The weird new hiring wars AI bots are battling it out over job searches. No matter who wins, we all lose.


When Josh Holbrook, a software engineer based in Alaska, found himself jobless in January, he had yet to anticipate the hurdles he would face in securing new employment. Surprisingly, his journey reintroduced him to the job-seeking process which had evolved significantly. A few weeks into his search, Holbrook encountered an unexpected change: his interactions were with an AI chatbot rather than a human recruiter at a healthcare organization. His old résumé, crafted nearly a decade earlier and tailored for an academic setting, failed to align with the new AI-driven recruitment platforms. To adapt, he opted for a professional service to revamp his résumé into an AI-compatible format. "This was an entirely new experience for me," Holbrook explained.

The job market has become increasingly challenging over the past few years with frequent layoffs, intense competition, and the addition of AI recruitment systems. In 2022, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that around 40% of large employers integrated AI into HR tasks such as recruitment. According to Rik Mistry, a corporate recruitment consultant, AI tools are now used to draft job descriptions, assess applicants' skills, operate recruitment chatbots, and evaluate candidates' responses. ZipRecruiter's CEO, Ian Siegel, noted in 2022 that about three-quarters of all résumés might never be viewed by a human eye.

In response, some job seekers have started using AI-based programs to optimize their résumés and apply to numerous jobs simultaneously. However, this escalation in AI-versus-AI strategies potentially degrades the hiring process, flooding hiring managers with applications and amplifying the system's inherent flaws.

The rise of automation in recruitment began with the advent of job portals like Monster and LinkedIn in the early 2010s, which led companies to adopt applicant-tracking systems to manage the surge in online applications. These systems initially screen résumés, evaluating candidates based on their experiences and qualifications. Although this automation has somewhat alleviated the burden on recruiters, the rapid increase in remote work changes and the sheer volume of digital applications have accelerated the recruitment process to an overwhelming pace.

Despite AI's imperfections, companies continue to leverage it under executive pressure, hoping to conserve resources and streamline hiring processes. For instance, with automated video interviews, Unilever claimed a saving of 100,000 hours and approximately $1 million in recruitment costs in 2019. Recruitment platforms like LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter are adopting generative AI to offer tailored job recommendations to candidates and enable recruiters to create job listings swiftly.

However, the effectiveness of AI in recruitment has been met with skepticism. Many experts are concerned that dependency on AI could worsen an already flawed system, leading to issues like ghost hires — where companies accidentally recruit bots instead of people. Tatiana Becker, a tech recruitment specialist, pointed out that AI-driven résumé matching often lacks the subtlety required to recognize top-tier candidates or those with strong career advancements.

Despite these challenges, the integration of AI in recruitment is expected to grow, according to Pallavi Sinha, Vice President of Growth at Humanly. "AI is not intended to replace human interactions, but to simplify our professional and personal lives, a trend that will likely continue," Sinha remarked.

For job candidates like Holbrook, the AI-driven recruitment landscape has proven to be more burdensome than beneficial, complicating the application process and often misinterpreting qualifications. The impersonal nature of AI interviews and the reliance on automated systems have been disorienting and alienating for many applicants.

The issue is further exacerbated by a burgeoning industry of tools designed to exploit AI recruitment systems. Services like LazyApply, which submits thousands of job applications on behalf of users, overwhelm recruitment teams and perpetuate problematic behaviors across the hiring spectrum.

While AI holds the potential for improving hiring practices, the current reliance on automated systems without sufficient human oversight is contributing to a cycle of inefficiencies and biases in recruitment. Until AI technology advances significantly, human judgment remains indispensable in navigating the complexities of the hiring process and ensuring fair and effective recruitment practices.  

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