Recruiters versus the rise of automation
Recruiters with focus on human interaction shouldn’t fear the rise of automation.

The recruitment industry is in a state of flux, as automation becomes the new norm and disruptors emerge almost daily. From peer-to-peer recruitment to chat bots and plugins, recruiters are understandably worried about being replaced when technology becomes highly sophisticated in the not-too-distant future.

While it’s certainly true that automation and artificial intelligence are set to change a recruiter’s day-to-day, the evidence is clear that automation can never replace what makes good recruiters so valuable to clients, candidates and brands.

To know how resilient recruitment is as an industry, you have to go back a way to understand the cyclical nature of these predictions of doom and gloom.

A little bit of history repeating

The end of recruitment has, in fact, come and gone many times over already.

“I started my career in 1997 and almost every year since then I’ve heard the death knells of recruitment as a profession,” says Aaron Williams, one of the founders of Onset Group.

“There are a stack of tools now out on the market: there are scripts, plugins, and no shortage of ways you can quickly get information. But it’s still people dealing with people.”

Why are good recruiters immune to automation?

While technology is learning how to automate process-driven, transactional work, and it is here that we’ll see the most change to the industry, there’s no product or tool that can simulate empathy or common sense.

“Technology can complicate things. People have to create a script or code, scrape data to source people’s details, then run an email or digital campaign and wait for the response. But if you know your space, you can just get their phone number directly, or call reception and ask for them! And in 30 minutes of dealing directly with people, you’ve done what a two-week campaign was supposed to do,” says Williams.

Empathy is crucial. “EQ (Emotional intelligence) is ultimately what sets recruiters apart,” says Peter Bateson, director of Robert Walters Chatswood. “Someone who has the ability to read people, understand why somebody has said something, and the underlying tensions between what was said and how the statement was made. A lot of these nuances aren’t picked up often, even by people in general. It takes a skilled communications expert to gauge these signals.”

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand, agrees. “When we look at the skills automation is taking over, they’re usually hard or technical skills because soft skills are a lot more difficult to automate. There’s no substitute for the importance of personal relationships and intuition. No matter the industry or sector, those at the end of the sales funnel are human.”

"Empathy, listening and friendship are where you will stay relevant compared to a robot or a computer.”

A candidate’s experience will make or break

The importance of candidate care and building relationships is crucial for recruiters entering the next phase. Opportunities are more numerous than ever, applications can be sent at the tap of a finger, and with the use of automated contact methods good candidates are being approached daily — or more.

“Good candidates are going offline. They’re getting contacted too much, too often,” says Bateson.

Williams agrees. “People are not commodities, and anyone that wants to broker in people and jobs has the wrong perspective.”

Chris Bamber, Digital Practice Lead at Paxus, sees the long-term benefits to genuine interactions too.

“Candidates are treated like a product, but it isn’t that way. I sell the dream to the candidate, I want them to go in feeling pumped. I get feedback on my prep, candidates say they don’t get it from other recruiters. And, because of that experience, candidates turn into clients.”

The new value for clients

How do recruiters continue to add value for clients, when new platforms or apps are offering to fill a role for next to nothing?

Attracting passive critical talent is one of the key selling points. “Just because people can be found, it doesn’t mean they can be engaged,” says Bateson.

Then there’s helping clients to forward plan. “Having a recruiter that you trust means you can seek their advice on what’s possible. Workforce and succession planning are critical,” says Williams.

Then there’s the fact that a good recruiter can see where a candidate might not be the best fit on paper, but they’re just what a client needs. “The candidates that aren’t the best on paper are often the best fit and stay the longest. The client realises throughout the process that indeed this person is what we’re looking for,” says Bateson.

The Renaissance recruiter

So, how can recruiters who are utilising the new wave of technology bump up their EQ to ensure they can build lasting relationships with a candidate, or interpret the needs of a client?

“Learn about everything. The more you learn about the world the more you can connect, the more you can influence and the more successfully you can bring people together,” says Williams.

Bamber agrees. “It’s about being there for that candidate that’s having a hard time getting a job, or that client that’s struggling with a role and they don’t have the biggest budget in the world. Empathy, listening and friendship are where you will stay relevant compared to a robot or a computer.”