The impact of AI on recruitment

AI can increase efficiency in the recruitment process, but there are drawbacks so a human element needs to be retained. Lucie Mitchell reports.

Recruitment Services


The impact that AI is having on the world of work has been a hot topic of conversation for some time now. As such, many organisations now rely on AI to support their recruitment efforts, and for many it has been a game changer.

According to TargetRecruit, one of the top five recruitment technology trends of 2024 is the ability of AI to drive innovation in recruitment, enabling companies to “streamline their processes, boost productivity, reduce biases, explore new avenues of AI automation and make smarter, data-driven decisions at a quicker speed”.

Recent research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that 28% of employers were using AI as part of their hiring in 2023, compared to just 9% the year before. Of those employers using AI, 83% said it increased speed and efficiency, while 64% said it made it easier to analyse large volumes of data.

“AI is really shaking things up in the recruitment industry,” remarks Adam Biddlecombe, co-founder & CEO of Mindstream. “It is changing how companies find and hire talent, making everything from scanning CVs to posting vacancies much faster and more efficiently. AI offers speed, lower costs and the ability to select the best CVs from a large pool of candidates. It can also interact with many candidates early in the process.”

Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior research adviser in data, tech and AI for the CIPD, says that AI’s strength is that it can scale up to do the same task quickly. “So, if your criteria for identifying suitable candidates are fair and clear and are accurately reflected in the AI algorithm and training data, it can amplify these benefits at scale. Furthermore, you can continually refine the criteria, AI algorithm and training data so that it’s fairer and more inclusive.”

AI concerns

However, the ISE research also found that 63% of employers had concerns about the reliability of using AI in recruitment, and 70% said they preferred a more human-centric approach.

“AI-generated CVs can pose issues, as they may not reflect a candidate’s true skills and experiences,” warns Biddlecombe. “This demands careful evaluation by recruiters to ensure a candidate’s skills are accurately represented. On top of that, AI may also copy human bias, miss unique talent and raise data privacy concerns. Firms should use AI to aid, not replace, human judgment in hiring.”

Some employers are now concerned that applicants could potentially ‘cheat the system’ by using tools such as ChatGPT to write job applications, which could result in the wrong person being hired.

“Applicants should check what a prospective employer says about using AI in the application process,” remarks Stephen Isherwood, joint CEO of the ISE. “Concern over candidates using AI to ‘cheat’ their way into roles are being met by some employers banning use.”

Another major concern is the possibility of unintentional bias being introduced into the hiring process, warns Alastair Brown, chief technology officer at BrightHR.

“Since AI is trained using data, should that data include any biases, the AI system will also become biased,” he says. “Additionally, there is the potential for AI to overlook qualified candidates or suitable candidates who might not fit the algorithm’s predetermined criteria, meaning that employers miss out on talent. And, as with every system, there are also concerns around privacy and data security when it comes to collating and storing large amounts of personal data about job applicants.”

Retaining the human touch

As these potential challenges can pose a real risk to successful hiring, maintaining a human element in the recruitment process is crucial.

“While AI streamlines processes, it should only augment not replace a recruiter’s knowledge and experience,” comments Claire Williams, chief people and operations officer at HR software provider Ciphr. “It also doesn’t have interpersonal skills and can’t convey a company’s values and culture; which is something that candidates are increasingly looking at when considering suitable roles and employers – they want to work for organisations with values that align with their own.”

Brown echoes how important it is to retain the human touch. “Recruitment is about people, and the ability to connect with and understand candidates on a personal level is something that AI is unable to replicate—at this stage, anyway. Having human input builds trust and rapport with candidates, which is essential in industries where communication and soft skills are highly valued. Ultimately, a balanced approach that incorporates both AI and human input is likely to be the most effective and fair way to recruit the best candidates.”

The future of AI and recruitment

What lies ahead for AI and recruitment remains to be seen. However, based on what we have experienced already, there are some likely scenarios that could play out, and employers can certainly make sure they prepare now so they’re ready for what the future holds.

“We’re likely to see even more sophisticated algorithms and tools that can screen and select candidates based on an even wider range of factors, like social media activity, personal interests and even biometric data such as facial expressions and speech patterns,” predicts Brown.

“AI use in hiring will likely grow despite the associated risks,” adds Biddlecombe. “To prepare, companies should aim to implement AI at suitable stages of the hiring process, such as screening. Companies should educate human recruiters about AI, regularly audit AI systems for bias and combine AI and human steps in the hiring process for the best results. Recruiters should stay open to adopting new AI tools, but ensure that the human element remains present to make ethical and fair hiring decisions.”

As AI technologies continue to advance, employers must adapt and stay updated with the latest tools and trends, advises Williams. “Preparing for the future, however, involves striking a good balance between AI-driven automation and maintaining the human touch. Ultimately, the successful integration of AI into recruitment processes lies in harnessing its valuable insights and capabilities, while preserving the human-centric approach that fosters meaningful connections between candidates and employers.”

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