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Your Guide to AI Talent Acquisition

How to Use Technology to Hire Smarter

Today’s operating environment demands that companies turn talent acquisition into a competitive advantage, and artificial intelligence is key a stepping stone toward this goal. In this article, I draw on my more than two decades in HR tech as well as the expertise of other leaders to explain:

In this article:

What is Talent Acquisition?

HR pros often use the terms recruitment and talent acquisition (TA) interchangeably, but there are crucial differences. Recruitment focuses on filling current vacancies while TA is strategic, cyclical, and long-term. Long-range workforce planning and finding specialists, top executives, and strategically important talent are critical pieces of talent acquisition.   

Differences between Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

Recruitment

Talent Acquisition

Reactive

Predictive

Event-Driven

Continuous

Keep Operations Running

Fuel Growth, Innovation

Short-Term

Long-Term

Linear

Cyclical

Fill Current Vacancies

Find Specialists, Senior Executives, Future Leaders, Strategically Important Talent

 

What is AI Talent Acquisition?

AI talent acquisition harnesses the ability of artificial intelligence to derive insights from large amounts of data and automate much of the labor-intensive, repetitive work that goes into hiring talent. The result is a more intelligence-driven process that empowers recruiters to foster stronger relationships with candidates.

“We are seeing more usage of AI tools that make recruiters smarter. It’s not just about automating the work,” says Ben Eubanks of Lighthouse Research & Advisory. “AI helps us be more targeted and engage more of the right people.”

AI-powered computers can apply human-like reasoning to problems, and these systems get progressively better because they “learn” through exposure to data without human intervention. For details on key aspects of artificial intelligence such as neural networks, data mining, machine learning, and deep learning, read our guide to AI recruitment.

Ben Eubanks

How AI Improves the Talent Acquisition Process

TA comprises eight key dimensions. Artificial intelligence is helping HR departments perform better in all of them, though rollout is at varying stages depending on the process. Talent acquisition AI automates manual work, helps HR staff cultivate relationships, personalizes the candidate and employee experience, spots trends in data, and provides insights and predictions that drive better decisions.  

AI proponents liken the power to apply machine learning to talent management to Moneyball for HR, referring to the best-selling book about how Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane used statistical modeling to build a winning roster that didn’t cost much.  Machine learning underpins data analytics that drives better decision-making and stronger talent acquisition.

8 Primary Aspects of Talent Acquisition and the Role of AI

Here are the eight primary aspects of the full talent acquisition process and how AI comes into play. How AI Improves Talent Acquisition

 

  1. Workforce Planning and Strategy
    This process looks at your business needs now and in the future, internal and external influences, and trends in the economy and labor markets. Compare your current state to where you want to go and document gaps in the number of staff and required skills. Based on this information, develop a strategic plan to meet those demands.

    AI applications are improving workforce planning by helping companies analyze and make better decisions about the following:

    • How many people with what competencies do we need to meet projected demand?
    • How can we optimize staff scheduling and minimize overtime?
    • How much competition will we face in the future for people with specialized skills?
    • What impact will demographic trends have on our workforce?

    You can model various scenarios with changing variables.

  1. Staff Segmentation
  2. Effective talent acquisition requires a firm grasp on the different groups or segments that make up your workforce. You can look at your staff in various ways such as age, years of experience, skillset, education, geographic location, diversity factors, generation, job role, or performance level. Artificial intelligence strengthens segmentation by automating the process and removing human bias. These powerful applications can view your workforce according to an unlimited number of segments of any size and find hidden patterns. Understanding the make-up of your staff is useful for personalizing training and messaging to your various categories of people. This knowledge can also help you achieve progress on goals such as reducing turnover among minority staff or developing compensation and incentive programs that appeal to different generational attitudes toward work.

  1. Branding
    Building your employer brand is essential to attracting and keeping talent. Your brand encompasses your culture, mission, values, reputation, compensation, benefits, workplace perks, opportunity for advancement, management style, fringe benefits, commitment to community service, and more. Essentially, the goal of branding is to show your business is an attractive place to work.

    AI supports employer branding in several ways. AI-powered engagement scales and delivers a consistent message, making sure your brand resonates. AI-driven systems offer career hubs that elevate your brand and provide features that build connections with potential applicants such as custom landing pages and networking sites.

    AI also backs targeted social media campaigns to reinforce your brand with analytics that help you see which messaging is effective. Similarly, AI can help you personalize email marketing and make sure it’s a powerful branding vehicle. AI chatbots answer questions 24/7, help potential candidates get to know your company and reduce friction in the recruiting process. 

  1. Recruitment
    This function encompasses finding and hiring people to fulfill your company’s needs. Recruitment tasks involve anything from defining job requirements to identifying candidates, interviewing, and negotiating employment terms. Recruiters focus extensively on sourcing, screening, and selecting the right individuals.

    Talent acquisition differs from broader recruiting in that the roles being filled are generally strategic to the organization, and the volume of hiring is usually smaller. High-volume recruiting of individual contributors, such as cashiers in a retail operation or tellers at banks, does not fall within the narrow definition of talent acquisition; though many HR people apply the term to all kinds of hiring.

    Artificial intelligence has reshaped recruitment more than any other aspect of talent acquisition. AI-driven tools automate much of the repetitive work involved in recruiting,  such as scheduling interviews. These solutions increase recruiters’ effectiveness by sourcing “hidden” and passive candidates, analyzing facial expressions and sentiment during interviews, removing bias from job ads, predicting best fit, and more.

  1. Onboarding
    Many HR experts say onboarding spans the first 90 days of employment while others say it extends up to a year. In this period, you communicate performance expectations, and the new hire develops a clear idea of what his trajectory can be at your organization. The new staff member gains a sense of a shared mission with the company’s goals and culture. All these aspects of onboarding contribute to employee satisfaction and retention.

    AI streamlines the onboarding process and helps the new hire build rapport with managers, coworkers, and the organization. According to research by Brandon Hall Group, a robust onboarding process improves new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by 70 percent.  

    Specifically, AI-powered tools can automate the onboarding workflow by performing background checks, generating offer documents, circulating documents such an employee handbook, and providing information on benefits and vacation and sick time policies.

    AI solutions can set up the new hire’s system credentials, verify their permissions are correct for their role, assign a computer, create an email address, and task facilities with preparing a workspace. Orientation meetings and relationship building flow from the solution by identifying the people whom the new employee needs to talk to, setting up welcome coffee dates with colleagues, and scheduling time with senior executives.

  1. Training
    This phase of talent acquisition provides the new staff member with the information he needs to perform his job. Some of the training will consist of a company overview that includes the history, mission, and structure of the organization, and some will be specific to the role or department of the new team member.

    AI-driven applications greatly simplify the talent acquisition training process and augment the in-person orientation provided by the employee’s manager and colleagues. These solutions make it easy to personalize training for each individual, and the system can deliver video or other online learning, freeing HR staff time.

    AI-customized modules can cover seniority-related company policies on remote working, performance review, confidentiality requirements, benefits including stock options and wellness programs, and role-specific training such as objectives, KPIs, and resources. AI chatbots can answer routine questions.

  1. Retention and Talent Management
    Given the time and cost invested in acquiring talent, the TA process seeks to ensure that the new team member performs as hoped and remains with the company. Proper talent management requires making sure the staff member executes his job well, finds personal satisfaction, and has growth opportunities, all dimensions of the employee value proposition (EVP).

    AI excels at several functions related to staff retention and talent development, starting with its role of ensuring the candidate was a good fit for the job in the recruitment phase. AI solutions improve performance management and other aspects of the EVP.

    AI-powered solutions can frequently and seamlessly gather feedback on a staff member’s performance so that reviews do not have to wait for a quarterly or annual cycle. This enables mid-course correction and more regular recognition of superior performance.  Data analytics can pinpoint patterns such as the occurrence of missed deadlines when Bill and Sam collaborate on projects but not when Bill works with Jillian.

    AI solutions for talent development offer personalized modules for career guidance, outreach when new work opportunities match their interests and career goals, customized learning, and help define a career path. IBM says its Watson Career Coach, using a natural language chatbot, reduces turnover and hiring costs, increases employee engagement, and aligns business goals and staff career goals.

    Artificial intelligence also assists by confirming that pay, promotions, and raises are equitable and consistent across teams and departments, and not subject to bias or an executive’s personal preferences. Compensation analytics enable you to keep salaries in line with the market, so that an employee does not leave because she is underpaid.

    AI solutions can also look for signals of poor employee engagement or job hunting. A sudden pattern of late arrivals or negative sentiment word choice in email give you an opportunity to intervene. IBM says its artificial intelligence can predict with 95 percent accuracy when workers are planning to leave and prescribes action to prevent attrition. AI can also remind managers when a staff member is ready for a new challenge or upskilling.

  1. Analytics
    Companies increasingly want to base decisions on data because they have a higher chance of success and reduce the risk of missed opportunities or wasted effort and spending. In talent acquisition, analytics assess the progress of initiatives and correlation with strategic goals and predict actions that will enhance business outcomes.

    AI has revolutionized analytics in talent acquisition. Data collection and analysis once required cumbersome data entry and manual spreadsheets. Now, AI systems make it extremely easy to gather information and apply modeling, algorithms, and analysis though you need staff with the skills to execute and interpret the information.

    According to a study by LinkedIn, the top three ways that companies are using their data are: 56 percent to increase retention, 50 percent to evaluate skills gaps, and 50 percent to build better offers.

    AI solutions can empower you to make data-driven talent decisions based on employee pulse surveys, demographic information, recruitment benchmarks, staff aptitude and assessment data, salary, incentive and promotion trends, performance reviews, retention rates, workforce planning, and more. For example, analytics can help identify causes for attrition, the attributes of the highest-performing employees, which departments will need more staff for a new product launch, and where the biggest skills gaps lie.

What is AI Talent Management?

Talent management refers to your organization’s overarching strategy for recruiting, developing, and retaining top team members. AI in talent management helps companies be more effective by reducing the time spent on low-value administrative work, making recruitment a competitive advantage, and increasing retention.

Talent management reflects a mindset shift from traditional HR in which the focus is on matching candidates to current vacancies and the administrative aspects of pay and benefits.  Fifty-six percent of CEOs and chief human resources officers said in a survey by Harris Interactive that their current talent programs are ineffective. AI has a strong potential to improve those results.

AI enables HR to make smarter decisions and gives staff more time to pay attention to strategic priorities that call for emotional intelligence, such as building culture, employer branding, and aligning hiring with values. Artificial intelligence supports this work by providing actionable data insights.

What is AI Talent Assessment?

AI talent assessments evaluate a candidate’s skills, personality, and attributes better, faster, and more inexpensively than traditional surveys and questionnaires. AI assessments include work simulations, video analysis, psychometric evaluations, and tests of situational judgment.

AI tools can adapt their content mid-assessment based on candidate behavior and can be customized for the hiring parameters of a particular role. AI also automates scoring assessments and seamlessly integrates the results into candidate profiles.

AI assessments can promote diversity efforts because results are more objective and free from bias. Companies that use AI assessments say they increase performance and retention while reducing time and cost to hire.

Examples of AI’s Benefits in Talent Acquisition and Impact on KPIs

While the promise of AI-driven talent acquisition is high, HR leaders are under pressure to show that these solutions can positively impact key performance indicators. Let’s look at some specific examples.

Hilton seamlessly integrated an AI recruiting solution with its applicant tracking system (ATS), so that the hiring process became completely automated with the ATS updated in real time in one workflow. This application increased the offers extended per recruiter each week by 83 percent. Recruiting Director Amber Weaver shares that automated scheduling of offer calls saves 15 minutes of manual work per applicant.

Similarly, convenience store chain Speedway uses AllyO to automate the process of qualifying and scheduling candidates with hiring managers, which previously took six to seven hours a week per manager. Candidate interviews are scheduled in less than five minutes.

Restaurant chain Maggiano’s Little Italy struggled to fill vacant positions in a vibrant job market. When they implemented the AI-powered tool from AllyO the company was able to broaden its audience, automate screening and scheduling, and reduce its time to interview.

AI’s Impact on Talent Acquisition KPIs

Your Guide to AI Talent Acquisition

According to LinkedIn’s survey of recruiters and hiring managers, 67 percent say AI is helping them save time, and 43 percent say it is removing human bias. Fifty-eight percent found AI most helpful when sourcing candidates, 56 percent in screening, and 55 percent in nurturing candidates. Seventy-eight percent of companies are prioritizing diversity to improve culture, LinkedIn found.

How Using AI in the Talent Acquisition Process Impacts KPIs

Use Case

Benefit

KPI Impact

AI driven communication, scheduling with candidates, including via mobile

Better candidate experience, more interviews scheduled in less time

Improved cost, time to hire, higher candidate conversion rate, shorter ramp-up time for new hires

Applicant screening

Better match of candidates to roles, improved diversity

Demographic data, higher ratio of interview to hire, quality of hire metrics

Talent management

Improved employee experience

Reduced turnover, employee satisfaction survey outcomes

Compensation planning

More efficient use of resources, improved tracking of market forces

Employee satisfaction, fewer over- or under-paid staff

Chatbots for employee support

Answers available 24/7 with fewer staff

Higher employee satisfaction scores, lower support costs

Personalized learning

Staff skills align more closely with business needs, better learning outcomes

Higher productivity, more training completed, higher satisfaction ratings for training

Onboarding

Streamline new employee orientation

Reduced turnover, lower labor costs for onboarding, higher productivity and satisfaction among new hires

>>>Schedule a demo to explore AllyO’s recruiting automation chatbot

How AI Enhances Executive Talent Acquisition

When tasked with recruiting strategic talent and senior executives, talent acquisition leaders seek every possible edge, so they are turning to AI. Strategic talent usually refers to executives, staff with unique, pivotal, or in-demand skillsets, and team members tracked for growth into top leadership roles. These people are inundated by recruiters.

AI helps you cultivate, attract, and connect with these individuals as well as develop an enticing opportunity that wins them over. Here are some of the ways that you can apply AI to the challenge of recruiting executives and other key talent:

  • Anticipate Need: Data can help you forecast when to search for a new chief marketing officer based on the pattern of the last three people in that position who stayed an average of 3.3 years. AI can prompt you to begin a search at the right time as well as continuously cultivate future candidates.
  • Build Your Brand: Strategic talent can pick where they work, so the branding process becomes critical. Use artificial intelligence to proactively communicate your company’s mission, workplace, and vision, leveraging channels, including social media.
  • Find What Works: Data analytics can reveal where you got your best previous hires — whether that’s through particular head hunters, internal referrals, or networking.
  • Sell the Job: Craft a compelling, unbiased job description that keeps you open to nontraditional candidates. AI tools optimize job ads to keep them free from bias and suggest words that will motivate the most desirable candidates.
  • Predict Best Fit: AI can suggest an ideal persona for a job based on attributes you define, such as performance in simulations, soft skills, education, authorship of scientific papers, and more. AI goes beyond looking for keywords in a resume and assesses background and experience for the right fit.
  • Foster Relationships: Recruiters and senior staff should be cultivating relationships with strategic talent well before there is an opening. Get to know the individual, stay in touch, and avoid a hard sell. AI frees you from having to remember with whom, when and how to stay in contact by generating reminders and suggesting personalized approaches that are most likely to be well received by the candidate.
  • Get to Them First: AI recruitment helps you find elusive, passive candidates. According to Experteer, 97 percent of senior candidates want to be “found” or “approached” by headhunters. AI tools can expedite the discovery process by probing hidden interests, relevant connections, myriad databases, and social networks. Leverage investors, board members, current staff, school alumni, and more to reach the right candidates.
  • Be Discreet: Strategic candidates are generally overwhelmed by outreach from recruiters and prefer a discreet, personal, and sensitive approach. You will upset talent if you undermine their privacy, so make sure to respect confidentiality. According to Experteer, 87 percent of talent prefer to be contacted through personal email, and a personalized note performs far better than a canned message. AI tools make it easier to find personal email addresses and mine contextual clues from social media and other resources to help personalize your message and choose a language that suits the recipient’s style.
  • Be Transparent: These individuals have a low tolerance for being ghosted or obfuscation around your process. Communicate clearly and regularly with strategic talent. AI-driven workflows remind you to contact the candidate with an update and help you define a clear process that you can convey to the prospective hire.
  • Offer a Superior Candidate Experience: Many companies court the same people, so bring your A-game. AI can help ensure your messaging is on point and consistent, and that you maintain a single person as a point of contact for this strategic candidate. Use AI-scheduling to get candidates facetime with your leaders and show you care about their needs by working around their constraints like a busy travel schedule.
  • Pay Them Right: You will turn off top talent if you low ball a salary offer. Use AI to track compensation trends in the marketplace and your company and use it to suggest the right package. You can also personalize other benefits to create the most compelling offer. For example, AI tools might suggest offering subsidized child care to a parent of young children or tuition reimbursement for an MBA to someone being groomed for leadership.Lou Adler
  • Understand What Makes Them Tick: A strong salary offer is necessary but not enough to attract unique talent and top performers. Recruiter Lou Adler of The Adler Group explains a career move requires at least a 30 percent non-monetary increase in terms of job growth, more satisfying work, and the potential to have more impact. Each individual’s attraction factors will vary, and it’s your job to identify them. Their excitement about the work, the opportunity to have a direct impact on your results, the strength of the team, and your company’s visibility in its industry are often major motivators, especially among younger people.
  • Make the Offer Process Smooth: Don’t annoy your strategic hire before she has even started work with an offer process filled with delays and redundant steps. AI can solve these issues by streamlining background checks, automating approvals, generating a timely offer letter, and more.
  • Be Proactive with Succession Planning: AI succession planning applications can identify and assess people for future leadership roles. These tools can plan personalized learning to help them gain any skills or learning to be ready for those leadership positions. AI-driven performance management can check progress against these development goals and the criteria needed to move into leadership.

Research Findings on AI and Talent Acquisition

As artificial intelligence is rapidly evolving, companies and researchers are seeking to understand its role, limitations, and impact. Research done so far has illuminated some key findings:

  • Timing: Artificial intelligence is making the recruiting process smarter as AI and data analytics give hiring managers a more complete understanding of candidates, a study by Dr. Aruna Deshpande in the Journal of Business and Management found that this dovetails with candidates engaging via mobile devices and receiving tailored responses from chatbots. Another study by Dr. Saundarya Rajesh in the International Journal of Engineering Development and Research said now is the time to adopt AI to gain a competitive edge in recruiting.
  • Barriers: The biggest barriers slowing AI adoption in HR are concerns over cost, privacy, the need for ongoing maintenance and updates, limited data availability because HR departments are more often using SaaS, a talent gap, and a limited set of proven applications, according to EY and the British organization CIPD.
  • Potential: Business executives agree that AI has the potential to reduce repetitive tasks. A PwC survey reported that the categories executives cited with the biggest opportunities were 82 percent paperwork, 79 percent scheduling, 60 percent HR functions like benefits, and 37 percent HR management.
  • Comfort with AI: The recruiting experience is changing. According an Allegis Global survey, 58 percent of job seekers are comfortable interacting with AI apps, and more than 60 percent are pleased to interact with chatbots to answers initial questions.
  • Candidate Quality: AI is helping recruiters source higher quality candidates, according to a survey by Korn Ferry. The survey of 800 talent acquisition professionals found that 63 percent said AI had changed the way they recruit, and 69 percent said AI results in higher-quality candidates. Another survey found that 93 percent of TA professionals said it helps them be successful, and 87 percent said it improved the candidate experience.
  • Job Impact: Fears that AI is displacing staff may be overblown. A CapGemini study found that AI has generated new roles in 80 percent of organizations, and 63 percent had not seen a negative effect on jobs.

 

Challenges in Talent Acquisition Today and How AI Solves Them

Companies and their recruiters face many challenges in acquiring the talent they need to thrive. Organizations that embrace AI-powered technology can distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Top-of-mind hurdles for talent acquisition and how AI addresses:

    • Talent Gap: There is a shortage of people with specific skillsets, especially in technical fields. There’s also a scarcity of candidates with the potential to take on leadership or other strategic roles. AI recruitment identifies passive and hidden candidates and can mine data from nontraditional sources to find specialized talent.
    • Too Much Noise: Recruiters struggle to gain the attention of candidates because of intense competition for top talent and the crush of multi-channel communication. Artificial intelligence applications use contextual clues to suggest the right way and timing to connect with candidates, so you are not adding to the noise. Solutions like AI texting increase your chances of a response.
    • Lack of Diversity: Companies are realizing that a lack of diversity in their workforces is a handicap that hurts growth, public image, and innovation. When trained with unbiased data, AI-driven applications can make sure your job ads are not biased and make screening and selection processes more objective, removing barriers to women and minorities. To learn more about bias challenges in diversity and how artificial intelligence can solve them, read this Building AI to Unlearn Bias in Recruiting.
    • Resource Pressure: HR departments face budget, time, and staff constraints and need to adapt the way they work to maximize efficiency. AI automates manual work, reducing the need for more staff, and freeing time for existing team members to focus on other work, which helps HR become more strategic. Time and cost to hire fall with AI recruitment, and talent acquisition becomes a competitive advantage.

     

    How to Prepare for AI in Talent Acquisition: Cautions and Best Practices

    It’s clear that artificial intelligence can make your talent acquisition process smarter. Many tools are plug and play, so implementation is straightforward. Before diving in, understand some limitations and best practices, so your AI launch goes smoothly.

    • Proceed Carefully: AI requires a lot of clean data to train the systems as well as other preparation. For a complete look at what you need to get your HR and IT operations ready, read this article. The insights gleaned from your AI system will only be helpful if you base them on good data. Properly training an AI system can take six months or more under certain circumstances. Also, the number of HR tech tools has exploded, so be wary of fragmentation and poor user experience resulting from piecing too many standalone tools together. Understand how AI applications will integrate with existing pieces of your tech stack.
    • Temper Expectations: AI automates busy work. Use this time to cultivate connections and ensure you humanize the candidate experience wherever possible. Understand where AI falls short, such as predicting when a person is a good fit for your culture, persuading someone to accept a job offer, and reading emotional clues. Adler says AI recruiting systems are not designed to predict who will accept an offer or whom a hiring manager will like, leaving important decision making to people.
    • Privacy: A strong privacy and ethics policy is a prerequisite for implementing big data solutions. In the survey by CIPD, 35 percent of HR professionals cited ethics as one of their top concerns around AI. Since AI can integrate information from so many data sources, many people fear it will jeopardize their privacy.
    • Exercise Caution: Be cautious with the data you use to train your AI. Any bias already present will become embedded in the system. Question whether the data means what you think. Don’t assume data from one location or group holds true for another. “If you’re not using the right data with AI, you’ll get a lot of garbage. It may be smart garbage, but it’s still garbage,” Adler contends.
    • Beware the “Black Box”: The algorithms behind artificial intelligence are hard to understand and explain, leading some critics to brand AI solutions as black boxes. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation establishes accountability for decisions made by algorithms. There is debate whether the law establishes an individual right to explanation. While there are hurdles to bringing legal challenges, be aware that a lack of transparency can make decisions driven by AI hard to defend and argues for always keeping a human in the loop.

     

    Gain a Competitive Advantage with AI Talent Acquisition Tools

    Recruiting is a popular starting point for artificial intelligence in talent acquisition because of its big potential for efficiency and improvement. To learn how you can reduce time and cost to hire while improving candidate engagement and quality of hire, check out AllyO’s AI recruitment solution. Customers including Avid Budget and Brinker International have discovered how AllyO’s conversational AI helps employers identify more qualified candidates, automate repetitive workflows, and derive actionable insights from data.

    AllyO’s AI automated hiring solution enables conversational job matching across all talent acquisition channels, intelligently qualifies the candidate specifically for the best-fit role, automates interview scheduling and post-interview interactions, drives retention through post-hire check-ins, and gathers actionable insights to improve overall recruiting performance.

    Backed by leading investors such as Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI fund), Randstad Innovation Fund, Sapphire Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Cervin Ventures, and Scale Venture Partners, and used by Fortune 500 enterprises. AllyO customers have experienced a 2-6X increase in applicant capture and conversion rate, 91 percent application completion rate, and over 50 percent reduction in cost and time to hire. Discover how to streamline your recruiting process and create a more productive HR team with AllyO.

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