Being in a situation where I’m weighing an AI solution vs a human resource seems like a Sci-Fi storyline, right? Well, lo and behold, it’s a decision I’m going to have to make as my search firm – Pinpoint Search Group – expands.
As an executive recruiter, part of my job is to keep up on hiring trends. In my industries of focus (Cyber Security and Cloud), along with pretty much every other vertical, there’s been a debate on how automation and AI will impact jobs – near term and long term. Here are some stats for perspective:
- PwC predicts up to 38% of U.S. jobs could be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s. (source)
- Machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022. (source)
- Nearly 50% of all companies are expecting their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 due to automation, but 40% are expecting to extend their workforce and more than 25% are expecting automation to create new roles in the enterprise. (source)
The Scenario Leading to the AI Solution vs Human Resource Debate
As a headhunter, I advise employers and candidates on critical staffing and career decisions. So, until recently, I’ve absorbed the concept of automation and AI displacing humans from the standpoint of a consultant. Now, as it’s time to plan for Pinpoint Search Group’s expansion, I’ve been presented with a choice: hire a full-time employee or utilize a service boasting an AI solution that optimizes performance for recruitment firms.
AI Solution Service Highlights
- Provides a candidate sourcing resource (a human)
- Utilizes available online profile data to automate custom personalized messaging for candidate outreach
- Includes a bot for personable scheduling
The Decision-Making Process: AI Solution vs Human Resource
The AI solution has a compelling value proposition, so in deciding which way to go, my partner and I assessed three variables.
- What is the cost of investing in an AI solution vs a human resource?
- How will our decision affect Pinpoint’s value proposition to vendors and professionals in the Cyber Security and Cloud markets?
- What impact will our decision have on our firm’s long-term growth plan?
Cost of AI Solution vs a Human Resource
Investing in an entry level employee would roughly cost the same amount as the AI solution which provides a human researcher, a platform to create automated personalized messaging and an interactive scheduling bot. With the costs being essentially the same, we analyzed the pros and cons associated with each decision.
AI Solution Pros
- Saves us time with scheduling and messaging.
- Reliable visibility into what we’re getting.
- Will not have to focus valuable time on training a new employee.
- Avoid all the unpredictable variables that come with hiring a human.
Human Resource Pros
- A human employee can be trained in the Cyber Security and Cloud markets whereas the candidate sourcing resource associated with the AI platform isn’t specialized.
- The employee is 100% Pinpoint’s resource; no need to worry about how busy the AI platform’s researcher is and if they’re dedicating enough time to our searches.
- Hiring a human increases the potential for scaling our firm as they gain experience.
Now, we’re not naïve enough to think that investing in the human is full proof. Being a recruiter may not suit our new employee. Or they may have unforeseen family priorities that they’ll need to choose over our company. That said, for the same cost, the upside potential of investing in a human is more appealing than the AI solution.
Cyber Security and Cloud vendors are requesting our recruitment services at an increasingly rapid clip. This is a good “problem” and I believe the success is due to strict adherence to our core recruitment value of genuine interactions. So, in discussions with my co-founder, we evaluated whether a human or an AI platform would fit with our “people first” approach.
As is outlined in my blog Applying Buying Habits to your Recruitment Strategy, personalization is a core demand for any buyer, including a candidate. So, to a certain extent, the automated personalization offered by the AI platform struck a chord. On the other hand, having an algorithm pull information from a LinkedIn page and create a targeted message doesn’t seem like true personalization.
Our genuine interaction methodology is geared towards breaking down barriers that have been erected to block out the noise. In competitive markets like Cyber Security and Cloud, technology pros are weary and wary of recruiters. In addition to the general spam we’ve all come to expect in life, like robocalls, technology pros are being bombarded by headhunters. And, more often than not, the opportunities recruiters are bombarding tech pros with aren’t even relevant to the career path the candidate is on.
Pinpoint’s hands-on approach, from the initial outreach and through the interview process, is critical to building genuine trust. Relinquishing true personalization to automation seems disingenuous and could corrode the very core competencies that generated our success in the first place.
Longer Term Considerations
After considerable hustle, Pinpoint Search Group is close to closing out it’s first fiscal year. There have been more ups than downs which we’re grateful for; now it’s time to strategize for 2020 and beyond. Looking back at everything, my partner and I both recognize that time, or lack thereof, is the primary barrier to servicing more customers and filling a higher volume of searches. Bottom line: If we want to increase billings and revenue, we need to add resources.
As I alluded to when analyzing the cost differences, the AI solution in its current form is a stagnant resource. The service will add to our ever-growing database of contacts and save us time on candidate outreach, but it will not matriculate like a human. A human, over time, has the potential to learn recruiting fundamentals. They will become increasingly proficient with presentations and customer acquisition techniques.
If Pinpoint is fortunate enough to identify, attract and land a human employee with enough ambition and grit to recruit at a high level, chances of scaling our search firm increase exponentially. For that reason, hiring a human – with all the quirks that come with dealing with people – is more appealing than acquiring an AI solution that will generally provide measurable and predictable results.
I am not against automation or AI and believe Pinpoint will ultimately utilize the technology in some form sooner than later. For different businesses and processes, AI is a wonderful option. Forrester, for example, predicts cognitive technologies (robots, AI, machine learning, automation) will replace 16% of U.S. jobs by 2025. Those however will mostly be office and admin support staff that perform repeatable functions which can be programmed. (source)
For the recruitment business, an industry that exists to broker human interactions and impacts livelihoods, it’s my humble opinion that a genuine human touch is needed. Every person is different and has their own priorities and goals. Identifying those goals and matching them to those of an employer is not (yet) programmable.
Pinpoint Search Group is an executive search firm that recruits leaders and builds teams in the Cyber Security, Cloud and RPA markets.