AI is the biggest watershed moment since the discovery of fire, says Mike Wolford, Director of Analytics at Claro and author of the new book The AI Recruiter: Revolutionizing Hiring with Advanced GPT-Powered Prompts (ChatGPT is his co-author; they wrote the book together in two weeks).
Recruitment.com spoke with Wolford about how AI is changing the recruiting game—and what recruiters can do to prepare for the seismic shift.
Why did you write The AI Recruiter?
Initially, I wanted to see what the hype around AI was all about. Is this like the paranoia when LinkedIn first launched, when recruiters mistakenly thought there wouldn’t be a need for them in 10 years? Or is this something much bigger? How big of an impact will this really have on the recruiting industry?
As I started experimenting more with ChatGPT, it dawned on me that this is like the new Gutenberg press. AI can not only print the books, but also write them too.
How significant is the arrival of AI in recruitment?
It’s like the discovery of fire. A new era has been born.
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot trained to follow instructions via a text prompt and provide detailed responses based on information it has scraped from a colossal data set, including books, articles, and websites. No specialist knowledge is required to start using ChatGPT; some prompts will naturally work better than others, but communicating with the AI is hardly different from making a request of another person. For example: “Write an email to a candidate thanking them for taking their skills test. Make sure the tone is both professional and warm.”
With its response speed and natural use of language, ChatGPT can be transformative for a wide range of admin and writing tasks. According to Accenture, about 62% of the work we do is language-based, including communicating and receiving complicated instructions. That same study notes that 65% of all language tasks have a high possibility of being automated. Given the speed at which AI continues to develop, it won’t be long before we see a dramatic shift in our work and communications.
I wrote The AI Recruiter with GPT-4, the fourth iteration of ChatGPT. To write the book, I fed it prompts like:
“Please explain the basics of AI and how it is changing the field of talent acquisition. Tone: optimistic and engaging. Please share at least five examples, their descriptions, impact on the recruitment process, implementation challenges, and relevant examples of AI tools.”
“Given the following résumé, prepare an interview prep guide the recruiter can use to introduce the candidate to the process before their interview with the hiring manager. Highlight and give examples from this résumé using the STAR method.”
ChatGPT answered my questions with precision. From just a single prompt, it is clear to see its revolutionary potential. How people find jobs will completely change. As an industry, we have to pivot and rethink the entire interview and selection process. Should we do away with résumés? Do we invest in skill certifications instead? How can recruiters adapt?
Which elements of the recruiting cycle will be taken over by AI?
From a strategic standpoint, we’ll see AI’s influence on workforce planning first. AI will look at your historical workforce data and say, “Here’s what we’ve done in the last five years, broken down by sector and job role. Here’s what our turnover looks like historically. Here’s what we should plan for next year.”
AI will continue to improve at identifying biases, with the potential to cross-examine data sets and identify concerns at greater speed and complexity. The hiring software embedded with AI will look at the data from the market, compare it with your talent pipeline, and inform you of your biases.
AI will also assist in the screening process. It will be able to scan everything the candidate has ever written professionally and published online. AI will read their résumé and then compare it to the job histories and characteristics of everybody in the field in which the candidate is applying, assessing how the candidate ranks among their peers. Then, it can provide a series of interview questions tailored to that candidate. However, there are laws in certain places—like New York City—that govern how and when AI can reject humans from jobs, with more restrictions sure to follow. It's important that recruiters understand these regulations before integrating AI into the recruitment process.
AI is exceptionally good at writing technical interview questions, but it is also exceptionally good at answering them. This is an issue for recruiters trying to assess a candidate’s true skill set. With ChatGPT open, I would have a fair shot at passing a technical interview over the phone right now, and I am not a developer. Rethinking the interview process will require a consideration of how candidates will use AI, as the recruitment landscape has changed for both the interviewer and the interviewee.
Can you share some example prompts that would help recruiters?
Right now, the simplest way AI can help recruiters is with email writing. If you want AI to respond to an email for you, copy and paste the original email into the open text field in ChatGPT and ask, “Write a professional response.” Done.
For outreach, try “Write an outreach email to a Python developer in the style of Steve Jobs. Insert a line of Python code with a joke that only Python developers would understand.” I don't know very many recruiters who could write that code into their emails, but AI can in an instant, and you can benefit from it.
Most recruiters hate writing job descriptions, but luckily AI has that skill nailed down too. For example: “Write a job description for an oncology nurse in an altruistic tone.” It will respond to such a prompt quickly and efficiently, meaning you can spend more time actually doing the recruiting part of your job.
How can AI help recruiters using Boolean prompts?
AI has the functionality to write Boolean strings, saving recruiters from having to write each one out manually. Your prompt may be “Create a Boolean search that targets the term ‘Python’ within the top 50 largest tech companies in the US.” Replace the underlined words with your desired skill, industry, and number of companies (be aware that Google searches only allow a maximum total of 32 search terms), then sit back and let ChatGPT do the rest.
What are some of the red flags for recruiters using ChatGPT?
Something to be aware of is AI “hallucinations.” This is the term used when models like ChatGPT bluff an answer, responding with their usual confident tone despite their unfounded reasoning. AI is eager to please and always tries its best to respond, even when its data on the subject is limited or nonexistent; AI will try and write something in the hope that it will guess the correct answer.
As an example of this, paste your résumé into the text box and then ask ChatGPT to write a bio for you. Is it 100% accurate? 90%? ChatGPT still needs an editor and fact-checker at this point.
There also needs to be more transparency so we can understand why AI makes each decision. If AI is going to continue its takeover of recruiting, it must be able to display its rationale—particularly in the event of a legal inquiry. The AI would need to say, “Although the chosen candidate had 13 months less experience compared to the average of the candidate pool, they have this skill listed as extremely valuable to the company. Consequently, I decided to place this candidate above another candidate.” It needs that level of explainability; we don’t have that right now.
What should recruiters do to improve their AI abilities?
Since recruiters tend to be socially curious people, approach AI like you would approach a candidate. Ask it questions and learn from the answers. In addition to the prompts we’ve already discussed, here are three more ideas to get you started:
Ask ChatGPT to role-play with you so it can become better at communicating with candidates. Tell it, “You’re going to be the hiring manager, and I’m going to be the recruiter. You will push back on the salary and help me role-play toward a solution.”
Generate interview questions. Copy and paste a candidate’s résumé. Inform ChatGPT: “I’m about to interview this person for the ____ role. Please come up with five relevant interview questions.” If you don’t like what comes back, tell it how to modify: “Put these in a more compassionate tone,” “Reference the candidate’s experience at ____,” “Come up with a question that helps me test this candidate’s understanding of ____ concept.” The modifications are limitless.
Become better at AI by asking AI how to become better at AI. You could write, “I’m a recruiter. Can you create a cheat sheet of the AI prompts that would be useful to me as a recruiter?”
How should recruiters prepare for what’s to come?
AI is here to stay. You need to learn how to use it. Be the one who brings AI to your team. Be the leader who takes the initiative and trains others to use it.
The idea of AI may seem uncomfortable at first, but that’s because change is daunting. We are conditioned to be apprehensive of uncertainty, but that apprehension may be an impediment to progress. AI could be the tool that helps us to achieve four-day workweeks, live to age 150, or even save the planet. Just like the people of the Stone Age had no idea what the Bronze Age would bring, we have no idea what tools and opportunities the AI Age might have in store.
Talking specifically about recruiting, I believe that AI will help recruiters better focus on people and strategy instead of on admin and scheduling. Nobody jumps out of bed in the morning and exclaims, “I can’t wait to schedule!” Many of us have an inbox with hundreds of emails that we haven’t responded to because we lack the will or the capacity. But if your AI assistant sorts through your inbox, summarizes anything noteworthy, and drafts your emails, your communication will get easier and better.
All the incremental gains will mean that recruiters can spend more time talking to people, preparing them for interviews, consoling those who don’t hit the mark, and extending offers to those who do. Recruiters will be less likely to experience burnout, instead allocating their available time to the tasks they find fulfilling while AI handles the busywork in the background.
Going forward, AI and ChatGPT will be continually refined and regulated as we learn how to get the best out of them. While the technology may be ever-changing, now is the time to start using AI and understanding how to bring its benefits into your workday. The future is here, and AI will make you a better recruiter.