Employers reveal how AI is changing early careers recruitment

Jan 11, 2024 | Home Featured, Opinion, Sector & policy

Employers share their experiences and approaches to AI in early careers recruitment.

Employers came together at this year’s ISE HE Conference to share their views of AI and how it is impacting their recruitment processes.

GSK – Operating on a trust basis

Lucy Hegarty, ISE board director and global head of early talent recruitment at GSK explained: “For us to change our recruitment processes, it takes a long time. We are reviewing them, but for this year we recognise that our tests aren’t set up to mitigate students using AI.

“We can’t control it’s use, so at the moment we’re operating on a trust basis. We tell students where we prefer they do and don’t use it. So far in the assessment centres we’re not seeing any surprises where someone’s not demonstrating the kind of behaviours we’d expect. In most part, people are trying to do the right thing.

“In a lot of cases I don’t think AI’s quite there yet, that it necessarily helps them. We use strengths-based recruitment. As well as the content of someone’s answer we look at their engagement and indicators of authenticity. If ChatGPT helps you to articulate how you feel then that’s useful, if it’s telling you something completely untrue then hopefully that’s visible in your engagement in the response.

“Digital literacy is extremely important for anyone we hire so we want to encourage people to be able to use these tools in the same way people use any other technology. Next year we will build our assessment to encourage people to use the tools they want to use.”

KPMG – Integrity at all times

Camilla Weeks, head of student recruitment at KPMG UK said: “Integrity is a core value for our firm as well as for the wider sector. We operate within a regulated industry, and we have a strong and clear stance on the behaviours we expect candidates to demonstrate, including during our selection process.

“When candidates apply to our firm, they are required to consent to a declaration around what we expect – both in terms of behaviour and integrity. We also expect all candidates to answer authentically, using their own responses and not using any form of assistance like generative AI.

“Technology is always evolving, which presents its own challenges, but we regularly review our data points and our approach. We’ve not seen a spike in pass rates, however we remain vigilant. We continue to stress what we expect of all candidates – that they always demonstrate integrity.”

Severn Trent – Exploratory stage moving to transformation

Jade Pearson, ISE board director and new talent leader at Severn Trent said: “We’re in the exploratory stage as an organisation and will be moving into a transformation stage as we are introducing an AI supported customer service system. This will really help culturally to set the tone on how we want to use AI in our organisation. We’re viewing it as a co-pilot, helping us to make more effective and efficient decisions and deliver a better service for our customers. This will pave the way for how we choose to adopt AI in supporting functions like HR in the future.

“We’re right at the start of this year’s recruitment campaign so we haven’t seen the potential full effects of candidate behaviour. However, we’re strongly encouraging candidates to answer authentically and honestly in our recruitment processes. We also are continuing to recruit on strength-based values, therefore feel we will continue to be connected with great talent that aligns to our business needs.

“Ultimately, when you get to the final stages of our recruitment process, and you come in to meet us face-to-face, if you haven’t authentically completed the initial stages of the recruitment process, you’re probably going to get found out! That’s when we’ll identify the candidates that don’t share the same values, the same passions and the same level of commitment to our customers and our communities that we’re looking for.”

Boeing – enhancement not reliance

Gabriella Stannah, early careers programs lead at Boeing said: “As a company that prides itself on innovation, we continue to explore the benefits of AI, including generative AI, throughout our business.

“It’s a tool that’s available to make life easier so we acknowledge that students are going to use it. At the moment it’s quite obvious if someone uses it to write a covering letter. The message to students is to embrace it, but don’t rely on it. Perhaps use AI as a starting point in a way that you can adapt and enhance what you’re capable of. I don’t want us to get to the point where people lose the ability to write something like a business proposal because they’ve become so reliant on AI. We need to retain that skill set.

“We use a platform for CV sifting and video interview assessment. We don’t completely rely on it as we find it is generating too many candidates that look quite similar and we need the diversity. We’re using it to help, but not totally relying on it.”

Experian – adaption and opportunity

Nicola Lamplough, head of early careers at Experian commented: “The first thing a recruiter will do is test AI by applying for the jobs themselves and seeing what it will generate. The same phrases come out over and over again so it becomes very obvious very soon. Use AI as a starting point but then adapt and demonstrate you’ve used it in a way that’s beneficial. We definitely don’t see it as cheating, but it’s that adaptation and effort that a candidate’s putting in.

“We’re not using AI in our selection processes at the moment but we’re keeping a very keen eye and trying to get our heads around what the potential opportunity is particularly given the scale of applications, which have exploded. We can’t ignore it and we have to adapt. Given the sharp increase in the volume of applicants, we can’t sustain going through every single CV and cover letter by hand, it’s just not humanly possible. This will be a key year to understand what’s right and appropriate for us going forwards.”

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