Adoption of AI could streamline recruitment process

  • Hiring will continue, but skills shortages and cost-of-living challenges persist.

Leading hiring platform NIJobs believes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) software could play a transformative role in the recruitment market during the course of 2024 and beyond.

Employers are expected to leverage the power of AI to streamline the recruitment process. At the same time, jobseekers may also turn to AI to support their job hunt, with 42% telling NIJobs that they will consider using AI to help them write a CV and cover letter in the future. 

The NIJobs ‘Job Report’, which is compiled in partnership with Ulster Bank, tracks hiring activity across Northern Ireland by analysing the platform’s job data to help give an indication of trends alongside the prevailing economic environment, and also the type of roles jobseekers are searching for most online.

The latest report has revealed a slowdown in hiring activity in the final quarter of last year. However, the vast majority of employment categories still have more job openings listed in Q4 of 2023 than in the same quarter of 2019 pre-COVID-19 pandemic. 

Categories with the most significant rises in vacancies relative to pre-pandemic include skilled trades (+163%), Construction (+91%) and Engineering (+91%), with high demand for Electricians and Quantity Surveyors in particular.

The quarterly report is supported further with a new survey of 1,275 jobseekers examining key motivators, insights, and trends for the year ahead.

Sam Dooley, the Country Director of The Stepstone Group Ireland with responsibility for NIJobs

Sam Dooley, the Country Director of The Stepstone Group Ireland with responsibility for NIJobs, says: “Our data indicates that whilst many categories continue to hire, the local job recruitment market is softening following the hiring surge of recent years. Ongoing challenges around the availability of talent means employers in NI will need to continue to work hard to find solutions to skills shortages. 

“Categories that experienced significant growth, such as skilled trades and construction, noted an 89% year-on-year increase in job postings for Electricians and a 19% year-on-year increase in job postings for Quantity Surveyors.  

“The pattern here could correlate with the huge demand for affordable housing across Northern Ireland, and some will view this as a good opportunity to redevelop existing properties or create new social housing developments.

“Our survey indicated that 72% of jobseekers are motivated to change roles due to the considerable increase in the cost of living. Salary remains the most important factor when applying for a role – and 82% are more likely to apply for a job where salary details are listed.”

On the emergence of AI and the role it is being tipped to play in the jobs market, Sam added: “One of the forecasted 2024 HR trends is the increased use of AI. Finding skilled professionals has put increased demands on recruiters to fill roles. 

“Recent research from Stepstone revealed that using AI to speed up the recruitment process, screen application documents, schedule interviews, and initial candidate communication will enhance overall efficiency, allowing recruiters to allocate more time to other strategic tasks and human connections. 

“From a recruitment perspective, the use of AI will improve candidate selection through screening documents. This could also help boost the talent pipeline considerably and address skills shortages by matching candidates to the right role.

“In our jobseeker survey, we were also keen to examine attitudes toward the use of AI, with 42% telling us they would consider using it in the future to help prepare a CV or cover letter. 

“This evolution of the recruitment process for both the recruiter and jobseeker will be an interesting area to monitor. Recruiters may find it more challenging to evaluate candidates, given the rising influence of AI in communication. It is important for companies not to replace or neglect the value of human connection during the recruitment journey as this will ensure they find the right candidate for the role.”

Other key survey findings include:

  • 59% say that Hybrid is their preferred working structure.
  • 85% would apply for a role quicker if it included details of the policy on hybrid working.
  • Free health insurance and extra annual leave are the top perks persuading people to apply for jobs.
  • 70% say hybrid working helps them manage the cost of living.
  • 76% are planning to train or upskill in 2024.

Reflecting on Q4 data and offering a forecast of the year ahead, the Ulster Bank’s Chief Economist Richard Ramsey said: “Northern Ireland’s labour market finds itself in something of a twilight zone. 

“Employment levels have never been higher, and the unemployment rate continues to hover around its recent record low. Yet this labour market positivity is occurring alongside the biggest strike action in 50 years and low morale within the public sector. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis and widespread skills shortages across the economy continue to bear down on employees and employers. 

“Recent survey evidence, such as the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI Report for December 2023, has pointed to a softening in labour market conditions. While the overall level of employment is holding up, there are growing signs of a slowdown in recruitment intentions.

“For NIJobs, listings fell by 22% between the third and fourth quarters of last year. The number of jobs posted in Q4 2023 was 40% below the peak but is still one-third higher than the corresponding pre-pandemic quarter (Q4 2019). 

“The softening in recruitment activity across Northern Ireland employers was broad-based, with 33 of the 39 employment categories recording quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year declines. 

“In numerical terms, the biggest quarterly fallers were customer service, catering, management, logistics, Information Technology, health, and cleaning. The slowdown within catering reflects the squeeze on the hospitality industry from the wider cost-of-living crisis. 

 “Skilled trades, social care and management occupy the top three rankings and are followed by sales, engineering, logistics and catering.

“The pandemic triggered greater rates of employee churn – and therefore increased recruitment activity – than normal. Looking ahead, a further moderation in recruitment activity back towards 2019 levels – and lower rates of employee turnover – is expected.”