Why automating recruiting won't happen

We live in a time where new technological gains are made daily, the overwhelming majority of which are exciting. Recall the cartoons and sci-fi in the 90’s, 80’s, and even the 70’s, where our childhood heroes would look at their miniature phone-like devices and converse via real time video. It seemed like impossible and futuristic technology that could only exist in their alternate reality. Today our perspective is different, and for years we’ve the luxury of iPhones with Facetime, voice-to-text software, and we’ve even seen an IBM computer win the million dollar grand prize on Jeopardy.

However, many people have reservations about one particular type of technology: the robots and software created to perform labor the workplace. These technologies range across industries from manufacturing and assembly robots to financial software for Wall Street analysts. This kind of technology is often seen as a cost effective measure to increase efficiency and productivity as compared to the humans they replace, and many people are scared because their jobs, the life line of their survival, can become obsolete. It is currently an open question what impact automation will have on the recruiting industry. However, there are a number of reasons that the effect may not be as significant as imagined.

1. An increase in spam means a decrease in hiring
Recruiting is already notorious for the amount of spam candidates believe they are getting hit with. Many candidates have abandoned job boards and LinkedIn not because they aren’t interested in hearing about marketplace opportunities, but because they receive so much information they don’t believe is valuable from recruiters. This is not limited to emails. Candidates also receive too many phone calls from recruiters  who never read their resume and simply found their phone number with an irrelevant keyword search. Recruiters who engage in these kinds of activities will have their numbers blocked and their emails sent to spam. Inevitably, this kind of problem will only get worse with attempts to automate recruiting.

2. Candidates are more responsive to personalized messages

While not as bad as spam, candidates are also less than thrilled to be bombarded with templated email messages all day. While this is expected to some degree, I’ve found that candidates will occasionally reply to template emails with the question “Why do you think I’m qualified for this role?” Studies show that personalized emails receive a higher response rate because you’ve actually acknowledged the person’s achievements and interests, something that doesn’t always happen in recruiting. In addition to the superiority of personalized emails, automatic or template emails will never be as successful because recruiters rely their networks. Not everyone a recruiter contacts is always a potential candidate, and requests for referrals must also be customized and personalized. Determining who your audience is and how to effectively deliver a message is a human activity, and it’s unlikely to be effectively imitated by technology anytime soon.

3. Candidates are more responsive to phone calls than electronic mail
Recruiting is a people business, and a number of studies show that people are more responsive to calls than emails. Emails are often concise and prone to misinterpretation whereas phone calls allow candidates to hear how things are said as well as what is said. Emails can be friendly, but real rapport is built over the phone. Candidates are much more willing to reveal information about themselves and work with a recruiter once the recruiter picks up the phone. Attempting to automate entire phone calls has largely failed for customer service. Think of the many times you’ve called customer service, become frustrated with the robotic voice, and ended up desperately pressing whatever button will take you to a human operator. It’s unlikely that automated phone calls would be any more pleasant if the subject of the call was a job opportunity rather than a phone bill.

4. Candidate experience is still important…
…And it’s something that quality recruiting departments are looking to improve every day. The candidate experience and how a candidate perceives the recruiting process largely determines whether they continue interviewing and accept an offer. It’s not just about how quickly the candidate goes through the interview pipeline, but how respected they feel, how much they like the recruiting team and hiring managers, and many other factors that automation certainly couldn’t contribute to the experience. If a candidate’s first experience with a company is of robots, voice recordings, and automated software, they’re likely to move on and not look back.

5. Recruiting is too competitive
It’s a war for talent, and it has been for years. There’s always someone who will work harder and smarter, recruit better, and try innovative strategies to win their clients the handful of ‘A players’ on the market. The truth is that the ‘low hanging fruit’ candidates, who are easily found by lousy recruiters or easy recruiting tools, are never the top talent. The best candidates need to be pursued, and the pursuit must be done correctly the first time because there is often only one opportunity with each candidate, if that. The degree of precision required in a recruiter’s strategy, marketing effort, decision making, and a host of other factors makes it unlikely that technology could entirely replace a quality recruiting program. Automated recruiting is a clear sign that finding top talent is not a priority. Recruiting is a people business. That truth has been drilled into my head by every recruiting manager I’ve had. Unlike many Americans who feel threatened by the development of automation technology in their industry, recruiters should be confident that the nature of the industry makes it unlikely that they can be replaced anytime soon.

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