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The importance of the human factor in automation
Applying for a job through mobile and digital means of communication is increasingly becoming the norm. Information must be accessible within a few clicks, or candidates will abandon their efforts. But it is not just about simply making information available: smart technologies are becoming active partners in the recruitment process. For example, robots may answer questions about the organisation, send targeted content, or even select people from a pool of available candidates based on predetermined parameters. This way, artificial intelligence is becoming part of the communication between the recruiter and the candidate, and data-driven HR and marketing are being incorporated into the recruitment process. However, finding the right balance is key.
By: Joost Fortuin, Managing Director at PageGroup
First and foremost: automation in the recruitment market offers many advantages, which we should certainly not pass up. It gives us the opportunity to draw an initial selection from the enormous amount of responses and information. It enables us to bring some order to the data jungle, for example when it comes to LinkedIn profiles. It can help us read and interpret resumes and databases. But what it cannot do, at least not yet, is interpret the personal or emotional aspects, which play a significant role in the recruitment process. We mustn’t underestimate their importance.
Gut feeling gets a say
In practice, the candidate who meets all of the ‘hard’ criteria is often not the one who ends up with the job. A person’s emotional and social suitability often has more weight. Does a candidate’s personality fit well within the team he or she will be part of? Is the candidate creative enough to solve complex problems? Does the candidate have the right communication skills to inspire as a leader? Around two thirds of the decision to hire someone is based on gut feelings. And that makes sense, because hard criteria like education, experience and skills can be developed if someone does not meet all of those requirements. But if someone is not a good fit with your company culture, or does not have the creativity and adaptability required for the role, no development efforts will change that.
The importance of human interaction
Although it is perfectly possible to make an initial selection of the candidate offering based on hard criteria, this is not without risk. You may miss out on candidates in a slightly different group than the one defined by your search parameters. This can create tunnel vision, causing you to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Success stories in the Dutch economy are often defined by abstract factors like ‘entrepreneurship,’ ‘creativity,’ ‘empathy,’ or ‘adaptability.’ Factors a robot cannot yet recognise or assess. And that demonstrates the importance of human interaction in the recruitment process.
Of course there are positions for which candidate selection based solely on hard criteria is perfectly suitable. For example, a selection based on simple parameters will go a long way to recruiting for unskilled labour, which only requires availability. But as soon as people’s role makes them part of a social environment and their tasks require a certain level of cooperation, things become more complicated and individual interpretation becomes indispensable.
Cheaper process, more expensive solutions
Robots can make a valuable contribution to streamlining communications, as far as standard communications are concerned. And in parts of the job market, robots can certainly be deployed to make an initial selection from a pool of candidates. In these cases the robot serves as a type of advanced browser or search agent, making it easier to draw meaningful information from the proliferation of databases.
But there will always be a second part of the recruitment process which depends on personal interpretation by the recruiter and the company staff. Standard interpretations are no longer sufficient when job content and candidate personality matter. If you outsource this to a robot, you’ll see all sorts of odd situations, such as an analytical person ending up in a commercial role. You can draft all the project proposals you want, but no client will want to do business with you in that situation. The general rule is: the more distant your interpretation, the less suitable the candidate will be for the role. Automation may have made recruitment processes cheaper, but in the long term the consequences will be far more expensive.