HR Departments Turn to AI-Enabled Recruiting in Race for Talent


Artificial intelligence is helping companies across industries answer human resources-related questions, automate some HR tasks and suggest jobs to prospective candidates. In the future, the technology will become even more common in hiring and recruiting, executives say.

“It’s pervasive in all aspects of how we think about people, getting the right people on the right projects and building careers,” said Jeff Wong, chief innovation officer for Ernst & Young, which brands itself as EY.

EY in 2017 launched an AI-powered chatbot named “Goldie” that has answered more than 2.2 million questions for employees across 138 countries to date. Now, the company, which hires about 65,000 people annually, is considering ways to use artificial intelligence to help human resources staff select qualified candidates. “We’re trying to be particularly thoughtful about how we apply AI in this particular circumstance,” Mr. Wong said. Emphasis on diversity, inclusion and fairness are requirements for such an AI system, he said.

Eventually, AI could offer personalized recommendations for training programs that could be useful for career development, Mr. Wong said. It could also suggest which employees should be assigned to specific teams, in order to get the highest-performing teams possible, he said.

About 23% of organizations using some artificial intelligence said they were doing so in the human resources and recruiting domain, according to a 2018

Gartner
Inc.

study of about 850 respondents in the U.S. and Canada.

The use of AI in human resources is becoming more important as companies across all sectors compete against each other for talent, executives say. By 2030, there will be an estimated global talent shortage of more than 85.2 million people, which could result in $8.45 trillion worth of unrealized annual revenue, according to a 2018 study by executive-search firm

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Korn Ferry
.

LinkedIn Corp., owned by

Microsoft
Corp.

, offers AI-based services for business clients including one that launched last fall for companies looking to make strategic business decisions that involve hiring. For example, the software can show how competitive the technology talent pool is in a specific location where a company is considering opening an office.

The data used to develop its AI algorithms comes from profiles of its more than 610 million members and tens of thousands of skills and titles. LinkedIn also uses behavioral data, such as specific jobs that a candidate applies for, to learn about their interests.

But its AI capabilities aren’t meant to replace human staff, said John Jersin, vice president of product management at LinkedIn Talent Solutions.

“There should always be a human in the loop when there’s important decisions about hiring being made,” Mr. Jersin said. Computers might be able to get to an answer faster, with less effort or cost, he said. “But it’s not necessarily going to be the best or fair answer,” he said. The company works to address fairness in its AI services, he said. For example, its recruiting software contains a feature in which each page of candidate search results accurately reflects the gender distribution for that specific job and location.

Citizens Bank NA, a subsidiary of

Citizens Financial Group
,

launched an AI-powered career coach for about 1,500 employees named “Myca” in a pilot program last year. Myca, short for “my career,” suggests new jobs, training, videos to watch and periodicals to read based on employees’ career interests.

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The chatbot, developed with

International Business Machines
Corp.

, is being tested partly as a way to fill training gaps and match employees with open positions they aspire to, said Kristi Robinson, executive vice president and head of talent acquisition at the bank.

Myca is expected to launch to about 18,000 employees at the end of this year or early next. “AI is absolutely reinventing recruiting in a very exciting type of way,” said Ms. Robinson, who has been in the recruiting industry for 20 years. “It’s the biggest game-changer I’ve seen in a long time.”

IBM is using its own artificial intelligence platform tailored for human resources functions, called Watson Candidate Assistant, to infer specific skill-sets from the roles on a candidate’s resume. If a resume lists work on an advertising campaign over the past year, Watson can infer that the work involved digital marketing skills, for example. The technology then presents the candidate with several job opportunities that they might be qualified for based on their skills. “It gives you the opportunity to apply for jobs that you’ve probably never thought of,” said Amy Wright, managing partner of IBM Talent & Transformation.

The use of artificial intelligence in the human resources division has been growing over the past five years at IBM, she said. “It’s really infiltrated every function in HR,” she said.

Watson learns from the 3 million job applications IBM receives annually. The technology knows the specifics of IBM’s jobs in 170 countries, understands the skills needed for each job and maps that to the data coming in from job applicants, according to a spokeswoman for the company.

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Another AI-based tool, Watson Recruitment, helps prioritize resumes for recruiters without considering personal details like age or gender.

The technology frees up recruiters to spend more time with candidates and chasing down referrals, Ms. Wright said. “The bottom-line business results are strengthened,” she said.

Even more powerful in the future, Ms. Wright said, is the combination of AI and blockchain, a ledger system where data could be encrypted and unchangeable. Blockchain could ensure that a candidate’s job history is pre-confirmed, and an AI system could find and offer jobs to the right candidates without their applying, she said.

Write to Sara Castellanos at sara.castellanos@wsj.com



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