Recruiters need to be prepared for the coming impacts of robots, artificial intelligence and automation. Your careers could depend on how well you adapt to the coming changes.
Now that we have your attention, we should provide a bit of context. Robotics, artificial intelligence and automation are already impacting and threatening many jobs, especially those in manufacturing and agriculture. Of 5 million manufacturing jobs lost since 2000, machines have replaced 4.4 million of them, according to researchers at Ball State University.
Experts expect these same forces to hit white-collar jobs. After all, technology is cheaper than human labor, increases productivity, and often works better. A Houston Chronicle column offers a good example of the business value of automation: “Financial analysts and wealth advisors are having a difficult time proving their value. Passively managed index funds are delivering higher returns for the average investor than stock portfolios managed by people. The rapidly growing financial technology sector is building robots that can question investors to come up with customized investment strategies. Those strategies are quicker to devise, and often just as profitable.”
The impact could be staggering. An Oxford University study found that robots and “smart” computers could replace up to half the U.S. workforce within the next decade or two. Consulting and accounting firm PwC, meanwhile, has said that 38 percent of today's jobs could be eliminated in the next 15 years.
Whatever figure you look at, many jobs are going to be threatened. And there’s no reason to expect that recruiters will be immune.
A Double Threat for Recruiters
A couple pieces of good news:
“Recruiter” didn’t make the Oxford University study’s list of the top 10 jobs threatened by computer automation.
Just as automation threatens many jobs, it will also create others, opening up new opportunities.
The worry, however, is that jobs lost will greatly outnumber jobs gained. If so, recruiters will face a double threat from automation.
First, if employers’ need for labor is lower, there will be fewer jobs for recruiters to fill, and thus less need for recruiters. Recruiters who specialize in certain hard-hit sectors—such as banking and finance—might especially be affected. Thirty percent of financial and banking sector jobs could be eliminated by 2025, according to Citigroup.
Second, robots and artificial intelligence will directly impact recruiters’ jobs. We anticipate that 80 percent of the tasks that recruiters perform today will be automated.
That’s right, 80 percent. Even if that number proves a bit high, the ramifications are obvious. Many recruiting jobs will be eliminated because the same work would require fewer people. To survive, recruiters will need to do the 20 percent of tasks that can’t be automated very, very well. Those who fail to do so won’t be successful, and may very well find themselves out of a job.
The Automation of Recruiting
What aspects of recruiting will be automated? Basically anything that doesn’t involve direct, emotional interaction with candidates is likely to be automated, including:
Many sourcing activities
Most of the screening, tech testing, and assessment tasks
First, second, and possibly third online interactions with candidates
Many activities in which today’s recruiters rely on their experience and gut
Assessing availability of passive candidates
Drafting customized and targeted emails to candidates
Matching candidates with jobs
And many others …
What’s going to be left for recruiters to do? Tasks that relate to human emotional and intellectual connection—Mr. Robot won’t be able to handle those. So you will need, even more than now, to excel at:
Assessing people’s ability to work with a given team
Assessing whether people have the ability to ramp up for a job that they are not yet qualified for
Assessing learning ability
Assessing how a person can work under stress
Assessing cultural fit
That last one might surprise you. After all, technologies that are designed to assess cultural fit already exist. However, those technologies have a long way to go. We rate them a three on a scale of one to 10. We expect that people—recruiters—will continue to best predict cultural fit.
People Skills: The Skills of the Future?
The need for recruiters to perfect their people skills is not unusual. Experts believe it will be a trend in many industries.
“What can’t be replaced in any organization imaginable in the future is precisely what seems overlooked today: liberal arts skills, such as creativity, empathy, listening, and vision,” Tom Perrault writes in Harvard Business Review. “These skills, not digital or technological ones, will hold the keys to a company’s future success.”
"Manual and routine tasks are more susceptible to automation, while social skills are relatively less automatable," wrote John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC. "That said, no industry is entirely immune from future advances in robotics and AI."
Of course, it will be essential as a recruiter to successfully adapt to new technologies, or else you won’t be able to remain relevant. And, as the new jobs that arise from automation become in-demand, it will pay off to be able to successfully recruit great talent for those jobs.
But for now, we know big changes are coming to recruiting. It’s best to be aware that they are coming, to be prepared for them, and to be ready to adapt.