Will Artificial Intelligence Help or Replace Headhunters?

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Change is Coming

Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be the next technology shift to have a transformational effect on our industry following the rise and impact of the internet, VOIP / video conferencing and online databases. These recent shifts have added value to the search process, empowering search firms with the ability to identify and communicate with talent all over the globe.

The difference with Artificial Intelligence is that it threatens some of the human elements of the process; the assessment and initial contact phases in particular.

Until now technology has improved the effectiveness of the entire process up to the the interview phase, and then human involvement is required, as it has always been. AI threatens to disrupt this significantly.

What Can AI Do?

Huge investment is being made into this technology with firms like Alphabet identifying significant potential future revenue streams by becoming innovators and leaders in the field. Alphabet’s DeepMind is on a scientific mission to push the boundaries of AI, developing programs that can learn to solve any complex problem without needing to be taught how. In 2016, DeepMind was shown to be able to lip read TV broadcasts more effectively than a human professional. It also beat the human world champion at the Chinese game of “Go” the same year. So with this level of complexity and capability already achieved, it isn’t a huge leap to look at some of the elements of a search and ask if they could be automated.

Why Do We Still Need Humans?

The most likely elements where AI may impact in a future executive search process would be in the areas of desktop research, initial enticement calls and even first stage video interview could all be delivered by AI. A candidate might not even know whether they are talking to a human or a robot.

However, all of this underplays the value human relationships have in the process. Whilst AI might be able to identify and screen talent, could it realistically sell the role? Could AI liaise with the client, identifying the USPs of the candidate and furthering the relationship?

The high-touch elements of the process are human in their nature and it seems unlikely they could ever be totally replaced. That said, AI will significantly impact our industry and technology will continue to improve the way we can deliver services.