Five Questions with Mark Reilly

Mark Reilly headshot 2 (1)My favorite part of HR conferences is getting the opportunity to interact with some fantastic HR pro’s. Many have said that they are looking forward to Mark Reilly, Indeed’s Director Employee Insights for APAC, talk about the human side of work and assuage any fears one may have of machines taking over the world. I struck gold when Mark agreed to answer a few questions as prepped for the conference. Let’s take a sneak peak into what he had to say.

Q: Let’s start with the basics. Will machines replace humans? Is the threat of technological unemployment real?

Mark: In time to come many tasks traditionally performed by humans will be automated. This is likely to have a major disruptive impact on the labour market, and could change the face of the modern workforce significantly. The most promising careers for the future will be those that complement the work of new technologies or which rely heavily on “human” qualities, such as social interaction or creativity, that cannot be easily replicated by a computer.

This offers great opportunities but will prove disruptive for certain segments of the labour market. For instance, news organisations are already using algorithms to write business stories and sports updates, and previously safe occupations, such as accountants and underwriters, will come under pressure from the next round of automation.

With more than 200 million unique visitors per month globally, Indeed has a front row seat for these changes, able to see exactly which jobs are out there and which skills are in demand. Younger Indians should keep automation in mind as they choose their future career path. Choosing a job that is protected from automation may have a dramatic impact on their long-term prospects.

When it comes to hiring, AI can help identify the best potential hires out of millions of resumes, but the final decision relies on human connections. AI can bring job seeker and employer together, but making the decision on whether the fit is right remains a very human endeavor. Recruiting technology powered by AI gives recruiters back the time to make human connections, instill trust, and inspire the loyalty needed to attract and retain employees in today’s rapidly changing world.

Q: Driving a car, making medical diagnosis and identifying a bird at a fleeting glimpse are all activities that leading economists thought couldn’t be automated. Yet today, all these tasks are automated. What makes human judgment essential when machines promise to deliver the same without judgment?

Mark: Machines do many things well, but coming up with new and surprising ideas is not (yet) one of them. Creative professions which focus on the complex interplay of ideas, words and images with shared cultural and social values are likely to survive the rise of the machines. For instance, digital marketing has recently experienced growth and will most likely continue to do so – especially in high-potential markets where it is still underdeveloped.

AI goes a long way towards helping people find the right job by contributing towards the prediction, personalization and protection of jobs through the right algorithm.  It can predict which jobs are the best fit for a job query, personalize the job search results, and protect job seekers from redundant and fraudulent activity during the job search process. Working together with human supervision, algorithms can fill in the blanks that often exist in the job descriptions. It can predict salaries, classify unusual job titles and make many other predictions to show only relevant jobs to jobseekers. However, even as it works to overcome human bias, it often falls short of identifying distinguishing criteria that make for special cases, such as a differently-abled candidate, for example.

Q: Are machines better at discrimination than human beings?

Mark: AI can carry out a wide range of recruiting and HR-related tasks, which is an important requirement in today’s world. It can also help reduce human bias. Given the number of evaluations with so many candidates and multiple different language specialists not only places a strain on resources, it also introduces a lot of subjectivity into the process. Instead, by using AI-powered language proficiency assessments, a far more efficient and less stressful process can be put in place, liberating employers to focus on the human side of hiring.

The current capabilities rely on human beings to apply and use that technology and ensure that everything runs smoothly. But there’s more to it than that: no matter how advanced the technology gets, recruiting will remain a fundamentally human activity. Even as AI continues to make significant advances, it is never going to replace human recruiters. Rather it will enhance and improve their work. The role of AI is to free up more time for recruiters, so they can place more focus on the human relationships that make them great at what they do.

Q: Human beings are highly irrational. What makes ‘humanness’ a quality worth having? Or are we better, without?

Mark: Given the changing industry scenario, some of the world’s leading firms are looking towards AI and Machine Learning (ML) as a means to simplify operations. While this is by no means a small advantage, there remain certain gaps that technology cannot bridge. These lie in the realm of creativity and innovation, areas that are uniquely human in conception and design. The intricate play of thoughts and ideas, conditioned in spheres of social and personal experience is something that technology is a long way from achieving. Even as AI learns to mimic human behavioural patterns, there emerge anomalies and newer concepts for it to grasp. Despite analysing reams of data, there continue to be exceptions to the rule, when it comes to human behaviour. Therefore, AI can never replace the sensitivity and sensibility of humans.

While it has the potential to be embedded into every product in the recruiting field, be it for employees or recruiters; it is worth mentioning at this point that AI, despite its tremendous scope for application, cannot entirely perform recruitment, which is ultimately a process driven by human cognition and connection.

Q: Hiring is one space where we witness the largest technological leaps. Prior to this, those involved in the hiring process have been human beings yet the candidate experience has more or less been far from where it should be. If people were doing a rubbish job at it for so long, maybe machines can do it better? What say?

Mark: Today, AI is helping transform the hiring landscape with its ability to improve job description categorization by finding and extracting critical criteria in postings and feeding it to higher level AI algorithms in order to identify the most relevant jobs for job seekers.  This helps save a lot of critical time and streamlines the candidate skill evaluation process. In addition, AI can, in the long run, help curb attrition rates by ensuring job seekers find the right job match according to an accurate reading of their skill sets. However, despite being able to process and monitor job seeker behavior patterns, AI still falls short of the be all and end all of hiring. The human factor continues to be a key element of the process, and recruiters need to keep abreast of the various changes sweeping the industry in order to remain pertinent to job seekers.

*With one day to go for the conference, I hope you have your bags packed. If you are at Hyderabad tomorrow & day after, I’d love to say hello. If not, you know the drill – follow live updates via #SHRMTECH18, follow me on Twitter and stay tuned for updates here.*

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