The Tech Disruption Series: RecruitTech

Fora’s latest panel series takes a look at the technology that’s transforming traditional industries as we know them. For the latest instalment and podcast recording, the spotlight fell on the recruitment industry and the tech that’s making traditional recruitment a thing of the past.

Three disruptors in the arena joined a live audience at Fora – Borough for the hour-long discussion hosted by tech broadcaster and presenter of The Gadget Show, Georgie Barrat.

Hung Lee’s career matching platform aims to add a visual and more human element to CVs and job descriptions; Katerina Pascoulis, CEO of Personably, streamlines the employee onboarding process for fast-moving companies; and Raoul Tawadey’s connects companies with software engineers using AI and machine learning.


Combine the expertise of the three panellists with the pertinent nature of this discussion for many in the recruitment industry, and you get a highly informative and compelling conversation addressing the questions of the moment in recruitment.
Will AI change the face of recruitment? For anyone who has worked in or simply been involved with recruitment of any kind, this is a pressing question. Video interview software HireVue already uses AI for facial, voice and body language matching, completely cutting out human interaction during the first stage of candidate screening. So where does the traditional recruitment agent sit in all of this?
The panellists agreed that the human aspect of recruitment is still important. Raoul’s business uses AI and machine learning to match developers to suitable jobs, but even so he employs a team of talent managers. After running into problems when was fully automated, the talent managers are there to ‘empower’ and assist candidates, particularly when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for – an emotional task that machines haven’t mastered just yet.
Katerina Pascoulis has reservations about AI and diversity in hiring: “There’s lots of opportunity for bias if we’re letting algorithms judge people”, yet Hung Lee pointed out that bias has always existed in recruitment, long before the advent of AI. He states candidates’ interests have always come in second to the interests of the paying client company, suggesting that this is, in fact, the area where the biggest disruption is needed. For now, it looks like consultants are here to stay and Raoul summed up the panel’s views towards AI in stating “tech should automate the menial things … [but] consultants are a definite value-add. Humans enable candidates to be their best”. The AI products currently on the market are changing the ‘discovery’ process for candidates, but after this first phase, recruiters still need to step in to complete the process.
How will Brexit affect jobs in the UK?
“It’s a terrible mistake” says Hung Lee who believes the decision to leave the EU cuts off a significant talent pool of highly skilled people. “We assume the talent is here already [but] no serious economist supports that view”, for instance Hung outlines how 50 percent of software engineers in London are non-UK citizens.
Raoul believes UK-based companies are set to have a much harder time now that they are competing for talent with their international counterparts. Based on the increased competition, companies will simply move to other European cities where migration policies mean the talent pool is free to exist. Katerina gives the example of Revolut which is currently applying for a licence to operate in Luxembourg to mitigate any Brexit fallout. Although the panel unanimously felt quite strongly that Brexit would have some fairly detrimental effects on business and the UK job market, some positives have already come from the decision: Perhaps contrary to the reasons many people voted ‘leave’, more companies than ever are willing to offer Visa sponsorship for international workers. Linked to this, Brexit is forcing companies to “radically rethink” and become much more proactive in their recruitment efforts, building a pipeline of good candidates rather than practicing ‘just in time’ recruitment. Raoul believes platforms like Beamery, which applies a traditional CRM model to recruitment, will be useful here as businesses begin to to engage a wider, long-term pool of talent.


Is the gig economy here to stay?

In short, yes. Tech has been the enabler for the rise of the gig economy – “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work”. People now demand much more flexibility from their work which has, alongside the sheer volume of online jobs board, given rise to more specialist job sites like Florence.

Florence helps self-employed nurses find shifts online, a model which Katerina believes we’ll come to see in many more sectors: “Everyone at some point will become self-employed… [we will] build a portfolio of varied work and gig is the beginning of that. We’ll now start to see it in areas like management consultancy. Everyone will be freelance”.

Hung Lee sees this increased demand for flexibility as another reason why employers will need to apply a longer-term approach to their recruitment, perhaps engaging people for smaller packets of work. “Humans, teams and jobs are all dynamic, but this is not reflected in current recruitment practices”. At the moment recruiters have a very permanent ‘yes/no’ decision but we need to see a move away from this dichotomy towards different types of temporary hiring.

All things and technology considered, the panel agreed that the biggest disruption needed to help recruitment players embrace and deal with the encroaching upheaval in their industry, is a shift towards the interest of the candidate. Whether it’s accomplished by technology, human beings or, most likely, a combination of the two, the person and their preferences must now be placed at the centre of the process. This shift will bring the best results for candidates, recruiters and recruiting companies alike in a time when nothing seems certain.