ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - (In May 1970, I visited a state Employment Service office in Los Angeles, in search of a summer job. Job listings were typed on 3 X 5 cards, taped to the wall. Job seekers would take down the job information and use the lobby pay phones to follow up or drive/bus to the business listed. All very low tech, as were the “Help Wanted” ads that appeared then in most newspapers. Now 53 years later…)
Polling data issued last Thursday by the Pew Institute show widespread worker concerns about the growing role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the hiring process as well as in the workplace.
This is not surprising, given the recent warnings on AI’s potential to eliminate whole categories of jobs—including those involved in the job placement field itself—and how AI might be used to block job seekers from jobs they should be considered for.
But nearly all of the commentary is at odds with what professionals in the hiring field— persons who are involved daily in the recruiting and hiring processes—see as the impact already of AI on the job placement process. John Younger, the CEO of RecruiterShare is a 27 year veteran of the field, and he summarizes the views of other long time professionals:
“AI already is proving to be a powerful tool for recruiters, job counselors and most of all job seekers, if they know how to harness it. The challenge for each of the three groups is how to best harness it.”
Younger has been through several waves of technology change in the recruitment and hiring industry since he started his first firm, y/net, in early 1996 (and sold it within a year to Tri Net, the large Professional Employer Organization). He went on to start three other firms incorporating big data to help employers manage the recruitment and hiring processes: Accolo (launched in January 2000), HireMojo (January 2015), and the current venture, RecruiterShare (2022), enabling companies to manage their third party hiring on a single platform.
Younger and other veteran recruiters recognize how AI can be misused in the workplace to inject bias in the recruiting process, excessively track worker movements and activities or generally make work lives more difficult. Further, AI will certainly eliminate some recruiter positions, and require new skills of the remaining recruiters. But Younger also sees AI as enabling job seekers to more effectively manage their job searches. Additionally, both recruiters and job counselors can reduce wasted motion and more effectively achieve results. He offers the following advice.
AI and the Job Seeker: “94% of the people who apply to jobs today, never hear back from anyone, ever, beyond the initial ‘Thanks for applying’. Companies fail to realize that each job seeker could also be a customer, shareholder, brand advocate or employee at a partner company., But in fairness to the companies, many of the candidates are not prepared when applying. . Despite the mountain of articles and videos on resumes, interviews, and job matching, job seekers fall short in all of these tasks. AI can be a tool in all of these tasks.”
Resume writing: “One of the biggest problems for job seekers is how to craft a resume that gets the attention of the screening technology, recruiter and hiring manager. Most resumes are too general and have irrelevant data that does not relate to the job to which they are applying. Or worse yet, the most applicable parts of their background for the job are not highlighted or absent altogether.
“AI can craft a unique, targeted resume for each job. The job seeker simply needs to enter their long resume and ask the AI to optimize it for a specific job. Armed with those two pieces of information, AI can create a compelling resume for that job in seconds.”
Job Matching: “One of the biggest issues in the recruiting process today is that it's nearly frictionless for a job seeker to apply to hundreds of jobs in a few hours. Not only is this not helpful to the job seeker, the companies are inundated with resumes of people who are not a fit. AI will help accurately match jobs that align them with the person's skills, abilities, desires, location, and preferences.”
Interview preparation: “The number of candidates who come to an interview unprepared is breathtaking. AI will help job seekers better understand the company, hiring manager and role in a way that will make them much more prepared and desirable. This will only happen, of course, if the candidate actually uses the AI for the preparation.”
Skills development: “AI will allow job seekers to have more insights about what skills they need to develop to stay competitive in the job market. It will not only look at their current experience and skills, it will also connect them with resources to develop new skills.”
AI and the Recruiter
Younger recalls the statement in 1999 by the CEO of a hiring technology company: the emerging technology at that time meant “Recruiters are dead, you can stick a fork in them.” Instead, the recruiter field has grown rapidly in numbers over the past two decades. According to the career website, Zippia, an estimated 264,000 recruiters are employed in the United States in early 2023..”Recruiters are both employed in-house by employers and also in independent companies providing recruiter services to employers. They seek out and vet candidates for job openings, and usually play a variety of other roles in the hiring process. Younger sees AI as improving the performance of recruiters in several ways.
AI will eliminate many of the routine tasks of the recruiter: “AI can and will eliminate some of the most time consuming and tedious tasks, such as screening resumes, and conducting initial candidate assessments. Today, many of these tasks are done by lower level human resources professionals or even with offshore resources.”
AI will achieve more effective sourcing of candidates: “AI is effective at seeing patterns that humans do not. Within RecruiterShare, AI is used to not only find people who may not currently be looking, but also identify characteristics within candidates that will make them a good fit. For employers, this should allow them to see better fit candidates faster. We have seen several cases where a person's resume is incomplete and missing key experiences that relate directly to the job being filled. While the manager was not terribly interested in the candidate at first, when hired they turned out to be one of the top performers.
“Further, an interesting nuance about candidate sourcing is that you never know for sure when a person is going to be open to a new opportunity. Their openness can literally change hour by hour depending on what's happening in their current job. When a candidate posts their resume or applies, it's clear that the person is looking for a new job. When a person does not have their resume online and is considered a passive candidate, it will be up to the AI to determine if they would be a good fit. While AI can identify someone, it is up to the recruiter to convince the candidates to consider a new opportunity.”
AI will eliminate certain recruiter positions but likely not replace recruiters recruiters: “Recruiting and hiring is a highly nuanced function where recruiters play a key role. For example, understanding the unique attributes of the role, describing it in an accurate and compelling way, managing the interview and offer negotiation process, and setting up onboarding so that retention remains high are all activities that require consulting talent and high emotional intelligence.
“A new role that recruiters will need to master will be analyzing data from a variety of sources to identify trends, patterns and insights. They will be responsible for training the AI in the right directions and intervene when things are off track.
“One of the more difficult changes for many recruiters will be how to incorporate artificial intelligence into their daily activities. Similar to when computers were introduced and many feared their jobs would be replaced, this will require getting over the fear of being replaced and developing the more strategic skills mentioned earlier.”
AI and the Job Counselor
Just as recruiters need to embrace AI in their tasks, so too Younger advises job counselors and workforce professionals to do so.
Skill and personality assessments : “AI will allow them to see patterns of experiences and personality attributes for the people they support. This will be used to match job seekers with appropriate jobs based on how similar people were successfully placed in jobs.where similar patterns were successfully placed into jobs.”
Career coaching: “AI powered career coaching tools can provide highly personalized guidance. Many people in these programs benefit from retraining based on their current skills, attitudes and experiences. The AI tools also incorporate information about which career paths are more likely to be recession proof and less susceptible to automation.”
Professional skills: “Oftentimes, job seekers with difficulties lack basic professional skills that are not thoroughly addressed. AI will help identify and address some of those areas. Specifics include how to prepare for an interview, how to conduct yourself during an interview, and how to follow up after an interview.”
Younger sums up: “AI, implemented well, is going to change the recruiting and hiring landscape like no other technology. The biggest challenge going forward will be having the recruiters and job counselors embrace AI and let go of the parts of the recruiting process that AI does so well.”
Among job seekers, there is a segment of workers who do not have the skills to access even the current technology in job placement (LinkedIn, general job boards like Indeed, specialized job boards). This segment is heavily comprised of adults on welfare and other government benefits, ex-offenders, workers with developmental disabilities, and out of school youth.
These workers will still need the same intensive and in person support through the job placement process as they do now—along with a high level of retention supports. Younger, though, believes that even these workers will benefit as their job counselors use AI to identify appropriate roles in companies, and navigate workplace challenges.
(Michael Bernick is aCalifornia Employment Development Department director, and today am Counsel with the international law firm of Duane Morris LLP, a Milken Institute Fellow and Fellow with Burning Glass Institute, and research director with the California Workforce Association. My newest book is The Autism Full Employment Act (2021).)