Will AI and robots dominate the process?

Executive Summary

A decade after the worst recession since World War II, the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen so much that some small cities are offering bonuses to attract workers. The confluence of a tight labor market and the technology revolution has reshaped both sides of the job-search process. Major companies are now using artificial intelligence to identify top candidates and screen applicants. As they do so, job seekers are turning to online tools and are using social media to rate employers as if they were pizza parlors. Some job candidates say they find the new world of AI screening impersonal and alienating; others are concerned about being replaced by a robot themselves.

Among the key takeaways:

  • There are now more job openings in the United States than job seekers, the first time this has happened since the government began collecting such data 18 years ago.

  • Close to half of all employers say they have difficulty filling posts, with skilled trades workers, software app developers and financial analysts especially hard to find.

  • The low unemployment rate has helped make job recruitment itself a large and growing industry, employing more than 670,000 people.

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Resources for Further Study



Bolles, Richard N., “What Color Is Your Parachute? 2018: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers,” Ten Speed Press, 2018. Bolles’ updated classic job-search guide, first published in 1970, provides practical advice and information for job-seekers and those looking to change their career path.

Burnett, Bill, and Dave Evans, “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life,” Knopf, 2016. A Stanford professor (Burnett) and lecturer (Evans) use design thinking to help individuals figure out what they want and how to get it in a satisfying and meaningful career and life.

Hoey, J. Kelly, “Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World,” TarcherPerigee, 2017. A business columnist and networking expert offers practical advice on how to create mutually beneficial connections that can advance careers.

Ryan, Liz, “Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve,” BenBella Books, 2016. A former human resources senior vice president at a Fortune 500 company uses insider knowledge to guide job-seekers through the recruitment system and how they can distinguish themselves from other applicants.

West, Darrell M., “The Future of Work: Robots, AI and Automation,” Brookings Institution Press, 2018. A vice president at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, analyzes how robots will affect work, work hours and more.


Alsever, Jennifer, “How AI Is Changing Your Job Hunt,” Fortune, May 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/yabrv3lc. Companies are using artificial intelligence to weed through résumés, evaluate social-media posts for racism and consider which candidates are a good “cultural fit.”

Harrison, David, and Shayndi Raice, “How Bad Is the Labor Shortage? Cities Will Pay You to Move There,” The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yc4arvgv. Small and rural cities have started offering incentives, including student loan repayments, to recruit workers.

Lublin, Joann S., “To Help Women Advance, Their Trailing Spouses Get Job-Hunting Aid,” The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yap4ytht. Seeking to advance women, companies are offering support for their husband’s job search when their wives are promoted and relocated.

Steger, Isabella, “A woman is challenging Japan’s resistance to immigrants by helping foreigners find work,” Quartz, May 14, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ybxhqg49. A Japanese entrepreneur has created an app to connect employers with blue-collar job-seekers, many of whom are foreign and have had difficulty finding employment.

Reports and Studies

“A ‘Learning Attitude’ Helps Boost Job Search Success,” Association for Psychological Science, June 3, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y9wsyj8z. Psychologists found that when people view the job search process as an opportunity to learn, they improve their chances of finding a job.

“Report: U.S. Companies Expand Talent Pool by Increasing Teleworking, Lowering Educational Requirements,” The Conference Board/PR Newswire, April 12, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y8ua3u4u. Employers are reducing their educational requirements and hiring more senior citizens to overcome labor shortages that could grow worse as Baby Boomers retire.

Manyika, James, “Technology, jobs, and the future of work,” McKinsey and Company, McKinsey Global Institute, May 2017, https://tinyurl.com/ydh64cp6. Digital platforms could make it easier for workers to connect and land ideal work, but women remain a largely untapped labor resources worldwide, a McKinsey report finds.

Rainie, Lee, and Janna Anderson, “The Future of Jobs and Job Training,” Pew Research Center, May 3, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/k2rbvaq. The growing presence of robots and artificial intelligence could lead to an expansion of educational tools and training for humans, according to a Pew survey of experts in 2016.

Todd, Benjamin, “All the best advice we could find on how to get a job,” last updated April 2017, 80,000 Hours, https://tinyurl.com/hopegle. A research-organization manager advises applicants to ignore most general career advice and view the job search as a sales process.

The Next Step

Robot Recruiters

Buranyi, Stephen, “How to persuade a robot that you should get the job,” The Guardian, March 3, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y9neytml. Job seekers must be prepared for automated applications and interviews and can find the process alienating, especially if they are rejected without explanation.

Holley, Peter, “Want to work for Ikea? Your next job interview could be conducted by a Russian robot,” The Washington Post, April 25, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yd8foyk2. Last year, a Russian startup introduced a job recruitment robot, Vera, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and currently used by 200 companies, including IKEA Retail Russia.

Lynley, Matthew, “Leap.ai looks to instantly match job-seekers with employers with just a few questions,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y77d46g2. A job recruitment platform recently launched an AI matchmaking tool to link employers with job seekers using analysis of résumés and user qualifications.

Worker Shortage

Bliss, Laura, “There’s a Bus Driver Shortage. And No Wonder,” CityLab, June 28, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ybkuhmhu. A labor shortage caused by low entry-level pay, safety issues and funding cuts is hurting bus systems across the country.

Cox, Jeff, “The U.S. labor shortage is reaching a critical point,” CNBC, July 5, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ybem4j67. Employers are struggling to fill a record 6.7 million job openings, particularly in the technology and truck-driving industries, according to a recent report by two economic research groups.

Weissmann, Jordan, “Despite All the Hysterical Reporting About a Worker Shortage, Employers Magically Keep Finding People to Hire,” Slate, July 6, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/yb6rzk5s. The labor shortage has been exaggerated, and the economy has improved just enough so that the unemployed are now able to find work more easily, says a business correspondent.


Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals
PO Box 83009, Gaithersburg, MD 20883
Global association of recruiters focused on educational standards and supporting the industry.

825 Precinct Line Road, Suite 610, Hurst, TX 76053
Community of recruiters who track new recruiting tools and share research and insights about the latest changes in the field.

ERE Media, 215 Thompson St., Suite 202, New York, NY 10012
A networking platform that includes current events, educational materials and resources for recruiters and human resources professionals.

45 W. 34th St., Suite 1111, New York, NY 10001
Previously known as the Five O’Clock Club, this organization helps professionals with job searching and career development and certifies coaches. Daily e-news has useful nuggets for job hunting and a good career blog.

100 Shoreline Highway, Building A, Mill Valley, CA 94941-3645
Website platform designed for current and former employees to anonymously review companies and their management.

LinkedIn Headquarters, 2029 Stierlin Ct., Suite 200, Mountain View, CA 94043
Largest global professional network connecting users with professional contacts and facilitating job and career research.

The Muse
1375 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10011
A digital platform that provides career-building tools, including interview advice and résumé and cover-letter templates.

Society for Human Resource Management
1800 Duke St., #100, Alexandria, VA 22314
Global professional human resources membership association that offers resources and services for HR professionals.

12 W. 31st St., Floor 6, New York, NY 10001
Online platform for professionals starting their careers; they can explore job and internship opportunities, receive advice and find matches with employers.

DOI: 10.1177/237455680422.n1