AI in Recruiting: Reshaping the Candidate Experience

When seeking a new position, you’ve followed the conventional wisdom.  Using social media, company websites, and personal networks you researched the company, the hiring manager, and the interviewers.  But the most important information you can gather to determine if the opportunity is right for you is gathered during the application process. From the moment you become aware of a possible career opportunity the evaluation process begins.  To effectively evaluate your experience in context, an understanding of the employer’s viewpoint is needed.

Employers are not merely trying to fill a position with the best candidate.  They recognize that, as competition for talent continues to intensify, they must create an experience that encourages candidates to share those experiences across social media and refer others.  At the same time, recruiters must continually reduce costs while delivering better results, and are primarily measured on time to hire and quality of hire.  To balance these potentially conflicting KPIs, Human Resources organizations have increasingly incorporated Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the recruiting process. 

Reality Check

AI applications are embedded in every step of the recruiting process, enabling recruiters to identify, attract and retain top talent more effectively and efficiently than ever before. Gartner reports that 76% of HR leaders believe if their organization does not adopt and implement AI solutions like generative AI in the next 12 to 24 months, they will be laggards. 

AI has proven to be a useful tool in reducing the time spent on repetitive and mundane tasks associated with interview scheduling or screening resumes for keywords. Up to 40% of a recruiter’s time can be spent entering data into an ATS or sorting through resumes. Having the ability to efficiently search the entire universe of possible candidates can reduce time spent from weeks to seconds.

The promise of AI is that it will deliver benefits to both the employer and candidate. While delivering operational efficiencies, it will also remove unfairness from the recruiting process while improving the overall candidate experience. 

Yet, many fear that AI may actually increase bias.  In a survey conducted by the American Staffing Association of some 1,200 employed US adults, nearly 50% of respondents said that AI tools used in recruiting are more biased than people.  A Pew Research Center survey of 11,000 US adults in 2022 found that seven in 10 Americans are against letting AI make the ultimate hiring decision.

The basis of these concerns rests with the “black box” approach of many AI-based applications. A lack of transparency about how AI algorithms are drawing conclusions diminishes trust in the process and cause people to feel that hiring processes are unfair or discriminatory. 

Why This Matters

We are facing a global talent shortage, and competition for qualified workers will continue for the foreseeable future.  In the U.S., to keep up with population growth, we need to create 120K jobs monthly. We have far exceeded that number, gaining an average of 230,000 new jobs per month over the prior 12 months. The U.S. unemployment rate has remained below 4% for more than two years.  In this “candidate’s market”, your experience during the hiring process may shape your career choices.  Yet, recent data indicates that in far too many cases the experience is not positive:

  • According to a CareerBuilder survey75% of applicants never hear back from potential employers. The survey also indicated that 60% of job seekers quit while filling out online job applications because of their length or complexity.
  • A Software Advice survey found that 63% of job seekers will likely reject a job offer because of a bad candidate experience. Similar research by SHL shows that 42% of candidates declined job offers due to negative experiences during their reviews. 
  • CareerArc reports that 72% of job seekers who had a bad experience told others about it, either online or in person. Their research also concluded that 64% of job seekers say that a poor candidate experience would make them less likely to purchase goods and services from that employer.

Recruiters have turned to AI to resolve these issues. However, the way in which AI is applied will determine whether it enhances – or diminishes – the candidate experience. 

The Backstory

Used alone, AI may overlook qualified candidates with underachieving resumes but human attributes that may make the candidate a good fit. Experienced human talent acquisition professionals are required.

MIT professor Daron Acemoglu, a leading scholar in political economy, economic development, and labor economics, stated that “The right way to think about AI is to view it as a flexible tool that’s usable by human workers. Allow recruiters to understand why AI tools give certain recommendations over others and then allow them to combine that with their existing knowledge and expertise.”

The Path Forward

By adhering to best practices, AI can be a powerful tool that enhances the candidate experience and drives fair and effective recruitment outcomes.   As a candidate, understand if and how AI is being used to evaluate your capabilities, streamline the overall process, and reduce your efforts. Key questions to ask:

  1. Outline the evaluation process.  Does it include additional phone screens, personal contact vs. technology?  How many interviewers would you meet with before the decision is made?
  2. Is AI used in any aspects of the recruiting process?  If so, where? What impact will it have on the hiring decision? How does your data feed into the social AI algorithm, and how does the algorithm make decisions?
  3. Does the company’s use of AI make your application easier?  Does it simplify the effort of entering your resume and other information into the company’s online system?
  4. Has the employer’s AI application been validated for compliance with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s “Considerations and Recommendations for the Validation and Use of AI-Based Assessments for Employee Selection” and/or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s document “Select Issues: Assessing Adverse Impact in Software, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence Used in Employment Selection Procedures” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?  Has resistance to cybersecurity been verified through the frameworks offered by The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) or the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?
  5. How often is the AI application audited/tested for inherent biases? Is AI used to enable “blind hiring” by stripping away identifiable attributes (name, age, headshot, gender, race, or ethnicity) from resumes that are typically not related to needed skills, expertise, or experience?
  1. Does the potential employer conduct soft-skill assessments, using evaluative AI screeners to determine attributes such as risk-taking, perseverance, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, and quantitative and verbal abilities?
  2. How will your collected data be used? If it is to be stored in a repository for purposes other than evaluating you as a candidate for a specified position, will the potential employer seek your permission to use the data for each purpose?

By understanding the role AI will play in determining if you and a potential employer see you as a great fit for the next step in your career, you can help to shape the experience while gaining greater insight into your potential employer, uncovering subtle indicators of how decisions are made and the value they place on the candidate experience.