Enjoying your work

Humans versus Robots – who will win?

May 13, 2018

This week we’ve learned that robots are being used in Russia to replace humans in the recruitment process: calling candidates, reviewing CVs and even conducting interviews. Some people are excited about the potential of this technology, while others are nervous about the increasing power of artificial intelligence. So what do robots mean for recruitment, an industry which is built around people?

The designers of this technology claim that it drastically increases efficiency, allowing companies to automatically sift through huge volumes of data in shorter timescales in order to check for suitable vacancy matches.

Using keyword scans and ‘yes / no’ answers, the software instantly ‘weeds out’ unsuitable candidates, saving time on fact-checking and reducing the administrative burden that a human recruiter would otherwise face.

Not only does this minimise the potential for human error, but it also frees up human recruiters for higher value activities such as establishing the client’s needs, understanding the hiring company’s culture and making the final decision when presented with the shortlist of candidates.

So far, it all sounds promising… but for those of us who have worked in recruitment for several decades, something doesn’t quite ring true. At Time, we strongly believe that recruitment is always better with the human touch – at every stage in the process.

For starters, there’s the issue of quantity over quality. These robots automatically scan huge databases of CVs looking for little more than keyword matches, and sometimes they telephone 10,000 candidates at once. Like some of the big, impersonal jobs boards online, the results of this approach can only be hit and miss compared to the tailored, targeted and personalised approach of a human recruiter working on quality leads.

We also believe that every touch point with a candidate is important – first impressions matter, and we wouldn’t want to entrust those preliminary moments of connection to a robot. It’s important for us to speak to our candidates personally over the phone and to meet with them face to face, because presentation and communication skills simply cannot be accurately measured by automated software.

It’s also really important for us to be able to get a clear impression of each candidate’s personality – their values, sense of humour, ability to build a rapport, and performance under pressure. We want to make sure that every candidate we present is a good match for the recruiting company’s culture and ethos, and that they will fit seamlessly into the existing team. This relies on us having highly attuned and carefully honed interpersonal skills – emotional rather than artificial intelligence – developed through many years of experience, and we don’t believe this can be replicated by a computer, no matter how ‘intelligent’ it might be.

The robot’s activities involve initial screening conversations and checking that people have the requisite paperwork or qualifications in place. We see this as a key part of getting to know our candidates, too important to delegate to a machine. Furthermore we feel that when it comes to dealing with people, ‘yes / no’ answers don’t always apply – there are lots of shades of grey, and as human recruiters, we can (and do) exercise discretion in a way that computer programs cannot.

Another key issue is the wider threat to jobs that automation brings – from self-service lanes at the supermarket to automated book dispensers at the library, it’s increasingly difficult for workers to protect their positions from robotic replacements, and increasingly rare for people to be able to find an actual human to speak to when something goes wrong.

At Time, we love our work, from reviewing CVs and fielding enquiries to conducting detailed interviews, this allows us to keep our fingers on the pulse, pick up on changing trends in the jobs market and stay one step ahead of the industry. We don’t want to give up on our rewarding and stimulating work, and we don’t want to live in a world where people don’t deal with people any more – if automation starts to creep into human-centric industries like recruitment, how long before your next trip to the GP has you explaining your ailments to a machine?

Most importantly, we appreciate that humans have feelings, and need to be treated as individuals. We can’t bear to imagine how it would feel to be on the other end of a recruitment process run by robots! It’s natural to feel nervous before an interview, for instance, but how much worse would it be to be interviewed by a faceless robot with no empathy or sense of humour?

There’s a reason that our offices in Edinburgh’s West End are so welcoming, from the tea and coffee to the plants and paintings – we are a people business, and we understand that the way to get the best out of our candidates is to put them at ease, and treat them like the skilled, talented, interesting and unique people they are.

At Time, we believe that good recruitment is so much more than a simple transaction – it is about trust and building relationships, and for that, the personal touch is needed. This is why we think that, ultimately, humans will and must outlast robots when it comes to industries like ours – but what do you think? Please let us know your thoughts – is today’s impossible thought tomorrow’s reality?

To discuss how our tailored, personalised approach can help with your recruitment needs, please get in touch at carolineburns@timerecruitment.co.uk.


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