Does AI have a role in smart city recruitment?

- Posted on March 22, 2021

AI tools and technologies have become game-changers for smart cities and the IoT-driven sectors but their role in identifying and recruiting smart city talent is less clear-cut..

 Improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have led to its integration into many aspects of our daily lives and business solutions. From the virtual assistant on your phone or in the home to security cameras and self-driving cars, AI technology has become ubiquitous in modern society. Perhaps the most profound impact that AI is having behind the scenes is in business applications.

AI technologies have become game-changers for smart cities and in IoT driven sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and farming. AI has also found a home in talent acquisition, a traditionally human-centric industry. While AI has the power to streamline the talent acquisition process, providing significant value to HR and talent professionals, it can also have unintended consequences if not managed correctly.

 Sourcing candidates

 Candidate sourcing is typically the most difficult and tedious part of the talent acquisition process. Artificial intelligence can provide significant value in identifying potential active and passive candidates by parsing millions of profiles and resumes, a feat even the largest recruiting teams cannot accomplish and so significantly extending their reach. Some AI solutions are even able send an automated personalised message to candidates.

 Many large organisations providing smart city solutions or consultancy utilise applicant tracking systems (ATS) with software utilising AI to parse resumes to identify qualified candidates.

 Although AI can increase the reach of what is humanly possible, it may not necessarily be better at finding prospective candidates. Some hard-to-fill and specialised niche positions require a recruiter to have intimate knowledge of the industry, technology, company culture and scope of the roles. Like any process which relies on data, the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and topicality of the data are crucial to delivering the best results. Bad data in equals bad data out.

 Timely and effective communication is vital in establishing and maintaining a great relationship with candidates. Some HR and recruiting professionals are so overwhelmed that they have begun to utilise artificial intelligence to help with these tasks. Technologies such as chatbots like Digital Assistant by OCDX can field questions from candidates on many popular platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Line, and even SMS. These solutions can allow candidates to apply for roles, autonomously reply to questions, and even schedule interviews.

Some candidates see chatbots as an annoyance, though, and feel dehumanized in the recruitment process. The reality of recruiting smart city talent is that the talent pool is limited and frequently visited. Most candidates don’t even respond to personalised messages so chatbots would be disadvantaged.

Another area where HR and talent acquisition professionals spend a lot of time is sifting through applications and resumes. This is an important task that is sometimes delegated or outsourced to individuals who do not have the experience, skillset, or knowledge about the position to identify candidates correctly. Some companies have turned to the use of AI solutions to accomplish these tasks.

AIs can be trained to identify specific keywords in applications and resumes to shortlist the most suitable candidates. Some AI applications can even analyse the candidate data source and use predictive analysis to determine which candidates are more likely to succeed. While some people trust AIs to assess the match between the candidate and the opening, most people do not think that AIs are up to the task of determining cultural fit. However, failure to identify cultural fit is not the most significant drawback to utilising artificial intelligence for these tasks.

Unconscious bias

Most people have some form of implicit or unconscious bias based on their personal beliefs and life experience. Since this bias is unknown to the individual, it can have a subtle but measurable effect on decisions. Discrimination in the hiring process can have unintended consequences when building a team. Imagine for a moment that the hiring manager, HR representative, or recruiter unconsciously prefers a specific company. That individual is more likely to put candidates from that company at the top of the list, which may lead those candidates being interviewed more frequently and, therefore, hired more often.

Imagine what will happen to the company culture when you have many people hired from a particular company. This outcome may positively or negatively impact the company, but the key takeaway is that it happens by accident, not by design. Some organisations have turned to AI solutions to try to solve this issue, but how the AI is trained is the key to success. AIs are more than capable of replicating and exacerbating human bias. One of the most well-known reported examples of this is Amazon’s utilisation of AI in the hiring process, which led to a perceivable bias against female candidates. The flaws in the AI were identified and Amazon stopped employing the technology.

Once the candidate has been identified, they must be evaluated and, depending on the position, this can be a multi-stage process with several interviews. While most professionals agree that an interview with the hiring manager is a mandatory step in the hiring process, conversations with professional interviewers such as HR and talent acquisition professionals are key to get a complete picture of a potential hire.

In short, more interviews provide more insight into the candidate’s personal and technical skills and lead to better hires. Although this may be the best process, it also requires the most significant investment of time. This is why some companies have turned to AI to help with this process. AI solutions such as one-way video interviews can analyse answers to interview questions and look at word choice, frequency of word usage, eye movements, and even facial cues to help identify who is most likely to be successful.

In reality, these AI based evaluations mainly apply to entry level positions where employers receive hundreds of applicants. In the smart city sector, most job advertisements result in a very limited number of spontaneous applicants and end up in direct approach of candidates.

In addition to identifying hard skills, AI is being utilised to assess soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. In recent years, these skills have become more important to organisations who understand that job competencies and hard skills are not the only factor when creating a high performing team. Typically, hiring managers and recruiters rely on facial cues and their intuition to assess these skills. This method relies heavily on the experience and training of the recruiter or hiring manager.

AI tools such as the Predictive Index ask simple questions to provide insight into the candidate’s professional behaviour and fit with the rest of the team. This provides an objective perspective that can be included as part of the final assessment.

Pros and cons

Overall, AI can be utilised by HR and talent acquisition professionals in tight or overcrowded labour markets to streamline mundane and repetitive chores while freeing time to focus on higher-value tasks such as assessments and interviews. AI algorithms can eliminate unconscious bias in the hiring process but may create a bias if not programmed correctly.

AI can help you engage with your candidates quickly in their platform of choice, but it can be perceived as dehumanizing. The acquisition of talent is a human-centric process.

AI can help streamline the process, but as of today, it is not advanced enough to consider all the variables that play a role in making the best hiring decision. Considering the limited talent pool and complexity of engaging candidates in the IoT and smart city industry, we do not see AI replacing human recruiters beyond the initial sourcing phase any time soon.

Reinaldo Rementeria is senior executive recruiter, Kurrant Talent



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