“We will get back to you”: Why recruiters may need to fear for their OWN jobs in the near future

In the movie Matrix, when Morpheus reveals to Neo, that the world we are living in, is actually an illusion; and human beings are no more than batteries for robots who rule the world – he says something interesting:
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
And when I think about the topic of this article, that same thought comes to my mind.
Will the people at every hub and node between candidates and employers, having the power to say “we will get back to you” – soon find themselves on the other side?
I have reasons to believe so.

There a few dots which we should pay attention to…

Let us look at the dots first, without trying to reach a conclusion about any of them individually.

(Dot #1) The nature of jobs are no longer straight forward

Recently I was looking at a learning & development role that need a combination of what four distinct job types do:

  1. What a marketing communication person does: Design visual and written communication for the advocacy of programs
  2. What a social media forum community manager does: Manage conversations, engagement, design campaigns
  3. What a hard core analytics person does: This is the equivalent of pulling out google analytics, run analytics, take data-based decision
  4. What an instructional design person does: Interact with stakeholders, do a need analysis, recommend program designs

All of them were required in just one role. There is no way these skills can be found running the search words “L&D professionals”. One will have to look beyond the conventional pool.
And that is increasingly true of emerging job roles. They require unusual combination of competencies and skills, that you won’t find if you look through the filters of traditional job-types and educational qualification.
We will increasingly see combinations of design and business, technology and psychology, marketing and product, many other such permutations – in the new age jobs.

(Dot #2) The robots have arrived

Run a simple google search on “AI in recruitment”, and see the host of AI-based recruitment services that are offering resume sorting services stating 3 core benefits:

  1. Savings of scores of hours per candidate (time spent on sorting, shortlisting, scheduling)
  2. Better quality of selection (elimination of bias)
  3. Improved predictability of performance (better matching of profile to requirement, leveraging data from public domain and other emerging technologies)

LinkedIn is flooded with recruiter’s bemoaning the challenges of sorting CVs and getting candidates to the interview stage, candidate dropouts.
Robots will do all that crib-worthy work better, faster, repeatedly and tirelessly.

(Dot #3) Recruiters SHOULD know the job they are hiring for, but they DO NOT

“You can ask the hiring manager these questions when you talk to him.”
How many times have candidate heard this response from recruiters, when they asked some role related clarification to the recruiter? Often.
Most recruiters limit their job to just knowing the broad job and experience, salary, seniority band, etc. They have do not have any REAL understanding of the job they are hiring for.
If you are a recruiter, how often have you done the following in the past one year?

  • Sat with the actual incumbent (not the manager), to understand the nuts and bolts of the job?
  • Spent time with the top and low performer of the same unique job to know first hand what works and what does not
  • Asked to be a part of the exit interview of a candidate you are about to hire a replacement for/ or you had hired in the first place
  • Shadowed the incumbent for observable parts of his job role (e.g sit through a sales call, be a silent observer in a meeting)
  • Offered to revise the job description being handed to you for hiring based on your understanding
  • Spoken to candidates 3 months after you hired them to revisit the assessment you made during the interview (not a general chit-chat on ‘how is it going’, but a focused and deliberate conversation)

We know that the answer to most of these questions, in most cases will be:
No. Did not do.
Only a recruiter who does all of the above consistently can be sure that they really know the job they are hiring for.

(Dot #4) Recruiters traditionally are the “very busy people”

Recruiters work a lot, there is no doubt about that. They are always chasing numbers to be filled, candidates who did not turn up for the interview, or declined the offer last moment, emergency hiring, etc, etc.

Recruitment is a high-adrenaline, always-on-your-toes job.

And that is also what is going to come in the way of recruiters staying relevant in future.

I will get to the second part of relevance in time. For now, I want to bring your attention to the following questions. How often do recruiters huddle to discuss among themselves and with hiring managers:

  • Why we selected that candidate we did..
  • Why did we have different views on this candidate..
  • What did you observe and I did not..
  • What questions do you ask that I never have..
  • How do you and I interpret the responses to reach the conclusions that we do..
  • What biases could we have had for this candidate..and that one..

…So how often is this exercise done?
Perhaps almost never.
Recruiters are busy people. They are busy scheduling interviews.
And that will be their undoing.
Why? Just one last dot before we get to why this will be the undoing of recruiters in future.

(Dot #5) Recruiter roles are mostly “water-tight”

Recruitment heads prefer to hire recruiters from only that background of hiring.
Technical companies want “technical recruiters”. Mind you, the recruiter herself does not have any technical skills – but may have picked up some experience along the years.
But is technology changing? Yes
Can another recruiter, say a “retail sector recruiter” learn the same things this “technical recruiter” knows? Yes
But will you hire a “retail recruiter”? No
(Unless it is a desperate situation)
This was an example, it happens in many sectors. The assumption is you know search firms and have a database of candidates for that sector.
But is data more easily available today? Definitely

The databases have got an upgrade.

We just forgot to update our assumptions.

But what is the implication of this? We will see in a moment. The time has come to connect the dots..

Finally, connecting the dots…

  1. Recruitment jobs requiring sourcing, scheduling and some basic tool-based assessment will be GONE – robots will do it.
  2. Recruitment jobs in the “selection” function, which requires deep human wisdom to pick the right candidate, to know “where else” will you find these skills – humans will need to do it

Decisions which go beyond SEARCH WORDS and yet cannot be #ALGORITHMISED will stay with humans.

Everything else that can be programmed will go to the Robots.

3. A new kind of high-end recruitment job may emerge. The starting point of AI will be the data we make available about job roles, competencies, grey areas, etc. As we are observing AI evolve, it is clear that machines are demonstrating ability to evolve their learning (case in point was the Facebook AI, which started developing its own language). However, in case of recruitment, it will need human check-points.
That recruitment Bots will pull out data from Social Media and information in public domain about an individual. These are very grey areas, and subject to debate.
We will need people with deep wisdom in this function to bring in perspectives to these matters. They will need to help the “design” of the AI.
Mind you, I said people with “deep wisdom” not “10 years of experience in recruitment“.
People with deep wisdom are the ones who do all the things I described in Dot #3 & #4
There might be high-end jobs for such real experts to consult with AI companies.

So where does it leave the recruiters?

We can expect significant redundancies in the recruitment function. I am not sure of the percentage, but assuming a large percentage of recruiters are spending time sourcing and scheduling interviews – we can expect the redundancy to be high – because those are the jobs that will go.
But there is no need to panic. Such redundancies are going to be status-quo. Being a professional in the world of today means you have to be one step ahead of the change.
There are two options for recruiters:
Option #1: Take this opportunity to switch over to that profession that you always dreamt of. Our first careers are a matter of chance often. We never really think through, or know ourselves well at that stage of our lives. A redundancy could actually be a good opportunity to make that move, which you always wanted to, but did not find the courage or energy to. I wrote about redundancies in future in the blog below.
Getting fired is cool: Welcome to the Future of Work
Option #2: Upgrade yourself for the new reality. Build higher skills in the recruitment continuum so that you can take advantage of the roles that will emerge.

Recruiters who want to be FUTURE READY will have to UN-BUSY themselves today and create bandwidth to deepen their expertise in their function

10 years of experience is NOT EQUAL to expertise.

The preparation has to begin with acknowledging that.

Recruiters will need to:

  • Take the risk of working across multiple domains, to understand the new-age jobs which will come to demand an unusual mix of competencies (Dot #1 & #5)
  • Spend quality time in developing the ability to take selection decisions, which will have more predictability of performance than AI can manage

Having good judgement

WITHOUT being judgemental

is a quality that does not come easy.

Finally, we started with talking about irony.
I think the biggest irony unfolding is the professional world is this..
At the same time that, 
Robots are getting BETTER at being like Humans; 
Humans are getting BETTER at working like Robots..
And guess who can do a robot’s job better than humans? You know the answer.
I welcome this change of AI in recruitment. Because it will ideally allow human recruiters to evolve their contribution to the next level.
The world is ready for a Human Recruiter 2.0.
Question is…
Is the Recruiter ready?
Image: From source

This article was first published on LinkedIn on the 26th of September, 2017.

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