AI and Executive Search: The facts, fears and benefits

Technology, Engineering, Business, Attraction

There’s a common opinion that Artificial Intelligence will disrupt businesses in the short, medium and long-term. But just how much will AI really impact Executive Search? Could developments be beneficial? Or does it signal the end of the profession as we know it?

The notion of Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially in recruitment is often seen as a challenge, a negative. There’s a common opinion that AI learning will disrupt businesses in the short, medium and long-term. And in some industries and professions, there are rumblings that AI will negate the need for humans altogether. But before panic sets in, let’s take a look at what we mean by AI. Could developments to AI benefit Executive Search? Or does it signal the end of the profession as we know it? 

The background  

Artifical Intelligence as a concept isn’t something new. It’s been around for years, whether you believe that AI was first predicted by Ancient Greek Mythology, discovered by Alan Turing or ‘born‘ at a research conference in Dartmouth in 1956. 

However, more recent advances in technology and the rapid growth of AI have caused paranoia and concern about an ‘AI takeover’. But the reality is that our current understanding and implementation of AI is still in its infancy.   

Some definitions 

Put simply, AI is an area of computer science that involves intelligent machines behaving and reacting as humans do. AI allows computers to perform cognitive functions such as speech-recognition, planning, learning and problem-solving.  

Considered as trailblazers in AI, Microsoft define AI as ‘’software capable of analysing large quantities of data, learning from the results of such assessments and using this knowledge to refine future processes and systems.‘’  

As you might expect for such a hot topic, there’s a number of different interpretations of AI. Interestingly, Google steer clear of using the term altogether, preferring to use the phrase ‘Machine Intelligence’. Their rationale is that the term AI can be confusing and often carries too many negative connotations. They also argue that they’re trying to research, develop and create intelligence in machines.   

So, what are the benefits of AI to Search? 

There are some key areas of the Search process where AI can add real value: 

  • Data analysis. AI is good at linking multiple data points and drawing conclusions. 
  • Driving productivity and efficiency. Undertaking tasks currently performed by humans.  
  • Enhancing the candidate experienceThrough regular communication and the automation of feedback. 
  • Eliminating human bias. By facilitating things like pre-employment assessments for blind hiring and writing inclusive job advertisements.  
  • Targeting and predictions. Using large volumes of data to anticipate hiring needs and relevant candidates.  

5 reasons why AI doesn’t signal the end for Search 

  • AI can’t build relationships, a fundamental part of Search.  
  • AI can’t assess candidate potential, interpersonal skills and cultural fit making it harder to unearth ‘hidden talent’. 
  • AI can’t act as an ambassador and sell brands and opportunities to candidates who aren’t actively looking. 
  • AI struggles with emotional intelligence, critical thinking and conflicting concerns. 
  • AI can’t think outside of the box and there’s no substitute for experience in the hunt for top talent. 

AI and Search, a conclusion  

AI presents both opportunities and challenges to those working in the Search profession. It provides a real opportunity to streamline business operations and to drive more productive ways of working. But a word of warning, recruiting at board and executive level is a personal process built on relationships and trust. Successful Search relies on a human connection and the added value and insight humans can provide.  

So yes, there’s a role for AI in the Search process, but it’s complementary. Its value is in freeing up Search professionals to spend time doing what they do best, building relationships, identifying truly top talent and adding value to both clients and candidates.  

AI is an enabler, but for now at least, it doesn’t signal the end for Executive Search as we know it. 

If you want to continue the conversation on AI and Executive Search you can get in touch with me at or on LinkedIn.

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