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The recruitment industry in the UK and globally is witnessing a seismic shift, primarily driven by technological innovations such as AI. These advancements are revolutionising how companies identify, engage, and select potential candidates. With AI-powered tools capable of analysing vast amounts of data at unprecedented speeds, the efficiency of the recruitment process has seen significant improvements. The AI in recruitment market is on a steep upward trajectory, with projections indicating it will reach $1.5 billion by 2027, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1% from 2020 to 2027, according to Market Research Future. This growth underscores the increasing reliance on AI to streamline recruitment processes and enhance decision-making.

In the latest episode of Coffee Mornings, we discuss a topic at the forefront of contemporary recruitment practices: the intersection of technology and human touch in the ever-evolving landscape of talent acquisition and management. Featuring the insights of Billy McDonald, a Talent Acquisition Specialist. With a passion for technology and community within the tech sector, this episode, titled ‘Tech and Touch,’ explores the transformative role of artificial intelligence (AI) in recruitment and the workplace. Billy, known for his involvement in tech meetups like the DevOps Exchange London (DoxLon) and his growing appetite for knowledge across a spectrum of subjects from AI to self-development, brings a unique perspective to the discussion.

However, this episode of Coffee Mornings doesn’t just focus on the technological advancements in recruitment. It equally highlights the indispensable role of the human element in this process. Despite the efficiency and scalability offered by technology, the nuanced understanding, emotional intelligence, and personal touch that human recruiters bring to the table remain crucial. The discussions aim to understand the complexities of integrating technology while ensuring the recruitment process remains grounded in human-centric values and practices.

Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach, underscores the significance of this evolution, stating,

“AI in the recruiting market is projected to reach $1.5 billion by 2027… There’s going to be this whole new wave and it’s going to be AI-centric to some degree. That’s a pretty huge thing.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach


The Human touch in an AI world

In an era where digitalisation seems to override personal interaction, maintaining a human-centric approach in recruitment is pivotal. Candidates are not mere data points; they are individuals with unique stories, talents, and potential contributions. The essence of personalisation in recruitment lies in recognising and valuing these individual narratives, which AI, despite its advancements, cannot fully comprehend or appreciate.

The importance of emotional intelligence and human judgment in building meaningful connections cannot be overstated. A CareerBuilder survey indicates that 68% of employees see their candidate experience as reflective of how the company values its people. This human interaction significantly influences a candidate’s perception of the company, their decision to accept job offers, and their long-term engagement.

Despite AI’s proficiency in screening for specific skills or qualifications, it falls short in assessing more nuanced qualities such as motivation, integrity, and adaptability. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) echoes this sentiment, suggesting human discernment is irreplaceable in evaluating the complex aspects of a candidate’s profile. Moreover, the demand for transparency, trust, and a focus on soft skills in the recruitment process, as reported by LinkedIn Global Talent Trends, accentuates the need for human interaction to assess and appreciate these attributes genuinely.

The dividends of prioritising human touch in recruitment are manifold. Enhanced candidate engagement, a more positive candidate experience, higher acceptance rates, improved employer branding, increased retention and loyalty, and a better assessment of cultural fit are among the tangible benefits. For instance, a LinkedIn report found that 83% of candidates say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once favoured. Conversely, a Glassdoor survey reveals that 58% of job seekers see a positive experience as pivotal in their decision to work for a company, and investment in a strong candidate experience can boost offer acceptance rates by up to 67%.

By embracing technology without sidelining the invaluable human touch, we can aspire to create recruitment processes that are not only efficient but also compassionate, reflective of our core values, and conducive to building meaningful relationships. The dialogue facilitated by Billy, in the latest episode of Coffee Mornings, shines a light on this equilibrium, offering profound insights into the nuanced interplay of tech and touch.

“Having that human touch is so, so important… And I think that’s something that’s missing. The intuition that you get when you meet someone. I’m sure you’ve hired people that have perhaps interviewed well and then not performed so great… and you can kind of get an intuition when you meet someone and look them in the eye.” – Billy McDonald, Director of McCloud Recruit.

Striking the balance

Transitioning from acknowledging the value of human touch, we now discuss the strategies that facilitate a balanced integration of automated processes and human interaction. The goal is not just to co-exist but to ensure technology amplifies rather than overshadow the human element.

” I think that’s where you can be an added value now, being involved in your communities that you work in and networking… It’s a subliminal effect that you get from that when you’re meeting candidates, which you won’t get. AI will never be able to replicate that human interaction.”- Billy McDonald, Director of McCloud Recruit.

Approaches to embedding technology in their recruitment processes while ensuring the candidate experience remains deeply human-centric:

  1. Hybrid Recruitment models: The fusion of AI-driven efficiency with human intuition epitomises the hybrid model. Google, for instance, leverages AI for CV screening but ensures recruiters provide personalised feedback, emphasising the importance of human judgment in the final interview stages. This model advocates for using AI for preliminary data analysis and narrowing down the candidate pool, followed by human interaction to assess soft skills, cultural fit, and potential.
  2. Personalised communication: Despite automation, maintaining a touch of personalisation in communication is pivotal. Tools that customise messages based on candidate profiles make interactions feel more engaging. This approach, mirrored in IBM’s recruitment strategy, enhances candidate engagement without sacrificing the efficiency technology offers.
  3. Empathy and active listening: Training recruiters in empathy and active listening, as practiced by Unilever, ensures candidates feel valued and understood, enriching the recruitment experience. This human-centric approach allows for a deeper understanding of candidates beyond their CVs, building positive connections.
  4. Feedback loops and AI ethics: Incorporating technology to gather candidate feedback, coupled with human review, optimises the recruitment process. Ensuring AI’s ethical use, includes transparency and regular oversight to mitigate biases, highlighting the importance of human intervention in technology-driven processes.
  5. Human decision-making in post-screening stages: The essence of human judgment becomes most apparent post-screening, where the nuanced assessment of a candidate’s overall fit and potential is determined.

“My first contract when I went internal, I just assumed that hiring managers knew how to interview… So, you need to give them that reassurance about why they’re asking certain questions so they can empathise with candidates… The human touch behind it as well, which you can’t just ask AI.” – Billy McDonald, Director of McCloud Recruit.

  1. Efficiency vs. connection: Utilising technology for repetitive tasks frees recruiters to focus on building relationships. Zappos, renowned for its emphasis on company culture, ensures technology aids the recruitment process without undermining the importance of cultural fit and personal interactions.

“The idea of just relying on a computer to do everything just doesn’t seem right. The authenticity goes out the window.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Ethical considerations of Tech in Recruitment

Having explored the strategies for achieving harmony between technology and human interaction, we now transition to a critical facet of this balance: the ethical considerations of integrating technology into recruitment processes. It’s important to address this technological terrain with a conscientious approach, ensuring that we do not overlook core values of fairness, transparency, and empathy in recruitment.

Ethical considerations in technology-driven Recruitment:

  1. Bias and discrimination: A paramount ethical concern is the potential for AI algorithms to promote biases. Despite the objective front of algorithms, the data they are trained on often carry historical prejudices, unintentionally leading to discriminatory practices. For instance, a study by the AI Now Institute highlighted how AI systems could reinforce gender biases, particularly in job advertising and candidate selection processes. The need for transparency in how AI algorithms are designed and the criteria they use to assess candidates is essential to overcome these risks.
  2. Transparency and consent: Candidates should be informed about the use of AI in their assessment and given the option to consent. According to a survey by the CIPD, only 55% of HR professionals in the UK indicate their company is transparent about how they use AI in recruitment. This lack of transparency can erode trust and lead to a negative perception of the hiring process.
  3. Data Privacy: With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) influencing global data privacy practices, ensuring the security and confidentiality of candidate data has become a legal and ethical imperative. The ethical use of technology in recruitment necessitates stringent measures to protect personal information from unauthorised access or misuse.
  4. Inclusivity and accessibility: Technology should be a tool for increasing inclusivity in recruitment by reaching a broader spectrum of candidates. However, there’s a risk that reliance on certain technologies could unknowingly exclude individuals who lack access to digital platforms or are not digitally literate. A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2023 revealed that 7% of households in the UK do not have internet access, potentially excluding candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
  5. Human oversight: The indispensability of human judgment in interpreting AI recommendations ensures that decisions are not solely left to algorithms. This aligns with the EU guidelines on trustworthy AI, which emphasise the need for human oversight to ensure AI systems serve society’s best interests and respect human rights.

Ensuring Fairness and Inclusivity

To address these ethical considerations, recruitment practices employing AI and technology must prioritise:

  • Regular audits by independent third parties can help identify and rectify biases in AI recruitment tools.
  • Organisations should communicate the role of AI in their recruitment processes, providing candidates with information on how their data is used and the logic behind AI decisions.
  • Adhering to rigorous data protection standards, including GDPR compliance, ensures candidate information is securely managed and used ethically.
  • Strategies to make recruitment processes accessible to all, regardless of their digital access or literacy, are essential for broadening the talent pool and ensuring equitable opportunities.
  • Integrating human insights with AI recommendations encourages a balanced approach where technology enhances rather than replaces the nuanced understanding of human recruiters.

As we manage the ethical intricacies of integrating AI and technology into recruitment, we make way for envisioning the future of compassionate recruitment. This future, informed by our ethical considerations, builds a recruitment landscape where technology not only streamlines processes but also amplifies our capacity for empathy, understanding, and inclusivity. Moving forward, let’s explore how these principles and innovations could co-exist into a recruitment paradigm that prioritises human dignity and connection, laying the foundation for a more compassionate and equitable approach to attracting and retaining talent.

The future of compassionate recruitment

In the envisioned future of compassionate recruitment, the interplay between technology and human insight creates a holistic approach that values candidates as individuals beyond their CVs. This approach is not merely about leveraging technology for efficiency but also about enhancing our capacity to connect with candidates on a personal level, building a recruitment process that is both humane and inclusive.

Billy encapsulates this vision by highlighting the importance of personal connections,

“One of the things I’ve always loved about this job is when I’m speaking to candidates, I always look at the hobbies at the bottom of the CV and I have a chat with them about that… we have a human conversation.” – Billy McDonald, Director of McCloud Recruit

This sentiment recognises candidates as multifaceted individuals with unique stories, interests, and aspirations. Sam, further elaborates on the role of technology in this compassionate landscape, stating,

“It is time… to free you up doing the mundane things where technology can just do it for you more efficiently, quicker, and better… But I also believe if you’re in a position where you are very administrative heavy, that’s where you got to be careful. You’ve got to be adding human value.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

Sam’s insight suggests that while technology can optimise the recruitment process, the ultimate goal is to allocate more time and resources towards meaningful human interaction, ensuring that the recruitment experience is enriched with empathy and understanding.

” One thing that came out of it, was that 60% of all people applying for jobs have got 4 or 5 interviews on the go. Yeah, there are more candidates available. but still, the quality good ones have a lot more on the go. So, if you’re kind of sitting there thinking, oh well, AI just does everything automated, it’s all there. You need to reconsider that. Human intervention and strong Employer branding is needed… I’d hate this kind of idea that AI could do everything.”– Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach

As we look towards the future, data and trends further support the movement towards compassionate recruitment. A Deloitte study on human capital trends highlights that organisations with a strong sense of purpose and a focus on human values are four times more likely to report better business outcomes. The future of compassionate recruitment lies in creating synergies between technological advancements and the timeless value of the human touch. By embracing this approach, companies can not only streamline their recruitment processes but also build deeper connections with candidates, ultimately building a more inclusive, empathetic, and effective recruitment landscape.

Takeaway

The interplay between technology and the human touch in recruitment is not just a matter of balance but a dynamic synergy that, when managed thoughtfully, enhances both the efficiency and humanity of the recruitment process. This conversation, rich with insights from industry leaders like Billy McDonald and Sam Ingram, underscores the need for harmonising technological advancements with the irreplaceable value of human connections.

“Let’s not think about AI for a minute. Just let it do what it needs to do and focus on the actual human pieces like, you want to join here – because we have something in common.” – Sam Ingram, CEO of Northreach.

Quick recap:

  • Technology should be used as a tool to enhance personalisation in the recruitment process, not replace it.
  • While technology can significantly improve the efficiency of recruitment processes, human interaction is crucial for assessing a candidate’s soft skills, cultural fit, and potential for growth within the company.
  • Employing AI and other technologies in recruitment comes with ethical responsibilities. Fairness, inclusivity, and transparency should be the guiding principles, ensuring that technological advancements do not compromise the integrity of the recruitment process.
  • Recruiters and HR professionals must receive ongoing training to effectively integrate technology into their workflows while maintaining the capacity for empathy, active listening, and personalised engagement.
  • Technology, no matter how advanced, cannot replicate the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence that human recruiters bring to the table. The final judgment in recruitment should always consider the human element.
  • The goal of balancing tech and touch is to build meaningful connections with candidates. Technology should facilitate these connections, not hinder them, allowing recruiters to focus more on interaction and less on administrative tasks.
  • To stay ahead, organisations must continuously evaluate and adapt their recruitment strategies to leverage emerging technologies without losing sight of the importance of human interaction.

In conclusion, the journey toward integrating technology and human touch in recruitment is ongoing and multifaceted. As we move forward, remember that at the heart of every technological tool and process lies the opportunity to enhance our human connections, making recruitment not just a transaction, but a transformational experience for candidates and recruiters alike.