If Metaverse chatter dominated 2021 and hype around NFTs and smart contracts gripped 2022 then ChatGPT — an AI-powered chatbot developed by San Francisco-based OpenAI, the artificial research laboratory co-founded by Elon Musk, amongst others — has a fair claim to being 2023’s most talked about technology.
Although consumers and employees have used chatbots for years, ChatGPT is described as differing from its predecessors. Using third version Generative Pre-Training Transformer (GPT-3) technology — in more simple terms, generative AI: tech that generates new things rather than just replicating a trend — OpenAI’s headline-making bot effectively understands human prompts and can follow the evolving arc of a conversation, generating human-like natural language in response.
Even journalists are trying to use it!
What has generative AI got to do with work and HR?
As is often the case with any technology that seemingly breaks new ground, there is a buzz about its impact — especially when it comes to jobs.
It is easy to find negative predictions about generative AI taking (currently) human-occupied positions. Yet, McKinsey, more optimistically, suggest that because at least half of companies are pursuing AI projects it means white-collar workers, at the very least, will have to get used to AI-augmented work. There is even chatter this could boost pay grades and improve the output of lower-performing workers.
And HR is likely going to be keen on this headline-making AI technology: a recent SHRM study found that 88% of businesses worldwide are already using AI in HR whilst UNLEASH’s own research found that ChatGPT is already being used to create training, HR presentations and job specs.
AI and recruitment already have a storied past
In fact, recruitment is already largely AI-enabled, too. This tech is already used to match individuals to vacancies, vet applicants and CVs, create more in-depth candidate profiles, write job descriptions, improve inclusivity, and reduce time spent on recruitment activities, as well as deliver better objectivity and candidate sourcing.
Many are finding it beneficial. Amazon reckons it was able to save 68,124 recruiter hours in one year and reach 300% more candidates using AI whilst dataconomy reporting suggests that 75% of recruiters see a reduction in cost per candidate screen when using AI.
As Ramprakash Ramamoorthy, director of AI research at Zoho Corporations tells UNLEASH: “AI technology has already made a huge impact and now plays a pivotal role in the initial stages of recruitment processes, helping recruiters scan through thousands of CVs faster and more efficiently.”
Generative AI: New but ‘not that new’
Indeed, generative AI has also been used in recruitment technology for years, says Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior research adviser at the CIPD — assisting with everything from generating job advert templates to shortlisting candidates to answering questions from candidates. She’s cautiously optimistic about its potential future evolution and impact, too.
“Generative AI has the potential to reduce the time and effort that recruiters need to spend on tasks, freeing up time to do other things, and interactions with generative AI can feel like a conversation with a person,” she says.
In fact, it is Mohdzaini’s view that further rollout of ChatGPT-supported technology will likely make it easier for recruiters and employers to use generative AI by lowering the barriers to entry. And at least one rec tech vendor is keen on experimenting in this space.
hireEZ, the end-to-end rec tech firm, has already announced that it is rolling out a ChatGPT-powered product that aims to drive efficiencies by allowing recruiters to auto-populate tailored emails based on job descriptions and work more effectively at scale with multiple applicants.
Talking about the new product, Steven Jiang, CEO at hireEZ, said that: “Our goal is to make sure the technology works efficiently, and ethically, for both companies and job candidates. Any recruiter today will tell you they feel like they are doing the job of five people. We envision a future where AI can help one recruiter easily do the job of 10.”
The ChatGPT recruitment ‘revolution’
With time-saving top of the list of benefits that proponents of ChatGPT-powered rec tech say it can drive, Jiang adds that generative AI is a tool that individual recruiters can mold to their specific needs, pushing recruiting to “unexpected” levels of personalization.
“I think generative AI will feel more user-driven [than traditional AI] and recruiters will directly see the technology working for them as they engage with job seekers…and create efficiencies that change how they work forever,” says hireEZ’s CEO.
Similarly, Jason Heilman, SVP of automation and AI at Bullhorn, believes the marriage of ChatGPT and recruitment technology can be “revolutionary” by driving efficiencies and improving operations.
“ChatGPT could really change the game and has suddenly made generative AI accessible and more human, enabling recruiters to add context to their prompts more effectively and it will help junior recruiters in producing higher-quality work, saving valuable time for senior recruiters,” he says.
For Dr Lindsey Zuloaga, chief data scientist at HireVue, the sophistication of generative AI means it feels “more special” than previous AI recruitment tools. However, she believes the most interesting developments generative AI could drive are in human processes and in providing a better hiring context.
“Some particular areas of interest for me are helping people understand jobs and skills better, including how skills may transfer between roles, and helping us interview better (both interviewers and interviewees),” she says.
ChatGPT: ‘Nothing more than recruitment’s Alexa’
However, many are pointing out the ceiling of where ChatGPT is able to operate to.
Multiple commenters report that it can produce factual inaccuracies — with one AI expert saying it can “overconfidently hallucinate” — whilst one of OpenAI’s founders said the technology is “incredibly limited”. Others point out that it draws on an already out-of-date data set though there is already excitement for the next version of the GPT software.
When it comes to recruitment Zoho’s Ramamoorthy isn’t sure that ChatGPT will amount to anything more than an enhanced version of a personal assistant like Alexa, though he believes by-and-large AI will have a long future of use in recruitment.
“Large Language Models like ChatGPT can assist both candidates and recruiters during the recruitment process, and help recruiters spot candidates who are solely using AI to craft CVs and covering letters, through their ability to summarise, translate, predict and generate.
“However, I expect ChatGPT to not make any major dents in the way recruitment tools work,” he adds.
Others have tested how ChatGPT performs when it writes job ads, a cited benefit of the technology. When Textio, an inclusivity software developer, did this they found the technology needs specific inputs to create decent output and although its production doesn’t often display inherent bias it can use language that has been found to put off ethnic minorities. Furthermore, it will respond to racially prohibitive or exclusive prompts.
Crucially, Textio found that without human intervention, ChatGPT recruitment text doesn’t convey the soul or purpose of a business well. As such, Kieran Snyder, co-founder, and CEO at Textio wrote about their tests:
“The most important insight of the ChatGPT experiment with job posts: just because a document is well-written — it sounds professional, it’s grammatical, it’s not overtly offensive — doesn’t mean it will work for you.”
As such, many in recruitment think that whatever task ChatGPT is used for, most likely outreach and writing candidate emails will still need human oversight. As Kimberly Maucher-Lynch, head of talent acquisition sales EMEA at Workday says: “It is crucial to remember that technology cannot and will not replace the human element in hiring. Recruitment is ultimately a people-centric activity, and human beings will always have an important place in that process.”
Ethics, ethics, ethics
Textio’s test of ChatGPT’s job ad writing, and Jiang’s mention of ethics when announcing hireEZ’s ChatGPT-powered product rollout, also hint at some of the regulatory and ethical worries regarding the technology’s implementation as a recruitment tool.
Firstly, Alistair Dent, chief strategy officer at Profusion adds that the technology could easily replicate bias in datasets used to train it. “Whilst generative AI can be used to create more inclusive job descriptions, find information on roles and salary, generate interview questions, and enable the automation of emails with candidates it is only as good as how it was designed and the data it was used to train on.
“If you have biased data — for example a track record of only hiring people from a certain background — an algorithm may amplify this preference to the point that it discriminates against more promising applicants,” he adds.
CIPD’s Mohdzaini adds that recruiters need to ensure that what ChatGPT-technology creates is legal, unbiased, and accurate and that there is always the risk that it produces inappropriate outcomes. “Critics have also questioned whether the data collected from the internet to train ChatGPT to comply with data protection regulations on the right for individuals to have their personal data erased,” she adds.
In addition, Bullhorn’s Heilman warns that currently legislation also prohibits ChatGPT from being used in hiring decisions but using it to save time in communications should be fine. “Recruiters will still need to intervene to ensure quality and accuracy, strike the right balance, and add a personal touch to avoid making candidates feel like they’re being spoken to by AI,” he says.
So, is ChatGPT actually a revolution?
It begs the question, is ChatGPT going to change the face of recruitment technology?
Whilst it is clear that many experts believe it can have clear time-saving utility and can also be used to improve inclusivity, personalization, and improve hiring outcomes, most are warning it still needs human oversight. As Profusion’s Dent tells UNLEASH: “ChatGPT may be very impressive but it’s a long way from the finished product. This is why we must always keep the human in HR. The process must be subject to oversight.”
And although there is understandable excitement about ChatGPT’s ability to create a more universal use for generative AI in recruitment and HR — building on the already positive use of all types of AI in recruitment technology — Bullhorn’s Heilman warns that recruiters needs to be aware that AI is still operating on a changing landscape.
“It’s still early days, so regulations are likely to change. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take a measured approach to mitigate risk and ensure that recruiters are well-positioned to take advantage of all the new developments that are sure to come in the future,” he adds.
This appears to be the key takeaway: ChatGPT is more of an evolution than a revolution and requires a similarly cautious approach from HR and recruiters, who must iteratively use it with careful structures around it.
Yes, it has made headlines and, yes, the experts feel it has clear utility but it is only building on technology already used and, as ever, any misuse or corner-cutting is fraught with danger.
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