What to Know About AI in the Hiring Process
By Julie Norwell
“Global Talent Shortage Reaches a 17-Year High.” That is the headline of a recent survey by the Manpower Group, a global leader in recruitment and workforce solutions. The company found that 77% of employers in 2023 report difficulty in filling roles. The upshot? “Whoever holds the skilled talent holds the key to the future,” concludes the report.
How to procure that talent, however, is one of the biggest challenges facing employers – and a top business priority. It won’t be easy. The reasons for talent scarcity are myriad, ranging from declining birthrates to lower immigration to a lack of technical skills. And recruiting new employees doesn’t come cheap. Many employers estimate that the total cost to hire a new employee can be three to four times the position’s salary, according to Edie Goldberg, founder of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based talent management and development company E.L. Goldberg & Associates. Choose wrong and the cost is even higher. Naturally, finding the right fit is crucial.
In 2023, how do you suppose global hiring managers are angling to tackle their talent shortage problem? You guessed it: artificial intelligence (AI). Along with, it seems, everything else, artificial intelligence will soon permeate the job market.
Truth is, though few Americans know it, artificial intelligence has already been part of the hiring process for a while. Applicant tracking system (ATS) technology, for example, emerged in the 2000s and hit mainstream about five to ten years ago. By one estimate, 98% of Fortune 500 companies currently utilize ATS of some kind in their hiring process. And AI has powered everything at popular professional networking platform, LinkedIn, for years.
What’s different is that, going forward, we are going to see even more AI in the hiring process. A LOT more. Below is what you should know about AI in the hiring process.
Recruiters Love AI
Recruiters embrace AI as a work tool, and it is no surprise why. AI and automation save recruiters enormous time and make them more efficient. AI is used in every stage of recruiting, but especially in the early stages, which is the most time-consuming part of the hiring process.
“ATS is definitely a plus for hiring managers,” said Barbara Limmer, an executive career consultant at The Barrett Group. “As a recruiter, I was bombarded by resumes because it’s so easy to apply to jobs. And many of the candidates weren’t even qualified for the role!”
ATS can rapidly scan a resume for keywords and skills and evaluate in seconds whether a candidate is eligible. It shaves hours, even days, off the time that humans would spend to do the same job. Automatically filtering out unqualified applicants, alone, accounts for 64% of how recruiters use AI.
But AI also quickly helps them identify top candidates among those that are qualified. AI can evaluate billions of data points to find candidates that match the skills, behaviors, and personality characteristics of people who are most likely to succeed in a position.
Beyond resume screening, recruiters use AI to scrape data on LinkedIn to source additional candidates that aren’t even job seeking. They use it in marketing and, increasingly, in scheduling and interviewing. With the advent of ChatGPT, recruiters will lean more and more on large language models (LLM) to write job descriptions, job ads – even interview questions.
AI Will Move Fast
While most large companies already use AI in recruitment and hiring, few small and midsize companies do. But that will change. HR professional organization, SHRM, reports that among employers with fewer than 100 workers, just 16% use automation or AI. Over the next five years, however, 25% of those organizations will start using or boosting their use of automation or AI in recruitment and hiring.
While digital interviewing has been around, it won’t be long before facial recognition technology will assess facial expressions during interviews. They will evaluate your honesty, enthusiasm, speech patterns, and other elements of suitability for a role or an organization’s culture. It isn’t far-fetched to imagine that AI-driven avatars will ultimately play a role in the interview process, either. In addition to freeing up executives, it may be used to limit liability in cases of bias or prejudice.
The need for candidates with AI skills will drive hiring as AI usage spreads. In fact, it already is. Recent headlines suggest employers are pushing to hire people who can integrate LLMs into their company’s routine tasks. It’s hard to know how quickly change will happen. But, given that AI topped the list of discussion topics at the annual Bilderberg Meeting in May – a secretive organization that typically deliberates on such weighty topics as industrial trade policy, transnational threats, and the global banking system – change may be faster than people expect.
Jobseekers Should Embrace AI
Jobseekers should know that hiring managers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from AI. For starters, as annoying as the ATS hurdle might seem, faster resume screening also means more resumes screened. That’s a plus for jobseekers who are competing with hordes of applicants – assuming, of course, that they craft their resumes with ATS filters in mind.
To be sure, it works. After Justin Kinney learned to tailor his resume to each position, ATS was no longer an obstacle for him.
“I made sure to align my resume with the job description and consistently got past the screening interview. That became almost automatic,” said Justin.
Savvy LinkedIn usage is also a powerful means of harnessing AI in a job search. Using LinkedIn Analytics, you can scour LinkedIn for jobs that align with your skillset, of course. But you can do so much more, too. You can set up job alerts. You can follow specific organizations for openings. You can search an organization of interest for 1st and 2nd degree connections to you. Or you can search your contacts for connections to specific organizations or executives.
This reverse engineering enables you to leverage relationships for referrals or advocacy to companies that appeal to you. The combination of social capital and LinkedIn in a job search is unbeatable.
And don’t forget about your profile. A good LinkedIn profile will showcase your talents and experience. An excellent one will drive recruiters to you. That was a key to Jocelyn Hirschfeld’s success.
“There are so many different components of LinkedIn that can capture the attention of people, and I had none of it activated,” said Jocelyn. “Reverse engineering was also important. I actually landed through a recruiter, and I think that he found me thanks to all the work we did on LinkedIn.”
AI Job Search Tools 2.0
LLMs also present a huge opportunity to jobseekers. There is a good reason why ChatGPT is the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Sure, it can help you write and re-write your resume, cover letters, and LinkedIn profile. But you can take it to another level entirely, as demonstrated in this viral TikTok video. The clever video host demonstrates how to paste a job description into ChatGPT, ask it to identify the top 10 keywords in the job description, and produce sample interview questions for the advertised position. Rehearsing answers to these questions, making sure to align your answers with the keywords, is an excellent way to prep for any interview.
Don’t trust your ChatGPT skills yet? Check out this recent New York Times article offering “golden prompts” to streamline your ChatGPT exchanges – for life and work!
Unsure whether your resume is tailored well enough to a job description? You can find some websites that use AI-powered tools to flip ATS around to the benefit of jobseekers. Upload your resume and job description to see how well your resume is “optimized” for the role.
As mentioned earlier, digital pre-recorded interviews, increasingly with built-in video assessment technology, are gaining in popularity. As de-humanizing as that may sound, there are upsides. Digital interviews give you immediate feedback on eye contact, lighting, and gestures. They may reduce candidate discrimination (depending on the interview design). Sometimes you get an opportunity to redo your answer, which doesn’t happen in in-person interviews. And, like ATS, it allows for a faster screening process, enabling employers to interview many more candidates.
Social Capital Will Remain King
Jobseekers may worry about the growing use of AI in the hiring process for various reasons. The fear of insufficient AI skills to compete. The fear that AI will perpetuate biases and discrimination. The fear that AI will minimize a person’s authenticity and brand. Or just the fear of the unknown.
These are all valid concerns. But jobseekers should take heart from two important facts.
First, AI streamlines the hiring process for employers, yes. But there is little evidence that AI in the hiring process yields better hires in the long run. That’s not to say it doesn’t – we just don’t know because there isn’t enough data.
In a fascinating article called “Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong,” Wharton professor of management, Peter Cappelli, writes “The big problem with [AI-driven hiring practices] is that we don’t know whether they actually produce satisfactory hires. Only about a third of U.S. companies report that they monitor whether their hiring practices lead to good employees; few of them do so carefully, and only a minority even track cost per hire and time to hire.”
That’s a stunning finding – one which offers good perspective for job seekers as they assess their value in the hiring process. In short, you know your value best. So, go sell it.
Second, we DO know that social capital has historically been the best and easiest way to transition jobs. That is especially true at the executive level. By some estimates, as many as 80% of jobs are filled through relationships. Why? Because employee-employer relationships are human connections and human connections are enormously important at the executive level.
“If you fail to build human connection and rapport, it is very difficult to get a job offer,” says Barbara Limmer. “Just because you want the job and can do the job, doesn’t mean you will be a fit. That is where people skills come in. You can’t build rapport with a machine.”
The point is, if you’re a job seeker, recognize that AI is becoming more prevalent in the hiring process. Learn how to manage it to your advantage in the initial period of your job search. But then lean into your social capital because it is unlikely that executives will leave hiring entirely to AI. If you aren’t sure how to do it, enlist professionals, like The Barrett Group, to help. AI may be a game changer in human resources and the hiring process, but, at the end of the day, human resources are comprised of humans.
Read next: Will AI End Your Career?