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Jamie Hoobanoff is founder and chief executive officer of The Leadership Agency, a Toronto-based recruitment firm.

With North America experiencing record-low levels of unemployment, companies are being forced to compete more than ever for the talent they need. These tight labour market conditions are especially acute for leadership and specialized hard-to-fill positions. When it comes to finding this talent, recruiters must embrace the technological solutions available to them.

The potential

Although 25 per cent of Canadian jobs will be disrupted by technology over the next decade, new technology is emerging to make sourcing and screening candidates easier. Artificial intelligence (AI) screening software has greatly helped in filtering resumes according to the job descriptions.

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Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have been widely used for years now, and one of their primary benefits is screening resumes. Rather than sifting through every incoming application, recruiters can devote their time to considering just the most relevant candidates, with the help of the ATS.

Though traditional ATS requires recruiters to input keywords, technology continues to evolve, and the AI behind it becomes even more intelligent. One example of this is IBM’s AI recruitment platform called Watson Candidate Assistant.

This software can infer specific skills that a candidate must have based on the jobs listed in their resume. So, if the candidate has worked in business intelligence, Watson can ascertain that they have skills in data analytics, forecasting and reporting on trends. This detection can occur even though the skills may not be explicitly listed in their profile, making it a powerful tool for matching candidates with right-fit positions.

When recruiters post a job on LinkedIn, the professional networking site now automatically offers them a customized short list of candidates sourced from its database that closely match the job description.

Similarly, targeted advertising can put job ads in front of a very specific profile of candidates. Even in times of labour shortage, reaching candidates and generating applicants aren’t the biggest problems in recruitment. Today, the challenge is reaching the right, most relevant candidates. AI and machine learning can greatly help.

AI can also be beneficial to recruiters in the screening process. Automated questionnaires and chatbots can conduct the initial survey of candidate qualifications and expectations. Chatbots can further answer candidate questions, respond to applications, and even set up interview times.

This immediacy of response can be crucial for success. Particularly in a tight labour market like what we are experiencing now, candidates won’t wait around for companies that are slow in getting back to them.

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The limits

Artificial intelligence is great at crunching data, reacting with automated responses, and automating mundane daily tasks of recruitment. However, it is far less effective at evaluating personality and motivation.

A human recruiter can understand a manager’s work style and the culture of the team. Finding the candidate with the right aptitude and attitude to merge seamlessly with the department usually requires the experienced eye of a recruiter who gets it.

As much as AI within the realm of human resources can achieve results, the out-of-the-box thinking, people management, human interaction and coaching aspects are crucial and will continue to demand a human touch.

Also, while technology can make the recruitment process much more efficient, engaging with coveted top talent, and enticing them to work for your organization over a competitor, requires more than automated responses. Chatbots and form e-mails are great for moving through the early steps of disseminating information back and forth, but eventually candidates need to make a human connection.

People want to interact with another person – someone who represents a living example of the character of an organization. Though 42 per cent of startup businesses in Canada plan to adopt AI into their operations, they still face a number of challenges when it comes to leveraging this technology to obtain top talent.

What does this mean for HR?

Fortunately, with the aid of technology to reach relevant candidates, and even pre-screen these down to a shortlist of potential hires, human resources professionals can spend more time focusing on those human connections.

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Much of the work of recruiting can be rote and repetitive and could easily be automated. This is where artificial intelligence comes in.

Increasing efficiency, reducing time spent on mundane tasks, and improving overall productivity for recruiters are just some of the benefits of integrating AI into HR. However, selecting the right-fit candidate from a group of applicants that are similar on paper, and negotiating a contract with that chosen hire, are as much art as science.

This is where a lifetime of human interactions and experience become essential. That is where they can bring the greatest value: assessing candidates and selling them on the role. The connections that are made by HR professionals is undeniable.

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