5 Lessons for Modern Recruiters from PeopleGPT Founder David Paffenholz

The race for talent is not the same as how you’re accustomed to it. Explore insights from innovative HR entrepreneur David Paffenholz to stay ahead.
Wendy Ng
Wendy Ng
Content Lead for Recruitment & Recruitment Technologies, FlexOS
A Recruitment Tool Content Lead with a devotion to people-centric practices and a passion to help people make hiring better and more enjoyable through insightful, research-driven guides.
May 28, 2024
min read

The recruitment landscape is undergoing a seismic shift fueled by technological innovations and changing workforce dynamics. Remote work, AI in the workplace, and the gig economy are no longer topics of tomorrow but realities of today's workforce. (For a comprehensive view, check out my guide on Recruitment in 2024)

This means recruiters must embrace a forward-thinking mindset and adapt their recruitment strategies to stay ahead of the game and win top candidates. Failing to do so could leave you trailing behind the competition for talent.

Luckily, we had a chance to sit down with David Paffenholz, the visionary founder of PeopleGPT, an innovative AI-powered recruitment platform for candidate sourcing in a chatGPT-like experience. During the thought-provoking conversation, David shared some invaluable insights that can genuinely light the way for recruiters looking to thrive in this new era.

5 Important Lessons for Modern Recruiters in the Age of AI

1. Recruiting Technology, including AI, Become a MUST for Efficiency

Efficiency is the name of the game in recruiting.

Given the large number of applicants, the multiple steps involved, and the pressure to fill roles quickly, it becomes challenging (if not impossible) for any recruiter to manage everything on their own without compromising the quality of hires.

Even before AI, we needed technologies to automate repetitive tasks that cost us a lot of dull time. AI has unlocked a lot of technology to scale that up; as you can see, many ATS software and recruitment CRMs now have some AI enhancements.

From automated job distribution and scheduled emails, these tools can now personalize communication, engage and answer questions to candidates in real time, parse resumes for you, and much more.

Another example is David's product, PeopleGPT, as he explains:

"For the first time, recruiters can search through profiles at scale based on an actual understanding of what someone does, rather than just applying labels or filters to job titles, experiences, or more. And so our hope is to change the way that companies find talent and find the right talent for their roles." - David Paffenholz

In our "The World's 40 Most Popular HR AI Tools" report, AI-powered recruiting platforms dominated, with 12.2 million visitors and 356,000 searches at the time of launch. 

This is a very positive sign as more and more tools were born to address our very real problems throughout different stages of the recruitment process

But it also implies that those millions of equipped recruiters will leave you behind if you still rely on outdated or even manual processes.

The power of AI does not end there, as David points out:

"The potential of AI is anywhere where there's a lot of data available, be it structured or unstructured data. That's where AI can often have an outsized impact. And recruiting is a great example of that. There's huge amounts of talent data out there. A lot of it is unused. Some of it is structured. A lot of it is unstructured. And large language models provide us with the first real opportunity to use that data effectively." - David Paffenholz

To make the most out of this insight, I believe a note from HR guru Josh Bersin is helpful:

"It's not just important to 'arm up' with technology – you have to use the technology to pinpoint your hiring, build creative campaigns to attract people, and train and empower recruiters to do their jobs well." - Josh Bersin

2. Sometimes It Requires a Proactive Search to Find the Right Candidate

Inbound vs Outbound Recruiting
Inbound vs Outbound Recruiting (Source: Hyperjob)

Proactively engaging with passive candidates is essential in today's competitive job market, as it allows recruiters to tap into a wider and often more qualified talent pool. 

"In any role where we feel like we haven't gotten the best inbound applicant pool or we're looking for something really specific, we have to go out and find the right candidate." - David Paffenholz

While inbound recruiting means doing your employer branding and job distribution well and waiting for candidates to come to you, outbound recruiting means you actively searching for and reaching out to those who have the specific skill sets or niche expertise you need.

Simply put, the outbound approach involves two main tasks: identifying potential profiles and sending them personalized invitations to offer the position. But it will be an iterative process from requisition to successful hire.

“By nature, it's an iterative cycle, so you might go through that cycle multiple times, depending on how many changes need to be made and whether the search is going in the right direction or if there's even the type of talent available that the hiring manager has in mind. And that last piece is actually a really interesting one, because that can often change the entire journey, even when you're quite far into it.” - David Paffenholz

So, efficiency in this process means you can find and engage with potential candidates more quickly, closer to the request, and speed up each time you start the loop again.

‍3. Embrace AI as an Assistant, not a Replacement


Rather than fearing AI will replace human recruiters, David advocates embracing it as a powerful assistant. As he shares:

"We use that technology to help make decisions on whether a profile matches what you're looking for and do that at tens of thousands of profiles per second." - David Paffenholz

The true power lies in human-AI collaboration. Recruiters no longer need to spend "tens of hours a week" just finding the right candidates for a role. AI tools like PeopleGPT can quickly surface best-fit profiles, so recruiters can move on to the next stages and requisitions faster.

Even in his product, David strongly believes humans remain the critical decision-makers in this process:

"They decide what search to write, what job description to use, what direction to take it in, which profiles are the right fit, and which we want to shortlist and reach out to." The AI simply assists those workflows, making recruiters "50% faster, 80% faster, even 90% faster, but still leaving you in the driver's seat." - David Paffenholz

When AI handles repetitive, data-intensive tasks, it frees up recruiter bandwidth for higher-value activities, be it engaging with candidates or carefully assessing them. As David notes:

"The thing that gets humans most excited is hearing their story, understanding why they want to join, and being able to act on that." - David Paffenholz

That is also where human recruiters shine more - leveraging years of experience to make nuanced decisions and strategically direct the tools you use. As David concludes: 

"That company-specific knowledge is what the recruiter brings that the AI struggles to replicate. The AI is powerful, but just an assistant." - David Paffenholz

4. Ethical Considerations‍ in AI-powered Recruitment

AI ethical considerations

Ethical considerations and privacy concerns rightly remain top of mind for most companies when embedding AI into recruitment processes. Any AI-driven software and tools used must enhance rather than compromise human values and your workplace culture.

It may requires you to dig below the surface-level information to thoroughly understand the underlying models, data sets, and methodologies employed by the tools you use. 

David Paffenholz and PeopleGPT demonstrate a thoughtful approach in this regard: 

"We remove all personally identifiable information in terms of names and protected characteristics like gender and even nationality from the training data sets and the output data sets that we use." - David Paffenholz

This careful curation of data inputs is crucial to avoiding systematic biases that could lead to discriminatory outcomes in hiring processes. As David explains further:

"If you go into the platform, you're still able to see the name of the candidate. But you'll know that the AI, both when generating the output and when understanding the data and why they were matched, did not consider that information in that process. That's really important, especially for avoiding systematic bias." - David Paffenholz

Beyond just the AI platform itself, ethical recruitment practices must be embedded throughout the entire hiring process, from job description language to interview protocols and decision-making frameworks. AI should be used to augment and enhance human decision-making, not replace it entirely.

Recruiters and hiring managers must remain vigilant, continually auditing AI-powered tools and processes to identify and mitigate biases. Ongoing training on ethical AI use and unconscious bias awareness is also essential for all stakeholders involved.

5. Enhance Your Supervisory and Managerial Ability

As you can see from previous insights, recruiters' roles should shift to less execution and more strategic oversight. 

When AI handles more routine, data-heavy tasks, recruiters should be able to manage high-level responsibilities. This means to complement your recruiting skills and experience with stronger leadership, project management, and stakeholder management capabilities.

David affirms this evolution, stating:

"I do think that the role of the recruiter is going to become more strategic. It's going to become more managerial. It's going to become more candidate-facing." - David Paffenholz

In the PeopleGPT example, this involves actively participating in the initial setup, refining search criteria, and making key decisions about candidate selection. While AI can process vast amounts of data quickly to give you faster turnarounds and deeper results, it’s still your job to make it work and ensure the results are aligned with your company’s needs.

Soon, you will see AI become part of your team and part of your workflows, making learning how to effectively cooperate with AI and leverage it for your success the path to a stronger career in today’s work environment.

The Bottom Line: Recruiting in the AI Era Requires a Mindset Shift

Let's be real—the recruiting game has changed big time, with the evolving nature of work and changing workplace expectations. AI and other cutting-edge technologies are also here, muscling their way in. 

This represents much more than just new tools to utilize; it demands a fundamental change in how recruiters approach their roles and responsibilities.

Whether it’s changing your approach or using AI as a catalyst for unleashing your full potential, it requires a mindset reset.

At the end of the day, “recruitment is a people-to-people business,” and people should do what people are good at: the strategic thinking, the cultivating relationships, and bringing that special sauce only you can provide.

For more, check out our detailed guide on Top Recruitment Strategies to Level Up Your Talent Game and the Best Recruiting Software to hire smarter, not harder in 2024.

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