AI in recruitment
30 June 2023
6 min read
IBM Education IBM Education

Building an efficient and effective recruitment process is especially relevant in tight or competitive job markets. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (link resides outside, there were more than 10 million job openings in the spring of 2023, but only 5.7 million unemployed workers in the U.S. That puts workers at an advantage, allowing them to negotiate for higher pay, better benefits and conditions that create a more favorable work-life balance.

To achieve hiring goals, companies are reevaluating their recruitment processes—identifying inefficiencies and opportunities where artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can make the processes more attractive for candidates and employees.

Why does recruitment matter?

Recruitment is the process of attracting and hiring qualified candidates to fill roles within an organization. This step-by-step workflow is comprehensive—from identifying needed skills to onboarding a new employee. The recruitment process is ultimately designed to make hiring more efficient, cost-effective, scalable and aligned with company goals and legal requirements.

In addition to filling roles and meeting labor needs, today’s recruitment strategies aim to provide a positive candidate experience. Human resources (HR) teams do this by highlighting the best of the company’s culture and using technology to make the application process more efficient. Within an environment that favors the job seeker, data and AI can give companies a competitive advantage by providing a better understanding of the type of workers they need and how to better attract them.

Essential steps in the recruitment process

Building a better hiring process begins with defining a recruitment strategy. Here are some of the key stages businesses frequently include:

  • Assess your hiring needs: The first step in an effective recruitment process is understanding what the organization needs. Companies will identify skill gaps, key vacancies and areas where understaffing is affecting service and performance. This includes reviewing all open positions, how existing employees are filling that need and how a new hire can best complement the team.
  • Decide on a recruitment approach: Will you hire internally, use a recruiter or bring on a consulting team to steer hiring at your organization? When creating a recruitment plan, organizations often put together a hiring team of stakeholders that lead interactions with the job seekers.
  • Create a job description: A detailed job title and description help identify the right candidate for the role and should be crafted with care. Word choice can inadvertently reveal bias, such as using terms like “clean-shaven” instead of “professional appearance and attire.” Job description details can include:
    • Title
    • Role
    • Responsibilities
    • Minimum qualifications
    • Location
    • Whether it is onsite/hybrid/remote
    • Benefits
  • Post the job: At this stage, it’s important to let people, especially those within your industry, know about the opening. This could include posting the position internally, to a job board, via social media, etc. The goal here is to target the people most likely to be top candidates to increase the quality of the talent pool and more quickly identify top candidates.
  • Review applications and resumes: Whether manually or using an applicant tracking system (ATS), your company will have to review applicants and whittle the pool down to the top candidates. Organizations often consider not just skills, but how various candidates align with company goals and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics. Predictive AI tools can be used to create an ideal candidate profile you can compare to top candidates, further targeting those who are the best fit.
  • Perform phone screening: Once top-tier candidates have been identified, schedule phone conversations to get a better sense of their experience and qualifications. This can be handled by HR staff or members of the recruitment team.
  • Conduct interviews: After selecting the top two or three candidates, organizations can schedule in-person or video interviews to assess the right talent. Members of the recruitment team or those who will directly manage the hire should be present at the job interview.
  • Select a candidate: The various stakeholders involved in the interview process should be involved in final candidate selection. This step can include vetting the job candidate by checking references and conducting a background check.
  • Make a job offer: Next, send an offer letter, including essential details about the role, start date, conditions of employment, work hours and compensation.
  • Begin onboarding: This includes training and providing tools and technology to do the job, as well as ensuring the new hire meets fellow staff. One-on-one onboarding can be time-consuming, so many companies are turning to automation and AI tools to more efficiently provision systems for employees and assist with training.
  • Review, revise or repost: Using an ATS platform and analytics, review how long it takes to fill positions, the number of applicants and other data to adjust the process to make it more efficient. If at any point the top candidate refuses the offer, this can be where you understand what went wrong, make offers to other candidates, or adjust the job posting for another round of interviews.

Let’s rethink the recruiting process. If you were to design your recruiting process for a new company where would you apply AI and automation to find and get the best talent?

Benefits of an effective recruitment process

Whether the goal is to reduce the cost and time it takes to hire new employees or simply create a more diverse workplace, a well-designed recruitment process has many advantages, including the following:

  • Lowering hiring costs: A successful talent acquisition strategy streamlines the hiring process, making it faster and more cost-effective. By targeting top talent in a proactive way, it increases the likelihood they will apply and the company will get the needed competencies to operate effectively.
  • Attracting top talent: A 2021 survey by Robert Half (link resides outside found 62% of professionals lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within two weeks. Having an efficient recruitment process improves the candidate’s experience and ensures you don’t leave top talent feeling they’re being strung along.
  • Increasing HR productivity: Less time spent on the selection process gives the HR team more time to invest on training, employee development and company culture initiatives.
  • Ensuring skills match business goals: Companies can improve the quality of the job description, increase the likelihood of selecting the right candidate and help ensure retention when they put in the work to fully understand the skills they need and business goals the position must work toward. Analytics and AI are valuable tools here, showing companies the skills gaps they may have missed.
  • Meeting compliance and internal requirements: A recruitment strategy ensures best practices are being followed and regulatory requirements are being met—from protecting applicant data to equal opportunity and DEI initiatives.
  • Addressing problems in the process faster: When you have a comprehensive approach to recruitment based on collecting and analyzing data, it’s easier to see successes and misses and eventually make better hiring decisions.
Developing your approach to recruitment

Developing and fine-tuning a recruitment process is an ongoing task, particularly in changing job markets. These are some ways organizations can improve their ability to efficiently attract talent:

  • Leveraging brand reputation: Top talent is generally drawn to companies that invest in employee experience and maintain a positive employer brand. When talking to potential candidates, provide details about worker retention, employee satisfaction and community service initiatives, if appropriate, to highlight workplace benefits.
  • Creating incentives: Consider what benefits can be offered above base salaries, such as signing bonuses. In addition, it’s a great idea to set up employee referral programs. Decide how and when these incentives should be used and whether HR or hiring managers own this decision.
  • Outsourcing or using consultants: Decide whether hiring done internally is more effective than through third-party recruiters and consultants. This may be an organization-wide choice or situational, based on specific positions.
  • Prioritizing internal or external candidates: Decide whether to prioritize hiring from within the organization or to look outside to bring in new perspectives.
  • Targeting job postings: Conduct research into the best methods and platforms to use to reach the best candidates. This can include online channels like LinkedIn or industry-specific outlets.
  • Using advanced tools: Determine the role technologies like automation and AI will play in recruitment, candidate selection and onboarding. Consider how these tools can help reduce bias, increase efficiency and improve employee experience.
Recruitment process tools and technology

Technology and data can help optimize the recruitment process by making key candidate information readily available during the hiring process and streamlining workflows. Commonly used tools include the following:

  • An applicant tracking system (ATS): An ATS provides a wide range of capabilities for tracking candidate data and automating hands-on tasks, from posting job listings to filtering resumes to finding the most qualified applicants.
  • Comprehensive data analytics: A data analytics system can show HR teams how many people applied for a job, how many people were interviewed and where the best candidates came from. Taking those insights and analyzing the process with each hire will help improve the overall recruitment process.

Other emerging tools are powered by AI to provide new capabilities and deeper insights. The following are some key tools:

  • Machine learning (ML): The best way to improve a company’s recruitment process is to assess what is working and what’s not. However, many HR departments lack the time and resources to run analytics and assess historic hiring data. Here, machine learning can be invaluable, providing insights on recruitment data across applications to empower better decision-making.
  • AI-based automation: Automating the onboarding process has saved HR departments countless hours of manual work in recent years, making the process more efficient. AI can help make the onboarding process more personalized. Incoming team members are guided through onboarding with tools powered by natural language processing and adaptive AI.
  • Predictive AI: AI is being used today to not only create ideal candidate profiles and assess future talent needs but also to provide deeper insights into employee performance and better guide equitable, industry-based decisions on compensation.
IBM, AI and the recruitment process

Candidate recruiting involves endless back and forth with hiring managers, manual tracking and spreadsheets, and the use of multiple tools across different systems during the hiring process. You can streamline the process—reducing the number of steps and tools—by using IBM watsonx Orchestrate to intelligently automate tasks, such as creating and posting job requirements faster. Orchestrate integrates with the top tools you use every day, including candidate sourcing and application tracking software.

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