Robot pushing a button on digital virtual screenWith CareerBuilder’s recent survey (July 2014) showing that one in five companies have replaced workers with technology, “The Rise of the Machines” is no longer just a tired out third installment of the Terminator franchise; it’s a modern day reality we all have to contend with, including HR.

Now, I am not suggesting that we are going to be seeing hiring robots sitting across from us in the interview room, as interview robots  typically are not humanoid and are not much more than disembodied software routines that automate human jobs.

I am also not here to invoke panic, as for starters, more than a third of companies hired people back because automation technology didn’t work and most companies said that automation created new jobs within their business; so, we may be looking at a change in jobs rather than a decline. The researchers also cited stats that since 2002, 257 occupations have experienced a decline in employment, while 483 occupations experienced growth. As far as I can see there will still be plenty of jobs available, but workers may need to shift out of career areas, which are declining due to automation and shift into areas that are growing.

HR, and particularly recruiting, is an area that is coming under attack from automation and I think will come under increasing threat over the coming years as automation technologies improve. Let’s face it: It doesn’t take a cyberneticist or automation specialist to tell you that many of the administrative recruiting tasks can be performed by a machine. The routine functioning capacity of any applicant tracking system worth its salt performs tasks previously performed by admins. Hiring systems can post jobs, receive resumes, file them, create shortlists, acknowledge/reject applicants and invite to interview, which is pretty much a recruiting admin job description.

But, for many years, automation of recruiting tasks remained at this base level of shortlisting/long listing. However, with the explosion in data analytics technology and data backed decision making, automation has started to move upstream and is starting to make hiring decisions in Fortune 500 companies.

Xerox has handed over call center hiring decisions to a hiring technology system. They did this by analyzing their own data to establish the statistically proven key characteristics of a successful hire based around commuting distance, transportation, use of social network, and various personality traits. All call center candidates are assessed against these statistically proven criteria using psychometric questions and job scenarios presented by the system. Candidates who get a minimum score are actually hired without human input, and candidates who are considered ‘amber’ are hired with consultation and reds are rejected. Xerox reduced attrition rates by a fifth using this system.

So, as you can see, hiring automation has started to move up the food chain and hiring robots are now able to successfully make hiring decisions, although only in low level jobs, but I imagine that as the expertise in this area grows, data based hiring decisions will become more common place at higher levels of the hierarchy. If data analysts can statistically model the traits of an ideal hire in an area and computers can measure it, then hiring in that role can be automated. So, yes I think we soon will be hiring hiring robots. It’s “inevitable”, as Agent Smith might have said, although I think that the centralized corporate recruiting environment will be the place where automation takes hold first.

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