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Can Big Data And AI Solve Problem Of Leadership Hiring?

Job fairs, cold calling candidates, walk-in interviews, career pages in newspapers and yellow pages became avenues for organisations to reach out to candidates for their resumes and interviews.

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Recruitment has been going on as a process since time immemorial. However, organised recruitment only came about during World War 2, when workers left their jobs en masse to serve their country. As a direct implication of the war, vacancies opened up a dime a dozen. This saw the emergence of various formal recruitment agencies and freelancers who began advertising their services. 

As is the norm with every sector, the recruitment industry evolved and around the 1950s, the quintessential ‘resume’ started garnering importance as a method for candidates to showcase their skills and profiles. However, when hundreds of resumes piled on top of one another, companies found it difficult to sort through reams of paper applications. Evolution once again played a role and technology introduced candidate databases that would make the process easier. Job fairs, cold calling candidates, walk-in interviews, career pages in newspapers and yellow pages became avenues for organisations to reach out to candidates for their resumes and interviews.

It was only with the advent of the world wide web in the nineties when the true recruitment revolution broke. With the likes of job search portals such as Monster, Naukri etc., managing recruitment was a piece of cake vis-à-vis earlier. However, it wasn’t until LinkedIn that an altogether new era began in the recruitment industry. 

The advent of AI and big data 

With the continuous advancement of technologies, we today stand in the eye of a digital revolution. Big data is everything. AI is the new poster boy for the recruitment industry. Players such as Google and LinkedIn are investing heavily in technologies to make recruitment a seamless process globally. 

In fact, numbers show that today, nearly 97 per cent of job seekers search for and pursue new opportunities on the Web1. Seeing opportunity in the sector, multiple HR tech players have emerged in the country. AI technologies such as chatbots, analytics, trend mapping, et al are being widely used by organisations to search for and screen candidates with increased efficacy. Gamification during recruitment helps recruiters understand the cognitive and emotional traits of the candidates, which aids with the decision-making process. Terms such as programmatic advertising, profile augmentation, natural language processing and facial and speech recognition are rapidly becoming common in the sector. We could even go so far as to say that AI is changing the very fabric of recruitment in HR. 

However, as is always the case, there are limitations to the use of advanced technologies in the recruitment industry, especially when it comes to senior management (SMT) hiring. 

The challenges

Quality vs quantity 

While AI, once it learns enough maybe flawless with quantifiable data, it can often overlook the qualitative factors. In fact, AI is capable of learning biases which doesn’t bode well for candidates applying for the role. Hiring at the CXO level is not the same as routine hiring. It is a long-drawn process that involves time, understanding of the human psyche, emotions and making decisions based on a complex thought process. And so far, there exists not an AI with emotional reasoning that will be able to assist in such an intricate recruitment process. 

Lack of data at the CxO level 

AI generally requires a lot of data to screen effectively. Which means having hundreds and thousands of resumes for one role. However, as we go higher up the organisational hierarchy, the number of applicants reduce. It, therefore, becomes a challenge to make the best CxO hire using AI. 

Scepticism towards technology 

In 2014, the average age of a CEO in India was 56 years. Five years down, while there are many more young CEOs, the average age has not fallen dramatically. Therefore, another challenge for AI is scepticism of the older lot in India towards technology. Most CxO candidates in India may not be comfortable interacting with advanced technology during their hiring process since it really doesn’t fit into their scheme of things. A common concern towards chatbots, for example, maybe – how can a machine/software decide if I’m right for the role? 

Way ahead? 

While artificial intelligence is making recruitment extremely intelligent as a process, there still exist multiple lacunae with the implementation of existing technology towards CxO level recruitment. We are a long way off the goal of making AI emotionally intelligent. It is most likely that there will be a day in the distant future when we will have Wall-E recruiting CEOs. However, today that is science fiction for the industry at large. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
artificial intelligence SMT cxo

Deepak Singh Ahlawat

The author is CEO, Purple Quarter and Founder of Anzy Careers

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