Candidates Factor AI Use Into Their View of Employers

AI Experience

All the work being done to incorporate AI solutions into recruiting technology isn’t impressing the people who matter most: candidates.

AI ExperienceThat’s what Korn Ferry discovered when it surveyed 431 professionals across a range of industries last month. Essentially, the issues are trust and a desire for a human touch. While 72 percent of the survey’s respondents saw how AI could be useful during the recruitment process, 68 percent said it wouldn’t be fair for AI to select which candidates should be interviewed without input from a human recruiter.

Meanwhile, 76 percent said they trust people more than AI systems to guide them through a job search, while 41 percent are uncomfortable dealing with even advanced technology during the process.

Matt Heckler, Korn Ferry’s general manager for global client platform solutions, said what many recruiting experts have been saying for years: As valuable as AI can be, it’s simply a tool. “The best recruiters use big data and AI to free time by automating tasks such as sourcing,” Heckler said. “This gives the recruiter more time to focus on what matters: creating and filling roles that help organizations fulfill their strategic agenda.”

AI Doesn’t Build Relationships

The great majority of professionals—90 percent—don’t see themselves building strong relationships with technical tools. They understand AI can improve the process by speeding it up and minimizing bias, but need a recruiter to develop a bond with prospective employers.

That’s not going to stop the development of AI-powered recruiting tools, Heckler noted. “As AI continues to become part of our everyday lives, we can expect to see an increase in the adoption and integration of this emerging technology to help talent acquisition professionals,” he said.

Comfort levels aside, a notable number of respondents said they can tell when they’re working with technology rather than a human. For example, during the early stages of the process—such as when they’re exploring their potential interest in a role—25 percent said it’s obvious when they’re interacting chatbots, while 58 percent said they think they can tell.

In response to the statement, “technology cannot replace the human interaction required to recruit effectively,” 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed, while 8 percent disagreed and just 2 percent strongly disagreed. More than half, 52 percent, said they’d prefer to deal with a human recruiter after initial contact is made, and 23 percent said they’d rather deal a human being throughout the entire process. Also, 52 percent said they don’t think automated recruitment works “most of the time,” compared to 35 percent who think it does.

Two last points: Two-thirds of the respondents said they were concerned about AI’s impact on the recruitment process. More than a third (35 percent) said the use of AI in recruitment negatively impacts an employer’s reputation. Forty-two percent said it has no impact and 23 percent said it has a positive impact.


This is the first survey we’ve seen that looks at how candidates perceive the use of AI in recruiting. While most HCM and recruiting solutions providers talk about what they’re doing under the hood, it’s always interesting to see how end users aren’t nearly as enthusiastic as technologists, marketers and analysts. That makes sense, of course, because end users just want their tools to work. As long as they’re usable, accurate, effective and perform at a reasonable speed, they’re happy.

To a large extent, Korn Ferry’s survey simply reinforces this notion. But it hints at something else, as well: Candidates know AI is being used to identify and court them, and they’re skeptical of just how useful it will be if applied to the wrong tasks—like those involved in relationship-building.

When more than three-quarters of professionals say the know or think they know when they’re dealing with a chatbot rather than a person, product designers should pay attention. If they don’t, they may face a situation similar to what we saw with analytics, where HR professionals were under virtual attack for not being data-smart—despite the fact they had little, if any, training with data.

Yet in the last three or so years, HR practitioners have begun to work data into their roles. One big reason is that product teams realized they had to spend more time thinking about presentation and making data understandable to people who had precious little experience with even semi-sophisticated numbers.

The issue here isn’t so much about the use of AI in general as it is about the use of candidate-facing AI. According to Korn Ferry, the great majority of candidates haven’t seen AI-driven improvement in the recruitment process’s speed (74 percent) or quality (83 percent). Of course, we’re somewhat early on in the age of AI, so that may not be surprising. But recruiters, employers and HCM technology vendors should bear in mind that we’re well into the age of the candidate/employee experience, and perception is a large part of experience.

In a tight labor market, candidates know employers are using AI to a greater extent in their recruiting. A significant number are skeptical about its impact, and a majority would rather deal with people than machines. AI is a huge help in screening, but may not be so effective in matching people with cultures. A chatbot whose approach doesn’t feel right to the user may discourage candidates.

From what we can see, the bottom line of Korn Ferry’s survey is that AI isn’t a behind-the-scenes proposition anymore. It’s time to start thinking about its users, and give candidate experience more weight in the design and development process.

Image Copyright: niserin / 123RF Stock Photo

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