Artificial Intelligence is Writing a New Script for the Recruiting Industry

The benefits of AI most likely outweigh any concerns in terms of its impact on the executive recruitment industry. Quicker searches and better hiring choices are just some of the improvements that recruiters, and their clients, will see as the technology continues to evolve. Here’s how Steven B. Potter, CEO of Odgers Berndtson, thinks AI will make the field better in more ways than one.  

October 24, 2018 – Artificial intelligence and other forms of automation have already begun to transform businesses, and the recruitment firm partners who work with them to find their leaders. For recruiters, AI will mean the end to much of the hands-on, repetitive ‘busy work’ that goes with the job, allowing for faster searches as well as more time for nurturing relationships, evaluating candidates and pinpointing the best choice for any given role.

AI will help candidates have a better experience as well, by speeding the process and keeping prospects informed at every step along the way. Among other benefits, it will help to bring about both a more diverse workplace and better leadership.


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Steven B. Potter, CEO of Odgers Berndtson, recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss AI and how it is changing, and will continue to change, the executive recruitment industry. It is true, said Mr. Potter, that AI will cause some roles to fall by the wayside. But AI’s benefits are many. He told us, for example, that AI will boost the effectiveness and efficiency in matching candidates to jobs, candidate long-lists will become more accurate, and companies will see better results in terms of diversity and inclusion. Through it all, he stresses that the human touch in executive search will remain irreplaceable . . . and invaluable.

Mr. Potter sits on Odgers Berndtson’s global board. He has spent over two decades as a founder, CEO and senior executive of several financial services executive search firms. He co-founded and served as CEO of Sextant Search Partners.


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Prior to that, he was appointed CEO of TMP Worldwide Executive Search, following TMP’s acquisition of Highland Search Group, a boutique executive search firm that he founded in 1995. Mr. Potter was one of five divisional CEOs for TMP Worldwide, a $7 billion public company and owner of monster.com, and he also served on the TMP management committee.

Mr. Potter began his recruiting career at Russell Reynolds Associates, where he started the firm’s global banking and merchant banking practices. He oversaw Russell Reynolds’ Asian operation and served as a member of its executive committee.

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Steve, it is time to pull out your crystal ball. How will AI change the executive search industry?

In general, I believe AI will bring more opportunities for both employees and employers. It will be easier for all stakeholders to look for new opportunities and better matches as automation will increase effectiveness and also efficiency if applied the right way. As a result, we will have a more dynamic market. Having said that, AI is already today making companies more self-sufficient, specifically in experts and professional recruitments. Executive search, in an AI recruitment world, will still be very much dependent on our professionalism, human touch and expertise in handling high level executive recruitments. In the nearest future, some roles like researchers will probably become obsolete as the technology matures. But AI will force our industry to become even better in evaluating the human interaction and analyze the human fit between the client needs and the candidates, because all short-listed candidates will have a better match. This is where our industry always will add value; the final human touch can never be replaced by AI. With AI, the value we bring to getting the right person in the right position at the right time will continue to grow in importance. The future for recruiting couldn’t be brighter.

“AI will force our industry to become even better in evaluating the human interaction and analyze the human fit between the client needs and the candidates, because all short-listed candidates will have a better match.”

Related: Artificial Intelligence to Transform Workplace Sooner Than Expected

How is AI transforming the recruitment process?

AI has already changed how recruiting is done today and will continuously do so. Primarily the initial phases are impacted. Searches can become broader and more automated, as high-volume processes like broader candidate mapping and initial screening can be completed in higher volumes and in shorter time frames through automation. Over time, AI will increase accuracy in developing the initial long list of the best potential candidates. This will lead to a better result for all parties.


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How reliable is the technology?

As in all cases, the result is based on the quality of the input data and how it is interpreted in a computer model. I think we all know of the Amazon scandal, where the algorithms showed bias against women. However, assuming that we have an AI solution good enough, and feed it with correct data, I do believe AI is a reliable technology for the initial research phases in an executive search process. But, as I stated before, I don’t believe AI can ever replace the human touch in our

industry, where the human interaction is key to identifying the correct fit between our clients and candidates.

Is AI better at pre-selection than humans?

Yes, in general, if correctly used. Better in terms of effectiveness and efficiency for high volume processes. AI is not biased, if not programmed to be biased. It’s not dependent on the person’s performance in that specific moment; it can take more parameters into account and match needs and skills better in order to deliver a good result.

Related: Attracting Top Talent in the Age of AI

What will the digital revolution demand of future leaders?

I believe that future leaders must seek and manage diversity and inclusiveness and enable a true sense of belonging. Research clearly shows that these values are imperative to innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement – and have a direct impact on the bottom line. Diversity and inclusion practices are the biggest differentiating factors in business today – with diverse organizations being faster to respond to change, more able to innovate and better able to develop their employees and leaders. In fact, the research states that “building an inclusive culture” is now the No.1 predictive strategy for global financial performance. That tells me everything I need to know.

Given the raft of digital innovation we’ve seen so far, what does the future hold?

More innovation at even a faster pace, impacting much more people across the globe than today. The digital innovation will continue to drive costs down and make products and services more affordable and accessible, which I believe will lead to a higher quality of life.

Related: Heidrick & Struggles Launches New Recruiting Practice Focused on AI

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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