Can computers replace recruiters? People power vs big data

Finding, employing and retaining good people is one of the main challenges for any business writes Oliver Sylvester-Bradley. So, in a networked world it is hardly surprising that headhunters and executive search professionals earn six figure sums by charging 20 – 35% of a new recruit’s salary.
But, if someone is making a healthy margin by delivering a service, these days there’s normally someone else working out a way to disrupt their industry with a new business model or some clever computing. It’s no different in the recruitment industry where smart technology, big data and clever algorithms are being touted as the latest tools which are destined to change the way business finds talent. The buzzwords sound good but can sophisticated software really replace the process of finding and employing good people?
In a world where more and more data about people is available online through professional networks, social media and employer’s websites it makes sense to research prospective candidates before arranging face-to-face meetings and time consuming interviews. But is it really possible to conduct an accurate appraisal of someone’s skills, their work ethic and cultural fit for an organisation by mining and analysing their data? Even if a person’s data ticks the boxes it doesn’t automatically mean their going to be someone you want to sit next to for the next few years. Data alone can be deceiving and, now that more than 90% of young professionals are “…more motivated to work for a company that creates some kind of positive social impact rather than one simply turning a profit”, it’s not obvious how algorithms can ever hope to understand peoples ethics.
Applying for jobs is never fun and job seekers can spend days and weeks trying to perfect the perfect CV, which often stops them applying for roles for in the first place. Likewise, recruiters waste hours sifting through covering letters and CVs trying to work out who people really are, what motivates them and if they’re really suited to he role. In many ways big data exacerbates the problem by providing more potentials who need to be ranked and rated for suitability. We’re still a long way from removing people from the recruitment process. Andrew Cartland, CEO of Acre Recruitment, agrees: “Finding the perfect candidate for a new role is a highly personal process, involving emotional decisions and negotiations.” Computers are not very good at understanding emotions, or negotiating for better employment packages.
The alternative recruitment strategy is to outsource the search for suitable candidates by putting people power to work. Existing employees provide a ready-made network of potential recruiters who completely understand a companies culture. Likewise, if existing employees are not delivering enough leads leveraging the power of external networks provides a risk free way to find prospective talent.
Elevator – The Good Job Network, which specialises in promoting jobs with social enterprises, charities and purpose driven companies makes everyone a head-hunter with their “bounty Jobs” feature. Members of the network can refer their friends to suitable roles and, if the person they refer gets the role, the referrer gets paid an average of £500. The idea of making money from referring friends to roles with a positive social impact is a persuasive proposition for the latest generation of jobs seekers. Elevator also removes a lot of the pain from the application process by enabling people to apply for jobs without a CV if they like, since applications are followed up with phone calls, which avoid hours of wasted time. By providing an easy route in to ethical employment, Elevator’s people powered network makes it easy to find a job which helps make the world a better place, by leveraging the value of real, human connections.
As data mining and algorithms get more sophisticated there is no doubt that they will gain more ground but until people are prepared to put their ethics aside and to be represented by their data alone it seems highly unlikely anyone will engineer people out of the recruitment process completely.