Will you face a robot at your next job interview?

Artificial intelligence has already arrived in many areas of the business world, confronting us with new opportunities and challenges.  HR managers ought to be prepared to get the best out of artificial intelligence.  Ideally, the perfect candidate.

Dr.  Peter Pendl, Managing Director and founder of the HR Consulting company Dr. Pendl & Dr.  Piswanger (P&P) InterSearch Austria, invites to have a glimpse into the world of search and recruiting processes and explains why artificial intelligence is important today and in the future.

How exactly does artificial intelligence work?

Pendl: Not everything is artificial intelligence (AI) that is called AI. AI, simply explained, is an attempt to transfer human learning and thinking to the computer. It is based on an algorithm that can learn independently, to deal with previously unknown data, to find patterns and to act accordingly. But without evaluating the results and providing feedback to the system, the potential cannot be exploited – and this does not always happen.

How is AI used in the area of personnel consulting?

Pendl: In HR consulting, AI is used by some to support the research process and as a first filter for possibly suitable candidates to accelerate the whole search process. Rule-based queries are consistently used to find profiles based on a specific mix of criteria.

Some companies already use AI for text analysis of application letters to derive a personality profile from it and compare this with the default profile. Or to create job advertisements – AI analyses the success and attractiveness of previous advertisements and subsequently learns to create successful job advertisements itself. Chatbots in the application process are actually rarely used,  but they have good potential.

Are there industries in which it makes more sense to use artificial intelligence than in others?

Pendl: Yes, if there is a very large number of applications for certain positions – e.g. long before Coronavirus pandemia, we had over 700 applications for 10 positions for a search for flight attendants – AI  could have saved us a lot of time in the pre-selection.

Or larger companies that are always looking for additional employees for certain areas/positions. AI can “compare” new applications with the profiles of successful salespeople who are already active and thus make an initial assessment. Technology sectors or IT or companies looking for highly qualified specialists – here AI can help with scanning platforms, databases, or the www.

Did you also use AI in the search for a management position?

Pendl: Yes. For the search for a “Global Marketing Manager” for a global company, we used the know-how of our colleagues from the relevant InterSearch Practice Group, indirect sourcing and also cost-intensive AI in addition to classic research and direct contact.

An experienced consultant has of course carried out the qualification and competence assessment, the cultural fit examination and the assessment of the attractiveness of the offer, also from the perspective of the candidate.

From which company size does it make sense to search this way?   

Pendl: At the moment only for larger companies. For smaller ones, it is a cost-benefit-calculation. And since smaller companies currently have the problem of finding employees, who they want to win for the company, personal contact and not artificial intelligence is required.

Where is AI already being used? Is there room for improvement?

Pendl: AI is already being used far more in the United States than in Europe. The entire recruiting process can be accelerated, starting with the design of the advertisement, through the pre-selection or the search, right up to the placement.

The “personal touch” is missing though. Even though robots in Asia are already capable of conducting job interviews, their actual use (especially in Europe) is still in a distant future. Main reason being, that soft skills cannot be reliably recognized, therefore candidates which are suitable for a company and could introduce new things are eliminated by AI because they do not correspond to previous profiles. Not all soft skills can be recognized by AI.

It could also lead to “good reputation” being jeopardized by excessive technology, because personal contact should play an important role in human resources.

Are soft skills taken into account in AI recruiting? How is this checked?

Pendl: Yes, but AI software producers promise a lot more than can be kept: Soft skills should be taken into account through text analysis of application letters and CV or through personal information or assessments of contacts / friends on the social media channels – but is it the truth? Is the assessment correct in relation to the new conditions?

Robots are just in the test phase of determining soft skills by analysing what has been said in connection with facial expressions, pulse and body temperature.

Can an interview be carried out using artificial intelligence? Would it make sense? Can inequalities be noticed faster and more efficiently? What are the general advantages here?

Pendl: Technology is not yet developed enough for computer interviewing and is currently not imaginable. The fundamental question also arises here: Even if this was possible, whether one should make use of it – it is then easy to get the impression that people work for computers and not the other way around …

The first simple phone calls, the exchange of information and appointments can be safely taken over by the computer. There are already developments from Google, namely “Google Assistant”. AI will also be used for process support – it is also conceivable that the robot will then be consulted as a decision-maker, as is already done in other areas. The robot will never (hopefully) be the manager or the employer, as is shown in some science fiction films.

Can artificial intelligence replace a personnel consultant? Will jobs be lost – how do you rate that?

Pendl: AI will not be able to replace the HR consultant in the near future. AI cannot (not for a long time) help determine the desired profile, taking into account the company (cultural fit) and future requirements – this is very complex, sometimes the final profile will be developed only in conversation with the consultant and cannot be easily mapped in terms of programming.

There is still no recognition of soft skills or personality traits. To actually be able to replace the work of a recruiter or personnel consultant, artificial intelligence must recognize and understand the feelings and emotions of the candidates.

AI will certainly have more negative consequences for those consultants who specialize more in placement than in counselling, filling “smaller” positions or only work locally. Just as retail and wholesale are declining because access to direct producer has become easier and especially e-commerce has a very strong impact on stationary retail.

However, everyone who focuses on consulting competence with customer benefit or solution orientation will grow and use AI on their part.

Are potential candidates also generated via social networks? 

Pendl: Yes, 100% from recruiters. We currently have an employee market: good candidates must be searched for, not all apply by themselves. By entering keywords such as: job title, knowledge, industries, competencies, etc., systems such as LinkedIn, Xing and Co generate potential candidates.

Are there platforms who deliver important input?

Job platforms send a weekly overview with possible candidates who match the currently running advertisements – a so-called “matching alarm”. Rule-based algorithms are still used here, but the role of AI in the future shall increase rapidly. Currently you get candidate profiles without ranking, this can be improved by AI – but beware of misjudgements.

Metasystems search through many platforms and company websites and make it easier to find suitable profiles. We use – not only for international expert mandates – search for traces in the www via our partner company. In a very short time, we receive profiles from people who technically correspond 100% to the requirement profile.

How much time and related expenses can be saved on average through artificial intelligence?  

Pendl: Assistance time is certainly saved for CV checking and correspondence – AI can also save valuable time in the research area and create space for more qualified tasks. Assistance time can be safely reduced by 30-40%. However, there are costs for the amortization of the IT initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs as well as feedback efforts to the system – probably a zero-sum game. Only in the case of larger companies or more usage can real cost savings be achieved. In any case, a significant increase in efficiency is achieved.

Are there current trends and developments in the personnel consulting industry with regards to artificial intelligence?  

Pendl: Yes, there are already many developments – platforms that make it easier to find candidates and even send (possibly) suitable candidates – you can even speak of soft AI in some cases and not just rule-based. AI software providers promise a lot – there are still no exams or quality certifications existing, so no naming at this point. The usage in Europe is currently still in its early stage.

Source: retail.at, April 2020 – https://retail.at/2020/04/28/fuehren-wir-bald-bewerbungsgespraeche-mit-robotern/

Artificial Intelligence, Business World, InterSearch, interview

Will you face a robot at your next job interview?

6 min

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