Executive Search and AI – what does the future hold?


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is rapidly expanding at corporate level, influencing all practices, including HR. According to the Deloitte 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, almost 50% of the respondents confirmed that their companies are introducing artificial intelligence related projects to automate routine tasks or to enhance human skills. HR departments are looking for more efficient ways to deal with the high number of applicants and are turning to solutions including: chatbots, software that can scan the internet for qualified candidates, automated interview processes, various applications for scheduling interviews and others.

With the rise of AI, discussions around the future of executive search are also intensifying. Can the technologies mentioned above be used for senior leadership recruitment? To what extent will the role of the executive search consultant change?

Technology automates tasks, but not relationship building

Certainly, new technologies are influencing the executive search landscape. Cloud data management software is simplifying the work of researchers when it comes to database talent screening, managing candidate relationship building or client management. Social platforms offer easier access to potential talent and can facilitate interactions. Nevertheless, these tools only become valuable when in the hands of a skilled executive recruiter who knows how to leverage them to reach and engage with leadership talent.

Executive search is relationship based and AI, no matter how advanced, cannot replicate the personalized approach and delivery of talent at executive levels. The soft skills needed to attract and convert primarily passive candidates who are happy in their current positions, cannot be transferred and replicated by any system. The personalized conversations that happen at this level are based on the executive consultant’s experience and expertise in an industry or a function.

AI can though be successfully utilized when hiring for junior or mid-level roles, which involves having to screen and interview hundreds of applicants. Candidates at this level are becoming more accustomed to interacting with AI recruitment tools such as Mya or Hirevue and participating in an automated interview process. Would though a director or a VP-level profile, not actively on the market, agree to be interviewed by a chatbot or a software system?

Certain skills are not transmissible                 

Beyond the personalized interaction that is needed at senior level, there are a few other elements that define the role of executive search consultants and make our work unique.

The executive search consultant’s role has shifted in the past years towards that of an advisor – a trusted consultant that partners clients in their search not only for great professionals that can help transform their organizations, but for valuable market insights and sourcing strategies on how to approach the talent market for best results.

Furthermore, with an ongoing talent shortage, the challenge of attracting and motivating executives to change companies requires skills linked to sales and marketing. Consultants in executive search are the hiring company’s best ambassadors. Top professionals receive hundreds of messages daily and the ability to attract their attention has become an art. Moving them through the recruitment funnel, is a task that requires astute engagement strategies.

These are the type of elements that guarantee the continuous need for talent acquisition specialists, particularly at the senior level where the impact of a hire on the organization is critical.