Recruitment automation is not a new concept. Recruiters and HR professionals have been using automation technology since the late 1990s, mostly in the form of applicant tracking systems. Two decades later, automation seems more popular than ever – applicant tracking systems are widely used, they come packed with better features, and are able to integrate with emerging automation tools such as recruitment chatbots.

But even in their most advanced incarnation, recruitment automation tools are a mixed bag when it comes to their benefits. The fact that they are so widely used attests to their usefulness. But does that usefulness extends to job applicants as well as the recruiters is a different question. As are the tradeoffs that come from using algorithms for jobs usually performed by humans. So let’s dive into the pros and cons of automation in recruitment.

The Pros of Recruitment Automation

Recruitment automation comes with a promise that it will make recruitment easier by automating some of the most labor-intensive and tedious tasks recruiters usually do. An applicant tracking system can, for example, post jobs, sort, and store job applications, and create and grade applicant profiles. Other types of software, such as chatbots, can handle some of the communication with applicants. All in all, recruitment automation is beneficial in several ways.

  • It saves time and money. Probably the strongest selling point of recruitment automation is that it saves time, and consequently money. Automation software not only takes care of job posting and application storage, it can also scan the applications and resumes and determine which ones fit the job description, and which don’t. This means that recruiters can spend less time finding a good candidate for each open position, which makes recruitment more cost-efficient.
  • It increases efficiency. Most of the metrics used to measure the efficiency of recruitment process deal with costs, time, and quality. Automation can affect all three. While it can definitely save the time and money, as previously explained, it can also increase the quality of recruitment by allowing recruiters to quickly search databases of applicants according to very specific criteria, ensuring a good fit.
  • It can boost applicant engagement. Applicant engagement has always been a sore spot for recruiters. The introduction of chatbots is aiming to revolutionize how recruiters and applicants interact, keeping applicants engaged throughout the whole recruitment process.
  • It can improve applicant experience. Speaking of sore spots, if there’s one thing applicants don’t like about recruitment it’s when they are not notified about the process. Latest automation solutions take care of this and keep the applicants posted and up to date.
  • It improves at a faster rate than non-automated recruitment. The latest advancements in recruitment are not coming from the human recruiters but from the automation field. A decade or so ago, application tracking software was little more than just a depository for job applications. Now it comes with advanced search and grading options. Communication with candidates was always a problem, but new tools are created to handle it.

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The Cons of Recruitment Automation

But for all of the good it can do, recruitment automation has often enough been a target for criticism. And that wasn’t only the case in its early days – even with all the advancements that came from artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data, recruitment automation in general, and applicant tracking systems in particular, are commonly under fire from the critics. And the critics have more than a few fair points.

  • Issues with accuracy and reliability. Automation tools are far from being perfect. Applicant tracking systems have a major fault – they are easily confused by non-standard formatting options. Some applicant tracking systems might fail to scan applications simply due to an unorthodox style of bullet points used in the application. An applicant can follow a very good guide on writing resumes, like the one published by HandMadeWritings, but still be disqualified by a tracking system for no good reason.
  • Preference of formulaic resumes. Applicants can have atypical work experience and still be a great fit for a position. However, it would take a human recruiter to make that decision, and it’s very unlikely that such a resume would pass through an ATSs gauntlet and appear in front of a recruiter. This can greatly reduce the diversity of hires.
  • Keyword dependence has inherited problems. Applicants who know how ATSs work can easily include keywords and trick the system into seeing them as a good fit for a position, even though if they’re not. At the same time, applicants who would be a good fit can be dismissed because they either aren’t aware of how keywords work, or the keywords themselves were poorly set.

Recruitment automation presents an opportunity for recruiters to streamline the recruitment process and make it more enjoyable for both themselves and the applicants. However, recruiters should be on the lookout for new software that fixes some of the mistakes and shortcomings of currently available automation tools. As more advances are made, using legacy automation software will become increasingly damaging to recruiters’ efforts to find good talent in a timely and cost-effective manner.


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