From Resumes to Robots: How AI is Shaking Up Executive Search

July 1, 2023

AI has the potential to revolutionize the hiring process in your organization, even at the C-suite level, by identifying candidates and analyzing potential matches faster. AI could be the answer to sourcing for talent shortages that could hold back business growth. However, leaders must be aware of the implications of incorporating AI into the search process.

Understanding AI Bias – 4 Facts You Should Know

1. Last summer, the UK’s Information Commissioner's Office began investigating concerns over the use of AI to sift through resumes because of the potential exclusion of candidate demographics not included in the testing of the software, such as neurodiverse people or those from ethnic minorities.

2. Around the same time, The U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sounded alarms that “blind reliance” on AI could “compound the longstanding discrimination job seekers with disabilities face.” Charlotte Burrows, chair of the EEOC, warned that “we cannot let these tools become a high-tech path to discrimination.”

3. In 2018, it emerged that Amazon had to scrap an AI recruiting tool it was testing to recruit software developers and other technology roles. The tool had been populated with ten years of Amazon’s resume submissions. These resumes were mostly from male candidates due to existing male dominance in the industry, and so the tool learned to identify and exclude applications from women.

4. The latest figures published by the advocacy organization 50/50 Women on Boards show the number of female c-suite leaders in Russell 3000 Index publicly trading companies has grown but is sadly still only at 28%. This lack of C-suite diversity is represented in the exact data being used to train AI software often used for search and selection today.


A Human Touch and Emotional Intelligence are Essential

If AI is to be used in the hiring process, it’s critical that leaders ensure that hiring managers understand, and indeed influence, the data sets used to train AI software and the search parameters specified.
As Joanna Riley, CEO of Censia, a talent intelligence platform, says, "AI can be a powerful tool in recruitment, but it's essential to remember that it's just a tool. The human element of recruitment - the intuition, the emotional intelligence - cannot be replaced by any algorithm.


A 5-Step Guide to Implementing AI in Executive Search:

1. Define the Role and Requirements: Before leveraging AI, have a clear understanding of the role you're trying to fill and the qualifications required. This information will be used to train the AI system and define the search parameters. Try using Textio: This augmented writing platform uses AI to analyze your job description and provide real time feedback.It can suggest improvements to make your descriptions more inclusive, engaging, and effective at attracting the right candidates.

2. Choose the Right AI Tool: Select an AI tool that aligns with your needs and has a proven track record in executive search. Try It uses AI to match candidates with jobs, based on their skills, experience, and career aspirations. It can also predict a candidate's likely career trajectory, helping you identify potential future leaders.

3. Train the AI System: Train the AI system using relevant data. Be mindful of potential biases in your training data, as these can be learned and perpetuated by the AI system.

4. Monitor and Adjust: Continuously monitor the AI system's performance and make adjustments as needed. This could involve tweaking the search parameters, retraining the system with new data, or even switching to a different AI tool if the current one isn't meeting your needs.

5. Combine AI with Human Judgment: AI can help identify potential candidates, but a human should make the final decision. They can consider factors that AI might miss, such as cultural fit, leadership style, and other intangible qualities.

The Role of Leadership in Responsible AI Use

Leaders at every level have a role to play in ensuring the responsible use of AI in executive search. They should continue to foster diversity in the organization so that future data which train AI are representative. They should also secure commitment from AI developers to provide carefully appropriately populated software.
Internal and external teams should closely monitor AI’s outcomes, perhaps manually assessing samples of AI’s rejections. AI should be deployed as an auxiliary tool to automate and accelerate only certain parts of executive search and selection, not as a replacement for human intuition and judgment.


Our one takeaway is that AI cannot replace the emotional intelligence essential in hiring that will ensure not just diversity but also the identification of the very best new human potential for today’s corporate leadership right through to entry-level positions. AI is not yet ready alone, primarily because the historic data available to teach AI illustrates the very bias that must be eliminated.

“AI is the new electricity. Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.”
Andrew Ng ( AI Expert & Co-founder of Coursera)

At Foram Brown, we can help you balance the power of AI with the essential human touch in your executive search so you can build a diverse leadership team.

 If you’re looking for exceptional leaders to grow your business, then let’s talk -