linkedin

Straight Talk on Project Management

IT project recruitment

Share this post

Facebook
X/Twitter
LinkedIn
Email
Print

RSS feed

AI for IT Project Recruitment? Until AI gets guts, human skills like peer profiling will still win IT Recruiters’ hearts and minds

From your kids interacting with the My AI Snapchat-bot, to an artist fessing up to entering and winning a prestigious photography award with an AI-generated image, to AI-generated music causing controversy (a TikTok creator used AI to make an “original song” by the Weeknd and Drake which garnered millions of streams before Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and TikTok removed it) – AI is the hottest topic in town.

According to its evangelists, AI already has, or soon will, revolutionise everything. That’s EVERYTHING!

E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!!!

It’s certainly ramped up the claims that companies believe they can get away with making. In fact, a friend who consults on advertising compliance tells me that she expects an increase in complaints being upheld against such AI boasts.

“We are already seeing companies exaggerate their AI capabilities when, in reality, the AI they deploy is negligible (or even non-existent) – they just want to be on what they see as a gravy train,” he told me, “and we’re guiding clients about making claims that either cannot be substantiated or are potentially misleading. Recruitment is a particular area where advertisements are falling foul of both – we’ve had clients promising the perfect candidates but delivering badly matched hires, and one claiming to use state of the art AI software but actually using the same old techniques – it’s Wizard of Oz territory!”  

The recruitment angle interested me, as it should anyone who is involved in resourcing IT Projects. AI is already making huge inroads into the coding side of things but when it comes to the stuff that really matters, like selecting a project’s people – how effective can AI be?

At Stoneseed, as a provider of Project Management resources (people) as a Service, we have considerable skin in the game. Our business is dependent on providing only the best people, not just best in terms of their qualifications and experience but also in the way that they fit into your business and team culture. Stoneseed’s success is dependent on happy project managers and business analysts (etc) using their extensive talents to deliver measurable difference, in turn making for happy clients.

So, we dabbled in AI. We created an AI intro to Stoneseed to use in the recruitment process, in which our virtual assistant Sophie answers FAQs about working with Stoneseed and we used ChatGPT to write job adverts, etc. BUT, what about the deeper recruitment process? What impact can AI have matching individual talent and organisational culture? Is AI ready to put together the perfect team? Can it profile candidates like Stoneseed’s peer-profiling? Can AI spot and eliminate AI generated CVs?

I asked some clients, colleagues and industry friends who had more than dabbled with AI in the recruitment process and this is what they told me:

AI IS HARD PRESSED TO SPOT SOFT SKILLS

Soft skills (paradoxically also known as power skills due to the value they bring to project professionals, teams and organisations) are becoming increasingly important in IT project resourcing. According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® 2023 report, human skills like communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking are rated by project professionals as “the most critical power skills in helping them fulfil organisational objectives”.

AI and technology-based project tools have delivered huge gains in terms of technical skills like reporting, scheduling and risk management, but power skills are driving the real difference. Nine out of ten project managers say that power skills help them work smarter, according to the latest PMI Pulse of the Profession® report, a report which illustrates throughout how prioritising power skills helps project professionals and organisations both redefine and drive more project success.  

Based on feedback for this blog, AI falls short when predicting which individuals will deliver these skills. One respondent told me of an interview with a candidate, profiled ‘on paper’ by AI as a power-skills-master, who sat in awkward silence when asked to give an example of when they’d shown leadership in a previous role.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DOESN’T HAVE A GUT FEELING (NO GUT!!!)      

To really work in recruitment, AI needs to come with AG – an artificial gut. Your gut feeling is an instrumental human-tool when recruiting. Be honest, how often have you hired because a candidate just felt right (or didn’t hire because they didn’t!!)?

Hiring firms and organisations that replace their human recruiters with AI software altogether lose their greatest recruitment asset – instinct. AI software, at this stage, is useful in helping and guiding recruiters, but is far from being a replacement for human instinct.

In fact, one told me that AI software “over-filtered” candidates, reducing her scope for human-based decision making. Another compared the ‘AI versus human’ recruitment debate to scenes in Star Wars where characters get better results using ‘the force’ than they did with technology.   

I agree, nothing beats the human touch to qualify and filter candidates. Use the force!

PEER PROFILING

A face-to-face interview with a peer is essential and weeds out ‘AI enhanced’ CVs. Peer profiling is a key element of Stoneseed’s recruitment strategy, in our experience, a Project Manager is best placed to and gauge true personal skills and competencies of another Project Manager, a Business Analyst can identify a Business Analyst with the greatest potential.

I started to write that, based on this, perhaps AI would be best placed to interview other AI – then I remembered how things worked out when Cornell University students hooked two chatbots up!! Admittedly over a decade ago but still makes me smile – and how quickly it descends into an existential crisis! An existential crisis is the last thing your IT project resourcing needs!!

Let’s face it, in CAPTCHAs, robots can’t even tell which out of nine photos have a traffic light in them, so they’re unlikely to excel at the more nuanced and constantly changing and evolving needs of IT project human resources – yet!

For now, human skills win hands down, a computer can’t pick up on the human nuances that make great project pros.

AI NEEDS A LOT OF QUALITY DATA 

Good data is crucial to ensure the integrity of your results. AI needs an abundance of data to run effectively and collating all that data is a time-consuming endeavour. Once you have all that data, and you have taught the algorithm how to behave, in many recruitment environments you have a scalable tool, ie, AI that’s ready to help every future “same” hire. I have highlighted “many” because the word is doing some heavy lifting in this sentence, indeed the jury is out on the value AI can currently bring to IT Project resourcing and recruitment.

As one HR head put it to me “AI is great when Sally has quit and you need to find the new, exact-same Sally, but IT Projects are rarely standard and with talent one size rarely fits all. So, Sally might have been perfect for the last project but not the next. Right now, AI is a bit of a blunt tool for the forensic needs of resourcing IT projects and requires a lot more work on the data side to be more effective. Our AI experience was that it was like giving a surgeon a bread knife, great for cutting a loaf to make exact-same size sandwiches for their lunch, but no replacement for the scalpel needed in the operating theatre.”

At Stoneseed we recruit to a very high standard. Our quality bar is set higher because our reputation depends on the quality of our people, when you provide people for projects that drive huge business change through IT, you have no scope for the occasional bad hire. Our talent has to hit the ground running, and the amount of data that would be required to match the experience-led instinct of our recruitment experts may make an exclusively AI route cost and time prohibitive – at the moment!

As I say, we have had some success using AI to generate job ads and role descriptions, but even then, you have to stay up to date with industry job description trends, sector specific language and changing project needs (both in terms of the ever-changing environment but also the differences from one project to another).  

In conclusion, this blog is just a conversation starter, and the conversation about AI, like AI itself, is evolving quickly. AI is having an impact on how projects are managed, how data is gathered, processed and interpreted within the project but, I feel, great change through business IT Projects is still heavily dependent on the project’s great people doing great things well.

In the short term at least, as project management continues to place ever greater importance upon human skills (aka power skills/soft skills), finding the right humans to bring these skills to a project is a job uniquely suited to a fellow human. So, for now at Stoneseed, we’ll continue to rely on peer profiling, casting an experienced and time-served eye over CVs, and leverage the benefits of face-to-face interviews (actual human faces – sorry Sophie) – this way when you need the best talent for your IT project, you’ll know where to come.  

Sources And Inspiration

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2023/05/09/spotify-removes-tens-of-thousands-of-ai-generated-songs-heres-why/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/apr/17/photographer-admits-prize-winning-image-was-ai-generated

https://www.pmi.org/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/power-skills-redefining-project-success

https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/08/chatty-robots-go-viral-youtube