How Much HR Automation Is Too Much?

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Automation has made the recruiting process exponentially more manageable over the last couple of decades. Job boards help us reach global candidate pools without publishing ads in dozens or hundreds of newspapers. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) negate the need to manually sort through resumes, many of which come from candidates who aren’t even qualified. Some companies are even using chatbots now to handle basic early interactions with job seekers.

Now, however, some have begun to wonder: How much is too much? Sure, millennials love their technology, and most Generation X-ers and baby boomers have adapted to the new way we do business, but have we lost something by limiting the human aspect of hiring and recruiting?

The answer seems to be an overwhelming “yes,” according to new research from Randstad. Eighty-two percent of job seekers are frustrated with an overly automated job search experience, according to the study. Ninety-five percent said technology should be used to aid recruiters, but not replace them.

Finding the Right Balance

While it lacks a personal touch, technology certainly has its benefits.

“Today’s candidates have certain expectations that technology helps companies meet,” says Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer at Randstad North America. “Candidates want clarity throughout all steps of the recruitment process. Often, automation aids transparency, keeping everything moving forward and everyone involved in the loop. New technologies such as artificial intelligence are improving the job-matching quality and experience by inserting intelligence at the best moments, allowing more time for human interaction.”

The irony lies in the fact that the streamlined candidate process applicants now enjoy comes largely from the use of technology. It’s obviously unreasonable to cut out the latest HR tech altogether, but it’s also important for hiring managers and recruiters to add a human touch to the mix.

“This leads to a balance of technology and personalization the candidates are interested in,” Stukalsky says.

Randstad’s study found that communication levels are key to determining a candidate’s experience during the recruiting process. Communication is also an area in which companies can do a lot of personalizing.

Tech“Recruiters must develop real connections with candidates in order to find the best fit,” Stukalsky says. “Connections require a great deal of human involvement. For example, [recruiters can] suggest [to candidates] alternate career paths or positions to consider within a prospective employer. Companies can also set up screening calls with promising candidates, which gives a personal touch to the very beginning of the process.”

Giving candidates the chance to meet multiple employees throughout the process can both add a human touch and offer a glimpse of the organization’s culture and atmosphere, Stukalsky adds.

The Consequences of a Lack of Human Connection

At the end of the day, nobody wants a job offer from a robot. While many candidates appreciate automation in the recruiting process, that doesn’t mean they want every last component turned over to machines.

“Candidates understand the value of automation, but a fully automated recruitment process may spur resentment in candidates seeking that personal element and leave them with a negative impression of the recruitment experience,” Stukalsky says. “Since qualified candidates usually have options — sometimes at competing companies — it’s not hard for them to dismiss a potential employer because of a negative recruitment experience. This should be a red flag to any company hoping to rely on only technology to secure the best candidates.”

Without some critical thinking on the part of a human, companies risk losing valuable candidates.

“Companies who rely on automation and don’t include a human component to identify the best people for a job also risk missing out on talented candidates who perhaps have nontraditional backgrounds but could in fact be excellent employees,” Stukalsky says. “For instance, an automated resume scan would likely reject a candidate whose resume lacked certain keywords, but might otherwise be a great fit for a job based on their personality and potential. If multiple candidates like this are rejected by an automated system, over time, this can lead to limited potential in the company. Machines can’t recognize potential, but humans can.”

Rather than turning all of their newly freed up schedules toward internal tasks, recruiters must reinvest a significant amount of the time they gain from automation into human interactions like candidate guidance and customer service.

“We know from our history, experience and daily interactions that real connections are not made from data and algorithms alone; they require human intuition and instinct,” Stukalsky says. “A blend of the two is where recruiters and hiring managers can reach the best possible candidates.”

By Jason McDowell