In a recent discussion regarding the use of Artificial Intelligence or AI in the recruiting process, it became clear to me that there seem to be two camps – both of which are on opposite ends of the scale regarding its benefits.

On the one hand, you have those who believe that leveraging AI starting with keyword search is the best and only way to go and that all other means associated with traditional people-to-people engagement is an obsolete practice confined to technophobes.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have what some call recruiting world purists who aren’t afraid of technology but generally feel that blind reliance on it is inviting folly. This latter group probably remembers the movie War Games more than the former.

The truth, I believe, doesn’t exist at the outer edges of either extreme, but somewhere in the middle. A middle in which AI and all things digital is yet another “strategic” tool, and not the only tool, at a recruiter’s disposal.

Added value

There is no doubt that a digital solution can add value to the recruiting process as long as we know where the benefits end, and where the inherent risks begin.

For example, studies show that companies may overlook a fair number of the best and brightest candidates because the latter do not use keywords in their resumes.

Think of it in the context of SEO. Google, over the years, has repeatedly modified their search algorithms because they want to deliver the best and most relevant results. They also do this because a good SEO person will be able to “game” the system for higher ranking regardless of the merits of their offering be it a service or product. In other words, there is no discretion beyond keyword matching.

Now you may say that this presents a solid justification for anyone looking for a job to hire an SEO expert. Yes, this is true but – if everyone is playing the search engine game, the other problem is that talent can become commoditised causing the best candidates to withdraw and seek more direct and personal routes to desired opportunities.

In this context, let’s consider the advantages of other avenues, such as referral hiring.

A trusted name

As high tech as we are today, we still live and work in a “know, like, and trust” world. In other words, people looking to hire someone – especially for top positions seem to place greater value on a candidate they have met through someone they know versus their “discovery” through an automated platform.

From a pure numbers standpoint, one SHRM article points to data showing that referrals accounted for “more than 30 per cent of all hires overall in 2016 and 45 per cent of internal hires.”

I am sure that there are many other studies where the numbers swing up or down dependent on the industry sector and positions. However, the point

I am making is that people connecting with people is something that should not be automatically overlooked or relegated to an afterthought in the digital age.

In fact, in another study, it is reported that referrals reduce the time to hire by as much as 50 per cent. For many companies who, after several months and in some cases, longer, are still looking for the right candidate to fill a senior procurement position shortening the timeline would be a welcome reprieve from the endless sifting of automated lists.

More than one road to Rome

My point with this article is not to dissuade people – especially those in a company’s HR department from using technology.

Beyond recruiting, HR departments can rely on AI-driven technology to alleviate them of the responsibility for mundane and repetitive “low-value” tasks such as benefits management. As a result, they are free to focus on more strategic elements of the job.

From a recruiting standpoint, AI tools can provide a window into different elements of a person’s viability as a candidate for specific positions at certain levels. For example, entry-level or functional positions in which the criteria are somewhat universal and static are well-suited to casting a wide net based on keyword usage.

However, as a search for a new hire ascend to more complex and strategic positions within the organisation – including the C-Suite, getting up close and personal from the outset is still the best way to go. In these situations, “getting personal” trumps automation.