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a blog by Chris Barrow

Will AI replace conversation in recruitment?

In the media this morning, news that up to a third of Australian companies are using an AI interface to conduct preliminary interviews for job applicants.

Basically, the candidate answers just 5 questions and the software (do we call it software/system/algorithm?) decides whether to put them through to the next level.

A computer replaces Simon Cowell.

Just before you raise your eyebrows in horror (or welcome this time-saving technique), can I take you back to 1985.

I'm a recruiting sales manager for a life insurance company, responsible for topping and tailing a 35-person strong commission-only sales team.

In simple terms, Head Office has me sack the bottom 10 every three months and I have to replace them.

Cutthroat, commission-only, sales.

I was conducting 17 recruitment interviews PER WEEK.

To save time, every candidate who arrived at my office was sat in front of a desktop computer and asked to complete a DISC profile.

Based on the results of the DISC, I would allocate an appropriate amount of time for the resulting conversation - a quick "X-Factor Audition" goodbye or a more detailed interrogation.

Did it work?

Not really - what I discovered is that it was almost impossible to predict an individual's performance or behaviour until they were around 12 weeks in to the job.

The DISC profiling more than likely had me missing out on some superstars and it certainly did encourage me to hire some complete failures at sales.

In the interests of fairness, I've used many other psychometric testing systems over the years, with similarly disappointing results. Maybe that's just the world of sales recruitment - or maybe any customer-facing position?

I have significant doubts as to whether any profiling system - or AI for that matter - can predict how one human being will connect with others and, more importantly, what makes them tick, gets up in the morning and makes them work their tripe out for a cause.

Yesterday I conducted a second interview on Zoom for a prospective Practice Manager (it's a thing I do for The Extreme Business 100).

There was a turning point in the conversation that convinced me that this individual was a right fit for my client.

The applicant shared with me the following story:

"I'm especially proud of the fact that I actually failed my original dental nurse exams twice, before getting through on the third attempt - I was determined to succeed."


(with the caveat shared with my client last night that the first 12 weeks will still be the test).

You can shove your AI for recruitment where it fits.

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The question of whether AI will replace conversation in recruitment is nuanced. While AI, exemplified by technologies like aicallassist, is revolutionizing call management by providing round-the-clock, precise, and human-like responses, its role in recruitment is more about augmentation than replacement. Aicallassist enhances customer engagement and frees up team members to focus on more complex tasks, suggesting a similar application in recruitment—handling initial screenings or frequently asked questions. However, the subtleties of human interaction, critical for assessing candidates' cultural fit and interpersonal skills, are irreplaceable by AI. Thus, AI is more likely to reshape rather than completely replace conversational aspects of recruitment.


Mar 28, 2023

So true. One of my children was rejected for a job at John Lewis as they use a long, detailed, scenario based, AI assessed written test with around 30 plus questions as a screening tool. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt (partly because they had worked for me) that they would have been a superb sales partner at JL. And the questions were all based on scenarios like - Your colleague comes to you and says they want to nip off early to pick up their child. Do you a). say no, they should do their own job to the hours they are meant to. b) say yes but you'll have to check in with a supervisor first…

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