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Is AI really transforming recruitment? Don’t believe everything you read…

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all the rage these days. Everywhere you look, AI seems to be disrupting this industry or transforming that one. However, scratch beneath the surface and quite often all one finds is hot air- vaguely defined ideas, abstract concepts and unfounded hysteria about robots replacing jobs. So what exactly is AI? In this article, the second in a series on HR tech trends, we define what AI is and examine some existing uses in the recruitment space.

The broad definition of AI is a machine that has been trained to think like a human. The first AI programmes were given a set of rules- such as how to play chess- and then used those rules to guide their activity. As such their activity was limited to only playing chess. However, with the advent of the internet and the availability of massive amounts of data, new AI programmes are able to use this data to learn new things. This new type of AI is known as machine learning. The more data available, the better the machine can learn. For example, if you train a photo recognition AI with thousands of pictures of cats, it will be able to identify cats in any other picture.

So how can AI be applied in recruitment? Recruitment is one of the most important activities in any business. Yet for decades, it has remained full of manual, repetitive and time-consuming processes- such as candidate sourcing, screening, assessing and interview scheduling. Whilst job boards, LinkedIn and applicant tracking systems have made life somewhat easier, many manual processes still remain.

AI has the potential to support recruitment teams by enabling better candidate searching, matching, assessment and selection. AI can help automate the recruitment process, particularly for high-volume hiring, with a focus on finding suitable candidates, eliminating irrelevant applicants and accurately assessing their capabilities in order to improve the quality of hiring decisions.

Some recruitment tools such as job boards claim to be AI-powered but in reality are only making use of simple keyword matches. Some screening tools claim to have an AI component but actually just screen potential candidates by matching a job spec with certain requirements in their CVs or job profiles without applying any learning for future decisions.

Below we describe four instances where AI is actually being used to transform recruitment in specific areas of the hiring process- candidate sourcing, job matching, candidate assessment and removal of human bias.

AI for Candidate Searching

The evolution of candidate matching tools is bringing the machine learning component of AI to the fore. AI programmes are now able to identify candidates that fit a job description not only from their CVs or applications to a particular job but from their publicly available data on the internet, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This allows a recruiter to identify candidates that may not have even applied for the job but who would be a perfect fit for the role.

A recent entrant to the space is, founded by ex-Facebook and Google employees. combines employee data from companies with the publicly available profile data on the internet, and predicts which candidates are best for which roles. This form of ‘digital headhunting’ is assisting recruiters to find the right candidates for roles without even actively looking for them.

AI for Job Matching

AI-powered search tools use data to learn what a good candidate looks like based on past hiring decisions. These tools can learn what experience, skills and qualifications are needed for success in specific roles and then apply this knowledge to automatically screen, grade, and shortlist the most relevant candidates – saving the recruiter the time and effort of going through this process manually.

Companies worth noting in this space include ZipRecruiter, a job marketplace which not only collects candidate data but analyses data from past searches and uses it to determine the suitability of future candidates for similar roles.

3. AI for Candidate Assessment

Most organisations have some kind of assessment to determine candidate skill level and suitability. However most assessments have been fairly binary and simplistic in their ability to gauge candidate fit.

AI based gamification is transforming the way candidates are assessed and scored. For example, companies such as have developed tools to assess candidates in quick and fun ways. Knack assessments ask candidates to play a series of games. Knack then determines skills and traits based on how the candidate plays the game. Moreover, once Knack is provided with data on how those candidates perform in the job, Knack is able to learn which specific skills and traits are required for success, and then screen candidates for those specific characteristics in the future.

This is a win-win – the candidate is more likely to complete and excel in an assessment that they find enjoyable and the recruiter is able to predict performance more accurately, thereby making better hiring decisions.

4. AI to Remove Human Bias from Hiring Decisions

One of the arguments in favour of using AI in recruitment is to remove any personal bias of a recruiter, ensuring that the final decision is based purely on merit- instead of race, gender or age. Machine learning-based recruitment platforms such as Giraffe do indeed ignore gender and race, focusing exclusively on skills and qualifications. However on the flip side, if programmes are not taught to ignore gender and race, it is possible that they may develop bias.  For example, if a company has successfully hired software developers from a particular university that happen to be male, the system may learn that men from university X will be a better match for this particular role than women from university Y – inherently building in a level of bias based on previous hiring decisions.

So we can see that AI is starting to play a very real role in streamlining the recruitment process. However, even as firm advocates and developers of recruitment technology, we don’t believe that AI tools will ever be able to replace recruitment professionals entirely. While technology can be used to streamline and automate manual processes, it can only go so far when it comes to reading and understanding people, ascertaining cultural fit and determining attitude.

The future of recruitment lies not in replacing recruiters but in making them more efficient and equipping them with the tools to make better decisions, faster. We believe that, no matter how sophisticated AI recruitment gets, the old adage “people hire people” will remain true for the foreseeable future.


About Giraffe

Giraffe is a job board that automatically screens candidates so you don’t have to. Giraffe enables South African businesses to recruit medium-skilled staff faster and more affordably than any other recruitment method. Because Giraffe has automated the boring parts of the recruitment process– candidate sourcing and screening– business owners and recruiters can focus on more important tasks like interviewing the best candidates and managing retention. Simply post a job on Giraffe. Let Giraffe automatically screen candidates as they apply. Log in, see which candidates have passed your screening, listen to their voice notes and hire the best ones! 

To post a job on Giraffe click here

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