Dear Recruiters, Quit panicking about technology!

It has been predicted and repeatedly quoted that artificial intelligence will render 5 million jobs obsolete in 2020, with many speculating that recruitment will be one of the first sectors to feel the impact. But to what degree will automation transform the industry? Will technological reformation be as grim as widespread speculation indicates, or will it provide opportunities to optimise work processes and customer experiences? We chat to Search Directors, Phil Piper – IT Digital & Change and Peter Preston – Professional Services to explore how advanced technology and automation could potentially impact recruitment, and how the industry will need to evolve in order to avoid being left behind.

Yes, the rise of algorithms could snatch some jobs...

While concepts such as artificial intelligence and service industry robots were once merely restricted to some of our best-loved science fiction films such as Forbidden Planet and Star Wars, we are now beginning to see how technology is transforming industries by removing the need for humans to perform administrative, repetitive or technical tasks.

According to the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, a total of 5 million jobs will be lost in 2020 to the rise of algorithms and automation of repetitive or administrative work processes. Meanwhile, a study by Oxford University proposes that 35 percent of UK jobs are potentially at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

“In a fast-changing world driven by technological innovation, recruiters who refuse to adapt risk being left behind in the race for talent. Those who choose to proactively embrace the benefits of new technology by delegating the less glamorous research tasks to algorithms will continue to be successful in this industry,” Peter advises.

...But the loss of mundane tasks means more time to add value!

Philip notes how the industry has evolved significantly over the years, saying, “When I began my career in recruitment we did not even have access to email, let alone the vast range of digital tools that many organisations benefit from today. While this left us with not much to do but build relationships on a face-to-face basis, we did not have the instant access to a broad range of talent that technology provides. Yes, one could argue that we weren’t distracted by the lure of comical YouTube videos and memes on social media, but our response rate was slower, our scope more narrow and our capacity to deliver value significantly restricted.”

Although the growing adoption of artificial intelligence software may have a significant impact on the recruitment industry, causing some jobs to be lost as a result, history shows us that new opportunities spring forth from industrial revolutions and technological innovation in business.

“While the recruitment industry has historically been unsophisticated in terms of utilising technology to elevate service delivery, many businesses are adopting software to access candidates, improve efficiency and to enhance the overall quality of the client’s experience,” Peter notes. This means that the gruelling and costly task of having 10 people review and evaluate CVs is now being left to the hands of screening tools – thus increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

“Automation of mundane tasks should not be perceived as a cruel theft of the recruiter’s livelihood, but rather as a complementary asset to both improve the experience of the candidates and clients, and also make internal processes more effective - thus resulting in more productive and motivated employees,” says Phil. Peter agrees, saying, “We have already seen how automation of repetitive or administrative tasks frees consultants up to do more interesting and interactive work, with increased focus on recruiting and engaging people on a deeper level.”

Emotional intelligence will be instrumental in steering artificial intelligence

The recruitment industry is primarily dependent on the ability to build relationships, and consultants must have the emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills to create, develop and lead by example by being leaders who excel at communication, building bridges and ironing out conflicts. These skills will be needed more than ever as we move into the age of automation. The emotionally intelligent recruiter will thrive in a fast-approaching era where machines will take over much of the technical work while humans will be in demand for leadership, creativity, and interpersonal skills.

“In an industry with so much to do, and very little time to do it, technology will ultimately give recruiters more time to maximise their creativity and critical thinking skills that perhaps weren’t being fully optimised previously,” Peter notes.

The skills you will need to facilitate the transition process

According to recent research paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, strong social skills will continue to become more important as automation takes more jobs. ”This means that technological reformation will bring about a need for creativity, leadership, negotiation and critical thinking skills which define every great broker of talent,” says Peter.

The WEF predicts that the rise of machines will increase the demand for the following top 10 skills:

  1. Complex problem-solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgement and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

“What sets an excellent recruiter apart from the rest is their ability to continuously develop and utilise their technology management skills, social skills and emotional intelligence. Recruiters with no reason to fear the robot influence will be those with the ability to creatively solve problems, advise and manage candidates and clients and work as a team," Peter observes.

“History has shown us that the most successful recruiters are essentially business advisors to a vast range of industry leaders. You do not become a trusted advisor simply by matching skills to employment criteria, “ Phil advises, “You become one by being the first point of contact for individuals who seek guidance on industry trends, human resources and salary banding – all of which require the creative foresight and emotional intelligence needed in recruitment.”

Peter agrees, concluding, “Artificial intelligence can never replace building relationships and sharing ideas outside of an algorithm. We must seize the opportunity to maximise both avenues.”

See? There will still be plenty of need for human interaction, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

We want you on our team!

Are you an experienced recruiter looking for your next role within the industry? Search Consultancy is a nationwide recruitment agency that offers a wide range of jobs from a variety of specialist industry sectors. If you feel you would be an ideal addition to our team, please do not hesitate to contact our internal recruitment manager, Peter Barry by email – [email protected] Be sure to take a look at our recruitment consultant jobs that we have on offer here.

About our contributors

Phil Piper

Phil Piper is a forward-thinking and goal-oriented recruitment expert with nearly 20 years’ worth of experience in the industry. He is currently the Director and Head of Search IT Digital & Change, managing teams across Manchester and Brighton. He has founded and continues to develop his Risk & Financial Crime recruitment team to cover regions across England. Phil is firmly committed to empowering his team through frequent communication, using his thorough industry knowledge to conceptualise and execute intuitive business strategies - both of which make him a strong leader in recruitment.

Peter Preston

Peter Preston is a dynamic career development and corporate strategist with over 13 years of experience in recruitment. He is currently the Director and Head of Search Professional Services across England – that cover recruitment services into the HR, Legal, Sales, Marketing, Financial Services, Insurance and Accountancy & Finance sectors. He leads a team of passionate and driven recruitment leaders across 6 national offices, and an environment where teamwork, respect, enjoyment, focus and professionalism ensure the highest levels of both service and performance.


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