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Why big businesses are turning to AI to hire

(Image credit: Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock)

For any business, whether SME or global conglomerate, hiring the best talent is always one of the biggest priorities. Because, whatever the economic climate or status of the business itself, employees are the mainstay of any organisation and will define how it is represented.

Its why, collectively, businesses are paying billions to secure their hires, be it via in-house resources or through recruitment agencies. However, just because billions are being invested, that doesn’t mean businesses are spending their money wisely and hiring efficiently. It also doesn’t guarantee they’ll secure the best talent, which makes recruitment not just one of the biggest priorities, but also one of every business’ greatest challenges.

It’s little surprise, then, that tech companies are working hard to innovate and offer solutions to each stage of the often onerous and pitfall-prone recruitment process.

A growing number of these incorporate some form of AI, but what are these AI advancements and how are they ‘improving’ the recruitment process as a whole?

At the outset, there are myriad ways for businesses to advertise job opportunities. If you’re a global business with enough kudos, a simple post on your website might suffice. Other routes might be a traditional newspaper ad, social channel recruiting, job search engines or job boards. In the UK’s graduate recruitment market, some businesses turn to ‘the milk round’ - touring universities each year to advertise their opportunities and recruit smart graduates straight out of university.

The problem is, none of these options offer much of a filter at the first stage of the process and some will be expensive with a fair degree of ‘wastage’. What if an alternative approach could be adopted, that is targeted, streamlined and automated?

Whether or not a business has consciously invested in a specific AI-fuelled recruitment tool, there’s a high chance that they’ve already used AI, particularly if they use LinkedIn Recruiter.

It uses algorithms to filter through its (current) database of 7m Open Candidates - people who have signalled that they are open to new opportunities - to offer them suggestions based on patterns that have previously led success from similar searches.

With every successful match, Recruiter learns from it – be it the profiles they’ve browsed or prospects they’ve contacted - and replicates it to make their next search easier and more successful.

This is a tool that’s helping candidates too – they just need to ensure they’ve optimised their profile and are well versed on the companies they’re interested in.

Elimination of unconscious bias 

Employee referrals have always been a popular recruitment technique. On the face of it, this method will save time, money and ensure the next recruit is of the same ilk as the current crop.

However, today’s most successful businesses recognise the need to recruit a diverse workforce. Aside from just fulfilling legal compliance and protecting themselves from possible negative PR, there are tangible benefits. Global market expansion demands businesses to affiliate with other cultures and the regional nuances, which businesses won’t achieve if every recruit is a clone of the last.

To avoid this pitfall, businesses must be able to approach each candidate without bias. Unconscious bias is an ingrained human trait and is defined as “automatic, mental shortcuts used to process information and make decisions quickly” to which “everyone is susceptible.”

For example, the ‘similarity attraction effect’ - in other words, the tendency of people to seek out others similar to them. The beauty of AI is that machines are inherently unbiased, using only data to make decisions.

Speed & insight

One of the biggest pain points for any recruiter is reference checking. It’s typically an onerous, time-consuming, admin-heavy task, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s often avoided or done poorly. In fact, in the UK, we have one of the poorest records of securing references.

Tech advancements, including AI, are changing that. Take Xref, a world-leading automated candidate referencing solution. Key to the platform’s success is the data-driven candidate insights it generates to allow recruiters to make smart, insightful hiring decisions.

As a cloud-based tool, it makes reference checking beautifully simple and quick – it takes just 30 seconds to complete a reference request, with multi-language capabilities included, and it can be done anywhere, anytime and on any device. The result is an average increase of 60 per cent more candidate data - gathered five times faster – when compared to traditional referencing.  

Global businesses such as Snap (Snapchat), Coca Cola Amatil, and Nike have adopted the platform, which also boasts a more than 90 per cent reference completion rate – again, a vast improvement on traditional phone based methods.

Balancing objectivity and subjectivity 

Also driven by AI is Xref’s ‘Sentiment Engine’. This feature uses an algorithm to interpret a referee’s ‘tone of voice’ and recognises positive, neutral and negative sentiment in the written feedback.

For a big business that has to scour hundreds or thousands of references per year, it not only saves huge chunks of time, which could be better spent on more strategic areas of the business, but also delivers 92 per cent to 98 per cent accuracy, which ensures a greater chance of an accurate reading of references every time – more than could ever be guaranteed by a human-driven approach.

By removing assumptions, the Sentiment Engine takes subjectivity out of reference reading, and ensures no hiring decisions are made on the basis of a misinterpretation.

Security & protection 

The recruitment cycle is fraught with risk at every stage. Human error and human nature can result in recruiters unwittingly asking discriminatory questions, taking references without a candidate’s consent, and recording details incorrectly.

Traditional recruitment methods can also easily fall foul to fraudulent activity. And fraud is rife.

A recent study by Xref discovered that, in the UK:

●        36 per cent of jobseekers have admitted exaggerating their work experience
●        29 per cent admitted to having deliberately lied to a potential employer
●        nearly a third of candidates take advantage of the flawed reference checking process

AI tools are able to filter out malpractices and bring a level of stability and security to the overall recruitment process.

Perhaps the best way to summarise why businesses are adopting AI to hire is because this technology provides a smarter way to navigate the end-to-end recruitment process.

The inception of AI should continue to serve as a win-win for both employer and candidate, adding speed, simplicity, helpful insight and fairness to the process. 

Used wisely, businesses can blend the intelligence of technology with the skill and instinct of their HR team to make smart and confident hiring decisions based on data-driven insights rather than just a ‘gut feel’.

David Haines, Global Sales Director, Xref
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

David joined Xref 2013 having worked for Australia’s largest recruitment agency. Since then he’s overseen the company’s growth, including its ASX listing, and has launched Xref EMEA from London.