These were the two main topics of discussion at a meeting organised by the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) on 10th July at the CBI headquarters, London and attended by businesses representing almost every sector across the recruitment industry.

AI: hype or reality?

First up was Jonny Gifford, senior advisor for organisational behaviour at the CIPD. In his presentation Gifford highlighted the key findings of the CIPD’s recent research report People and Machines which attempts to unpick the hype from the reality surrounding the impacts of AI and automation in UK workplaces. He also shared his extensive knowledge of this rapidly evolving technology, including its likely impact on the recruitment/candidate selection process.

Overall, the findings showed that AI and automation were radically shaping work and jobs, making jobs more skilled and interesting and creating better, more fulfilling jobs for employees. One of the key findings showed that whilst automation would result in 40% of jobs being eliminated, on the other hand it would create 43% new jobs.  However, it  wasn’t clear from the research was who would benefit from this net increase in jobs as there was no evidence that those losing their job would have the skills to migrate over to the new ones.

Gifford concluded that although there are positive opportunities in AI and automation and despite the significant impact these technologies are having on the workforce, the people professions, including HR and recruitment are often the least likely to be involved in decision-making and implementation for these new technologies.

End of the traditional recruitment business?

So, will AI lead to the demise of the traditional recruitment business?

In the discussion that followed many of the recruiters attending confirmed that they were increasingly using aspects of machine automation within their business, such as ID and DBS checking software, CV checking and ‘scraping’ potential candidate information from LinkedIn and job board. However, all felt that the day when a ‘machine’ would conduct and select a candidate were a long way off. As the CEO of one recruitment company put it, recruitment is a people-orientated industry and the process of interviewing candidates face-to-face, not only helps to verify factual information about a candidate, it crucially enables the interviewer to assess important soft skills, ensuring that a good match with the organisational needs of the hirer.

Choosing a recruitment CRM system

Focussing on a practical aspect of automation, Walter Lourens, director at Sabre Management Services Ltd talked about the labour management processes and factors to consider when choosing recruitment software.

Lourens began by pointing that by the end of 2018, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software revenues overtook database management systems to become the largest of all software markets and this trend is unlikely to change as companies invest more in CRMs to become GDPR compliant.

Don’t let CRM systems guide your business

Despite this rapid growth, recruiters heard that there is not a great deal of theoretical or empirical evidence for what recruitment software can do and that the growth in the market has been technologically led. In addition, there is often a lack of transparency around both the suitability and cost of CRM systems. The first rule therefore was software should augment your recruitment business not guide it’s future development.

Enhances marketing

Rule two was to ensure that the CRM software would support connectivity to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as this would enhance the marketing functions of your business and increase your social media profile.

Streamlining of data collection

Rule three is that the recruitment software should be able to receive applications from a wide range of sources such as job boards and a company’s own website and incorporate the information as part of your on-boarding process.  However, a word of caution was raised about the GDPR implications of storing and holding extensive information about a candidate or agency worker.

Check for extra costs  

Rule four was to be wary of outlaying huge sums upfront a CRM system.  Although may CRM software companies are increasingly moving towards a monthly subscription based model, Lourens warned that additional fees come in many formats including per user, storage utilised, licence fees, on-boarding, training etc.  Exit fees can also be additional cost, so make sure you have all the relevant information, before making a decision.

Engage employees

Lourens concluded with a word of advice to senior management and said that paradoxically automation raises important questions about the desired outcome. He said that a lack of employee engagement from the outset is perhaps the biggest barrier to the successful implementation of CRM software.

November’s network meeting

Looking ahead, we’ve got two great presentations lined up for November’s network meeting on Wednesday 11th at the CBI headquarters, London. Peter Lappin, legal consultant at Lawspeed will explain how to protect your fees, deal with disputes and back door hires.  Lee Manning, partner at Raffingers will be talking about how to successfully transform and grow your recruitment business, including the complexities of sales, mergers and acquisitions.

For full details and how to book, visit