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Is There a Place for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Executive Recruitment?

by Peter Kearney

Senior Manager, Executive Talent, Talent Collective 19th Dec 2017

It is often said that the best route to success in recruitment is through experience. Having gained the ‘scars’ and weathered the ever-evolving nature of human capital selection can go a long way to preparing recruiters for whatever may be around the corner. However, this longevity can also lead to cynicism when it comes to accepting change – I should know, having built a lengthy career in executive recruitment, I can be guilty of falling in to the category of ‘those who know what they like and like what they know’. And when it comes to technological innovation, this can often challenge even the most open-minded individuals let alone those of us that still remember the days of the little black book.

As I write this I’m sure that there are literally hundreds of meetings occurring where senior HR professionals are exploring the latest technological advancements aimed at trying to improve processes and experience while also looking to deliver more cost avoidance, not just in recruitment but across the full HR spectrum.  As the American author and life coach Tony Robbins said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”  In this fast paced, high demand environment we live and operate in, it is true to say the only constant is change.

However, while there are many very clear advantages for the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics in volume recruitment at junior to mid-management levels, I was a doubter when it came to considering these platforms in executive hiring.  Why?  Maybe because as I alluded to above, I am what many would consider to be an ‘old school’ head-hunter who takes pride in the ‘white glove’ treatment of senior candidates.  Or maybe as there is a fear that one day we will be surplus to requirement given the advancement of highly cost efficient technological options. 

Whatever the reason, I am pleased to say that I am becoming increasingly assured that for senior level recruitment, there truly is a role that technology can play, which in fact will complement and enhance the work that a committed professional recruiter can still deliver.  For me no matter how experienced you are, executive recruitment is meant to be a people orientated business enabler. Unfortunately, there are those in the industry who have lost sight of this and when recruiters don’t add value, then the door to change and disruption will open even wider driven by a combination of high levels of dissatisfaction by candidates and hiring managers as well as the rapid increases in technology innovation and convergence of technologies. 

Very recently I was introduced to ISAAC, an Alexander Mann Solutions robot ‘colleague’ that has been developed to manage the complete end to end scheduling of interviews between candidates and hiring managers.  A gimmick?  Absolutely not – in fact having witnessed the effectiveness that ISAAC can deliver, I am staggered at how much time is saved in what any recruiter who deals with senior executive level candidates and senior hiring managers will know to be a very challenging part of the process.  In addition to saving time, feedback from those who are interfacing with the platform is that the process is extremely user-friendly.  ISAAC not only seeks mutually convenient diary interview opportunities, ‘he’ can also book a meeting room for the interview, send directions to the candidate and even follow up after the interview to ask for the candidate’s feedback on the entire process.  With these matters executed in a flawless ‘white glove’ manner, the executive recruiter now has more time to focus on where they can better add value in the process on a personal level with the candidate and hiring manager.

So, it is very evident that the rule book for executive hiring is open for editing and even going forward, re-writing.  And for those who are worried that we will be replaced by ISAAC and his colleagues, as Jerry Kaplan, a lecturer at Stanford University and author of “Humans need not apply” says “Machines and computers don’t perform jobs, they automate tasks.”


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