03/08/2023 by Theodora Konetsovska |

We Are a People Business. Let’s Keep It That Way.

illustration of a business woman and an AI robot playing tug of war

You may have read some of the recent articles speculating on whether AI might play a larger role job searches and interviews. You may have even participated in a first-round interview speaking to your own face on an empty screen. Whether you are excited about this new frontier in technology or paused with concern, I think this is a fascinating topic for us to discuss.

For a search and recruitment firm that has long prided itself on being a “people business,” that potential shift raises interesting questions about the nature of our work. Can or should we leverage AI to interview exponentially more candidates? Can or should we trust algorithms to make decisions on candidates’ qualifications? How would AI interviews affect the candidate experience as they interact with us?

What AI-Driven Interviews Miss

Color me odd, but I deeply enjoy the job interview experience, regardless of which side I sit on. It is of course terrifying, too short, booby-trapped, time-consuming, and imperfect – and yet, it is an extremely efficient, information-packed way to “discover” a person. I will never forget my first job interview out of college: I fell in love with a (financial services) company because my interviewer and I shared a passion for Keith Jarrett. If people like that interviewer worked there, I thought, then surely I could fit in too! (I was right.)

“Real” interviews, preferably in-person, but even via Zoom, offer so many intangibles that, as far as I can tell, will never be gleaned by the smartest of machines. It’s not only the pleasant visual of the freshly pressed suit (or, let’s be honest, a Zoom-adequate shirt, jacket, and sweatpants) or the composure, the eloquent turn of phrase, the clever “a weakness that’s really a strength” response that stand out as inimitable. The true magic of the human-to-human interview is everything else: the kind of eye contact, the nervous gestures, the choice to smile at an interviewer’s joke or not, the recovery from an unfortunate slip-up.

It Takes People to Find People

Call me old-fashioned but really consider the alternative to in-person interviewing: unless we expect to hire individuals who will communicate predominantly to blank screens through video recordings, then the AI interview will never be able to evaluate the human-to-human dynamic that is central to the lifeblood of our human-centric organizations. It is not programmed to measure is the quality that is perhaps most important in the business I work in: interacting with, inspiring, and instructing other people.

International educational institutions – who rely on my team’s expertise to find their next leaders – have placed post-pandemic technology exactly where it belongs – as a support tool for human-to-human interaction and enrichment, not as the preeminent means of communicating. I know for a fact that to be successful, the leaders our clients want to hire must be able to establish human connections hundreds of times each day, and serve as an example for others on how to do it well. There is only one way I can test that ability on a client’s behalf: by sitting down in flesh and blood across a fellow human trying to connect.

So perhaps this is a plea to all of us who wonder if AI is “invading” our space. It absolutely could if we let it, whether because we find it expeditious or trendy or clever or because everyone is doing it. Let’s together resist the retreat from personal contact, whatever the cost. Last week I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with a client while we both looked at our Zoom screens and chatted with colleagues across the continent; afterwards, we went for coffee together. The board I chair harmoniously requested to resume in-person meetings, despite the hassle of international travel. We are all in some way responsible for cultivating the environment we operate in – why not buck a few trends and stick up for the tried-and-true?

What are your thoughts? Comment below or write to theodora.konetsovska@carneysandoe.com.

Theodora Konetsovska is a Consultant with our International Schools Practice. Previously, she served as Associate Director in the Financial Administration Division at Harvard University, both in the Office of Financial Strategy and Planning and in the Office of Treasury Management. Prior to Harvard, Theodora worked at Goldman Sachs as Vice President in the Public Sector & Infrastructure Department within the firm's Investment Banking Division. Currently, she serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees at the American College of Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria, a role she has held since 2020.

Back to Blog

Leave a Comment


There are no comments on this blog entry.