Long a fixture of science fiction, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is today a matter of science fact. But as this new technology works its way into our lives, the voices we often see amplified in the media are those most concerned about its potentially negative impact on society.
For instance, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have all spoken publicly of potential threats to society posed by AI. When reports recently emerged that a pioneer of self-driving car technology had established a nonprofit religious organization to “…develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence,” the resulting coverage reinforced the image of AI as something strange and alien.
However, behind these dramatic headlines is a technology with highly practical applications. When it comes to the world of work, AI is already changing the way people hire and search for jobs. At its best, it offers new possibilities for tackling the problems people face in their professional and personal lives today.
The UK government recently published a major review of the UK’s AI industry to better understand the scale of those possibilities. The report, Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry, looked at how it can bring major social and economic benefits – from improving healthcare to boosting productivity – and predicted it could unlock £630 billion for the economy.
The size of the prize is clear. But the real measure of AI’s impact for our industry is in what job seekers think and whether they, as well as employers, are feeling the benefits. Is the current, negative narrative around automation manifesting in cautious job seeker attitudes to these new technologies? Or is there an appetite for more?
We conducted a study of 2,000 Britons to better understand their attitudes and how Indeed can do more to harness AI to make job searches easier and simple for candidates. Here’s what we found.
Job seekers think robots can help their career, not kill it
News features about robots ”stealing jobs” are now a commonplace. Just last week UK newspapers reported on research from Mace that more than half a million jobs in the construction industry could be lost to automation.
Yet, despite this anxious rhetoric about the “rise of robots”, we found that the majority of people are not worried that robots will steal their jobs. In fact, 58% of people feel confident that their role will not be affected by automation.
Of course, that still leaves a number of people who are less confident. But perhaps what is most striking is that we found evidence of enthusiasm for machine learning in recruitment. A third of respondents told us they would be happy to take career advice from a robot and think it would increase their chances of finding a job.
In short, many people want to see more AI, not less.
Job search assistance tops Brits preferred uses for automation
Whatever anxieties may persist elsewhere, many Britons clearly perceive that AI could help, rather than hinder their job hunting efforts.
In fact, they are more positive about AI in job search than in other other areas of their lives. We found that more than a third of people are more comfortable to receive job search support from a robot – more so than seeing these new technologies used for news reporting, healthcare support or self-driving vehicles.
So what is driving this job seeker enthusiasm for AI in hiring? British job seekers are ready for a change. They are turning to AI because of its ability to overcome the common challenges they currently face in finding a job.
Job seekers are recognising and valuing the ability of AI to remove discrimination and bias from the hiring process. More than a third of people (35%) think AI will help remove bias from the recruitment process and make it fairer.
For younger jobseekers, there’s an even greater appetite to see robots play a role. Half of (48%) those under 35 believe that automation will help make recruitment less biased and as many as a third (36%) think removing humans from the process entirely will solve the problem.
When you consider that almost half of job seekers also told us that they or someone they know has experienced unconscious bias, you can grasp the scale of the benefits this technology can bring.
Simplifying job search
Thanks to the power of the internet, job seekers today have unprecedented access to job information. But we know that bigger isn’t always better. Almost half (45%) of applicants reported that there is too much choice and more than a third (38%) said the process of finding and applying for jobs takes up too much of their time.
This helps us understand another reason why candidates are more positive about AI-driven hiring.
AI is helping those candidates who currently find job searches too overwhelming and too time-consuming. Algorithms and automation can simplify the process and refine millions of jobs based on experience, location and skills, giving jobseekers back the time to make human connections with the recruiter, management and future co-workers.
Personalising searches to be more effective
Finally, it is making job searches more effective. With 41% of jobseekers reporting that roles they were presented with were not relevant or tailored to their experience, artificial intelligence is able to use data sets to produce a more personalised shortlist for searchers.
At Indeed, for instance, we use job seeker behaviour to train our machine learning algorithms to predict if a job is a reasonable candidate based on commute times and local geography. By monitoring jobs clicked on by seekers the platform can learn where people desire a job relative to their search location. Without knowing train schedules or commute times or bridge locations, user behaviour will guide where jobs are most likely a good fit.
Humans will remain at the heart of hiring
AI can help identify the best potential hires out of millions of CVs, but the final decision relies on human connections.
No one would buy a house based on a Right Move posting. Potential buyers have to walk in and decide if they can and want to live there. The same logic applies to finding a job or candidate.
AI can bring job seeker and employer together, but making the decision on whether the fit is right remains a very human endeavour.
What does all this mean for the labour market?
With technological change and political uncertainty posing challenges to the labour market, it’s essential that job seekers are equipped with the best chances of finding the right matches. And this, of course, is not only important solely for candidates, but for companies and the economy also.
For candidates, it means easier, quick job searches to find the best fit roles for them. Saving time on the applications means more time to focus on the rest of the recruitment process.
For employers, using recruiting technology powered by AI, can give back search time. This means they can focus on making human connections, instilling trust and inspiring the loyalty needed to attract and retain employees in today’s rapidly changing world.
And when job seekers and companies are better aligned—with people landing the jobs best for them, and employers saving time and making better matches, the results for everyone will be better.
It’s true that AI poses difficult questions for all of us. But if we learn how to use it thoughtfully and strategically rather than fear it, this will help us develop a world in which we can all explore the opportunities it offers. The good news? Many UK job seekers already have a foot in that future world. Let’s make sure that we join them there.
Methodology: 2,005 people were surveyed for Indeed in October 2017 by Censuswide.