Humans Versus Algorithms

Are you struggling to get your head around this new technology on what changes are in store for HR and recruitment and how quickly those changes will come? I thought I would expand on the subject for you with a few AI insights for the HR and business community.

Many HR Tech companies are now developing algorithms and applications which will help change the face of HR and the Recruitment industry forever.

Developers use the words like “Uber-ise recruitment” with new ground-breaking apps that are fundamentally algorithms with the prediction that these will replace people. The people generally replace are in HR and Recruiter jobs.

So, what exactly is an Algorithm?

It is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. In other words it is a piece of computer code. You have to tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. The computer then “executes” the program, following each step mechanically, to accomplish the end goal. Source

The main advancement recently is that computer programs can now process huge amounts of data relatively quickly such as the ability to look at 100 million online documents overnight. Also if you couple the program with Artificial Intelligence (AI) these programs learn as they go.

An example of this Machine Learning would be a computer program that can look at past successful employees in a role or organisation, and map those candidate characteristics with certain career paths, phrases, specific key words, past employers, qualifications, universities and past job titles etc. on their CV to find you the next perfect candidate for your current vacancy.

HR tech firms now write this code or develop an App to find people for recruitment purposes. Much of this is not new, it’s actually been happening for few years now with “Web spiders” running overnight. You instructed it to search the World Wide Web, looking with your programmed criteria and with the machine learning to check every document out there e.g. all CV’s or Bios, Facebook, LinkedIn profiles, conference agendas and come up the right people.

Overnight the piece of code works hard for you and in the morning, you receive a list – the names, contact numbers, email addresses and possibly even the CV’s or Bios of the top 25 people in that industry and for your location, who meet your job search criteria.

However, which is better? The Algorithm or the Human Recruiter in finding the right candidates?

The Benefits Of Algorithms

  1. Speed – Advances in technology and data processing enable the collection, processing and interpretation of data to find candidates much faster and are more efficient and possibly more accurate than a human could do.
  2. Cost – It will be much cheaper. The question will be asked as to why would I pay a $15,000 recruitment fee for a CV when I can find the CV or person myself using A.I. tool for just a few dollars? Unless a recruitment agency is adding heaps of value elsewhere, they won’t be able to charge a premium price for one CV anymore. The client will not see the value when it’s something they can do themselves at a fraction of the cost.
  3. Efficiency – Recruitment will move increasingly inhouse and will use such computer programs themselves, just like placing your own adverts on Seek, internal recruitment functions will do the global search themselves, again saving fees.
  4. Process – The recruitment process as we know it will change, removing the need to use external agencies or even posting adverts to gather 100’s of CV’s for one job. With less need to cull, and more targeted resources and tools. HR time and money will be spent on those few candidates found, with high touch candidate care, better interactions and stronger employer branding messages. Ultimately a better candidate experience.

The Benefits Of Humans

However, people tend to trust human judgment over algorithms. Even when an algorithm consistently beats human judgment, people like the human touch within a recruitment process.

  1. Communication Skills And Capability– Even with the rise of Chatbots and video interviews (to be covered in another article) when a brilliant or poor candidate walks in the room nothing beats a human for one on one interaction for role fit or cultural fit to an organisation. Only a human interaction is going to tell you if someone is going to struggle to communicate or do the role. This is why it’s so important to train hiring managers in interviewing skills and arm them with good questions.
  2. Face To Face – Only when you meet someone or have a phone discussion with them are you are able to make an informed decision on how they will interact, and if they are going to be a good fit based on their skills and ability. How many times has someone passed all online tests, only to be poor performer in the role?
  3. Sell The Role And Organisation – Yes Chatbots can do this too but only a human will be able to manage expectations, negotiate on a salary package, sell the role and the organisation and have the ability to provide a very warm welcome to any new hire.
  4. Gut Feeling – OK we all know we are not supposed to hire on this. But after a barrage of tests, assessment centers and interviews it’s often still that “gut feel” on cultural or role fit that an interviewer gets from meeting someone in person that will be a deciding factor. We all know that those with the highest “test” scores or qualifications don’t always make the best leaders……or hires.
  5. Common Sense – Sometimes missed by computers or online tests and videos. It will also take a human to know how to program the code or check on a process in case of “inbuilt” bias on any program or code designed for candidate searches. Sometimes the best CV’s (or candidates) don’t contain “key words” as one needs to know how to read between the lines to find the best fit.

The net result: I’d actually call it a draw.

Yes, AI and algorithms are fab (they really are) but we will still definitely need the human touch in our recruitment practices.

In this data driven world and with so much rich social media content (and people insights) data the use of such technology and tools will definitely rise. Yes it will change how we currently recruit. And recruitment costs will come tumbling down with the middleman or the recruitment agency and even adverts being replaced. Organisations instead targeting the “right applicants” to approach directly and will spend their time and resources on then bringing those candidates along on the hiring journey. Focus will shift from sourcing to the candidate experience and the employer branding.

What’s next?

The impact on the industry is going to be massive – the same for Kodak when digital cameras arrived, and these cameras then moved onto phones – the photo film and photo paper industry disappeared overnight. Many recruitment agencies and jobs will disappear too. Replaced by yes – an algorithm. The same happened with newspaper advertising when job boards like Seek came along.


I say embrace the new. Use the technology to automate the mundane but add value on the human touch in your recruitment processes.