South China Morning Post 115th Commemorations: Past, present and future - The Evolution of Recruitment in Hong Kong
The fundamental objectives of recruitment have changed little over the years. It is basically still about attracting the best individuals available and getting them up to speed as quickly as possible.
However, the methods used for recruitment have changed beyond all recognition. As in other sectors, the traditional practices have been disrupted by technology. Indeed, over the last decade or so, almost every step in the process has been rethought, if not revolutionised.
In particular, the use of online tools, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) mean that recruiters today take a very different approach to their task.
For example, they can sift through resumes with a quick-search function to pick out desired skills. They use websites to attract candidates, conduct interviews via Skype, and develop platforms to communicate with job seekers about the hiring process and things like internship opportunities.
Furthermore, with the help of specialist online sites, companies can now post, manage and update current job listings. And, when necessary, they can assess the potential of candidates, both active and passive, by logging on to databases and popular personal networking sites.
Before such technologies were available, recruiters could spend untold hours reading CVs, identifying suitable applicants, and dealing with all the administration.
“Technology is helping to make the process faster, more effective and more cost-efficient,” says David Hope Asia- Pacific president at Workday.
Using the example of hard-to-fill positions, he notes how the latest tools and programs help to identify the better candidates by analysing online talent metrics specific to the job.
“Technology is replacing time-consuming and repetitive administrative tasks, effectively transforming strategic areas of hiring from a reactive to a proactive process,” Hope says.
That means recruiters can connect more quickly with well qualified applicants. And using AI technologies to pre-scan CVs allows more time for the second and subsequent stages of the process.
“Recruiters can focus more on the face-to-face interviews, asking and answering important questions,” Hope says. He adds that analytic tools are a way to optimise hiring strategies by helping employers learn quickly about key areas like cultural fit and all-round abilities.
While acknowledging that algorithms are only as good as the people who write them, he points out that programs can now filter out factors like unconscious bias which could otherwise have an impact on hiring decision.
“AI is able to focus on the performance metrics and key skills to match candidates with specific jobs,” Hope says.
He notes too that AI-powered chatbots are becoming a preferred method for screening candidates and engaging in two-way conversations to confirm skills and schedule interviews. Besides that, more employers are finding that use of the latest video technologies for preliminary interviews helps in forming an initial impression of a candidate's demeanour, disposition and communication skills.
In other respects, predictive software is playing an increasing part in analysing the traits common to top performers. Scott Thomson, managing director at HR consultancy Links International, believes that AI will grow in importance with things like “stack ranking” of CVs. This makes it possible to match candidate details in an HR system against jobs, based on the “machine learning” about previous hires and placements.
“We expect the biggest change in the near future will be the introduction of technology to match candidates with jobs specific to the online freelance or ‘gig’ communities,” Thomson says.
Such developments are already evident in the US and Europe. They allow for a more automated form of matching between employers and job seekers, rather than the current method of hoping a good candidate will see a job posting and then apply.
“The demand for talent in Asia is not going to stop anytime soon,” Thomson says. He predicts that making full use of AI and other new technologies will be a crucial step for recruitment professionals.
Similar sentiments are expressed by Sid Sibal, associate director for banking and financial services at recruitment consultancy Hudson Hong Kong.
“Most recruitment firms are investing heavily to integrate machine learning into their customer relationship management systems,” Sibal says.
Since finding candidates is a cost for the business, the attraction of AI technologies which speed up the process is clear. However, Sibal also highlights the challenge of correlating data and accurately matching candidates with specific roles. The new tools can’t do everything and sorting data in a systematic manner, so AI programs can understand and learn is still a mammoth task.
“Prime candidate identification will definitely become significantly easier, but the process of enticing a candidate into a specific firm will still need the human element, especially when it comes to senior recruitment,” Sibal says.
Kong To, director of sales and marketing at Hudson Hong Kong, believes that AI will help recruiters make decisions in a more structured and systematic way, but will never be able to handle tasks like writing job description and salary negotiation.
“In spite of its usefulness, I can't see how AI could make a job offer based on emotion and gut feelings, which is something humans regularly do,” Kong says.