how these tools will enable you to become a better recruiter and allow your organization’s talent acquisition function to flourish.
You’ll find quality candidates you wouldn’t have found on your own
It’s impossible to get your eyes on every qualified candidate for the role you want to fill—if you were to do it manually. AI saves you hours of searching across different sources and scanning through hundreds of applications by doing that tedious work for you.
You’ll save time and improve productivity
Many of your daily tasks are taking up chunks of your time that you instead could be applying to more strategic, bigger picture items, such as building relationships with candidates. Tasks like scheduling, reviewing resumes, creating complex Boolean strings from scratch, can all be automated with AI recruitment tools.
Generative AI is already showing promise in its effects on productivity. Early research from MIT shows that ChatGPT can help you complete tasks quicker: A group of white-collar workers who used the tool for writing and editing completed their tasks 37% faster than the group that didn’t use the tool.
You’ll reduce unconscious bias
Bias is embedded in all of us, and it can be difficult to identify when we’re in the moment making decisions. When it comes to hiring, study after study has shown that unconscious bias is a pernicious issue.
With help from AI recruiting technology, however, we can increase the success of reducing our bias when evaluating candidates. As machine learning expert Sendhil Mullainathan describes, “Changing algorithms is easier than changing people: software on computers can be updated; the ‘wetware’ in our brains has so far proven much less pliable.”
Tools like SeekOut’s Bias Reducer help curb unconscious bias in candidate evaluation by removing obvious indicators of race and gender (e.g., profile photos and email addresses), and other information that may take away from your focus on skills-based hiring (e.g., school names).
Suggested reading: A Guide to ChatGPT for Recruiters
Generative AI tools could also help you reduce bias when it comes to creating candidate or employee-facing communications. For example, you could ask ChatGPT to add more inclusive language in a job posting.
Strengthen your relationship with your hiring manager
There’s often friction between recruiters and hiring managers due to a lack of communication regarding skills needed for the role, setting expectations, and aligning on goals throughout the process. Part of the problem is simply not having enough time to have the right conversations. AI can automate administrative tasks so that you can form ongoing communication with hiring managers. AI can also help you become a strategic talent advisor by giving you better insight into available talent pools so that you can bring more quality candidates to your hiring manager earlier in the process.
Strategize beyond recruiting to better manage employee retention
Employee retention is just as important as the hiring process itself, but organizations often don’t have the tools to properly assess their existing teams. Employees expect growth opportunities and career advancement from their employers, and AI tools can help you build those opportunities and grow talent.
Possible disadvantages of AI in recruitment: Responsible AI and bias
The disadvantages of AI recruiting greatly depend on how the technology is being used as well as the practices of the companies that are building these tools (e.g., how the company collects their data, whether their data is reliable, etc.). Responsible AI adoption must be shared among users of the technology and the creators alike.
Here are few ways AI in recruitment could pose challenges.
The misconception of AI recruiting
AI is meant to assist in decision making, not to make final decisions, but the latter is a growing concern as AI recruiting becomes more popular across organizations. For example, a recent survey from Pew Research Center shows that 71% of Americans are against employers using AI to make a final hiring decision. The opposition may be due to a lack of understanding how AI is used in the workplace; the same study says that most Americans don't know how these tools are being applied in hiring or evaluating employees.
To achieve transparency, lawmakers are moving quickly to place legislation around how AI is being used for talent acquisition. For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has launched an initiative on AI and algorithmic fairness to ensure that “these new technologies do not become a high-tech pathway to discrimination.” And New York City has enacted a law that “prohibits employers from using automated employment selection tools unless an organization institutes specific bias auditing and makes the resulting data publicly available. A company must also disclose its use of AI to job candidates who live in New York City.”
Tip: As more AI hiring laws are expected to go into effect, now is the time for your organization to create policy around AI and how it’s being used to hire candidates.
Responsible AI in recruiting cannot be achieved without people remaining in control of making final decisions. Moving decision making over to an AI is not only ill advised (as this technology isn’t capable of replacing human decision making), but it could land your organization in legal trouble.
AI recruiting can introduce bias into your hiring process
AI can help reduce bias, but it can also learn bias if your AI recruiting platform’s data isn’t properly vetted and continuously monitored.
One example of how bias can be introduced into algorithms is by looking at facial recognition software. In 2015, MIT graduate student Joy Buolamwini discovered that the facial analysis software she was working with couldn’t detect her face. The software wouldn’t work until Buolamwini, a black woman, put on a white mask. Why did the software only identify the white mask as a face and not Buolamwini herself? It comes down to the data used in the machine learning process. The people who had coded the algorithm hadn’t trained the software to recognize a wide range of skin tones (i.e., they predominantly fed the system images of light-skinned people).
AI recruiting is only as good as the data it’s pulling from. Keep this in mind when choosing vendors to make up your tech stack (more on that below). Consider choosing tools that have had rigorous third-party evaluations to ensure their systems aren’t introducing bias.
You could develop automation bias
Automation bias is the tendency to over-rely on automated tools to make decisions, which leads to us placing too much trust into AI systems. This can be problematic because AI tools aren’t perfect and can produce inaccurate or skewed results (as the facial recognition example just illustrated).
For example, think about how you might use ChatGPT. While ChatGPT has shown great promise in easing our workload, ChatGPT can also provide inaccurate responses. If you're using the tool for research, it’s a good idea to cross reference its responses with reliable sources online.
Data confidentiality should be a concern as newer AI tools hit the market. Data leaks happen, and it’s essential to ensure that the technology you’re using is built to keep your information safe.
Take the public version of ChatGPT, for example. It stores every prompt and response that users input so that it can improve its model. A data breach can create significant issues if you enter any sensitive information about your organization.
Tip: Keep sensitive data secure by using generative AI tools that run separately from open-source models like ChatGPT. SeekOut Assist, for example, keeps data safe by way of Microsoft Azure API.
When working with AI recruiting vendors, it’s also worth knowing where the data itself is being processed. Ensure the vendor is only processing data in countries and environments that match your security requirements.
Evaluating AI in recruitment software
If you're interested in either starting or expanding your AI recruiting efforts, there are plenty of questions you’ll want to consider asking each vendor in order to protect your organization from liability and maintain quality in your recruiting efforts.
What to ask
Why to ask it
How is the vendor staying compliant?
There is a hyperfocus from lawmakers on how AI is being used in hiring and employment. Prioritize understanding how every vendor you want to work with is staying compliant with new and existing state laws.
What data is being used to train the system?
Ask questions about the technology behind the tool and how the vendor gathers its data. For example: How are they monitoring and auditing their data and algorithms to prevent bias and false outcomes?
Does the AI explain its decisions?
If the system is making a recommendation to you, does the system show you how it got there? You’ll want this transparency to help you stay in control of final decision-making.
What does the vendor’s responsible AI program look like?
A responsible AI pledge helps demonstrate that the vendor has thought deeply about how the technology they are building impacts candidates and your job as a recruiter. The vendor needs to have a governance system for its use of AI systems.
Has the vendor validated its AI systems?
External assessment is important to ensure there is not unintentional and harmful bias. Consider asking for any audit or materials related to bias assessment.
Beyond ensuring the vendor you work with is legally and ethically sound, ask questions around exactly how the technology will change your recruiting processes for the better and ask for specific use cases.
The future of AI and recruitment
Predicting what the future of AI and recruitment will look like is difficult because the technology is changing so rapidly. But to best prepare for what’s ahead, recruiters like you can keep the following in mind:
Remain curious. AI isn’t going anywhere. Instead of resisting the idea of adopting these new tools, practice curiosity. Learn what you can about how these tools work and take time to play around with them. You’ll not only get more comfortable with the technology, but you'll give yourself the opportunity to add new skills to your resume.
Compliance is key. All of us will be working toward finding the balance between AI capabilities and staying compliant with emerging hiring and HR laws. Don’t wait and start securing partnerships now to help you navigate how your organization can legally use AI throughout your recruiting workflows.
AI will increasingly augment your role. When done well, AI will help recruiters remain focused on the most fun part of their job: connecting with people. By having AI take care of the less exciting (and more time-consuming) parts of your role, you’ll have more space to meaningfully engage with candidates and build relationships. These human connections cannot be replicated by a machine, and they will only become more important as competition for hiring increases.
In the years ahead, more and more AI recruiting tools will make their way to the market. To determine which are right for you and your organization, just start with the most important question: how will this tool make my job easier without sacrificing the candidate experience? Practicing responsible AI will require an AI tool’s framework to focus on evaluating the impact and rewards of AI against its risks to users like yourself, the people who are directly affected by these tools, and the organizations who use them.
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