2018 was a big year for artificial intelligence. Robots began delivering pizzas, an AI-created painting went under the hammer at Christie’s and the use of deep fake technology made it even more difficult to spot fake news.

While some are still concerned about the implications of AI, and others are disappointed that we are some way away from the cyber-futures once promised, the technology is rooting itself even further into the workplace.

Recruitment as an industry has typically been slow to respond to technological advances, but as a sector with several labour intensive processes there are several opportunities presented by AI and automation. Some have tried, others have failed, but still AI implementation continues to improve our working lives. So what lessons have been learned from the past year – and how will this impact 2019 and beyond?

Amazon’s gender bias

We’ll start with the obvious one: it was revealed this year that Amazon had to scrap an AI tool built for their recruitment process after it began showing a preference towards male candidates. This was a real blow to the industry, as we had previously been hoping that the tech would help remove bias. As we covered in a previous article, the root of the problem here was the data, rather than the AI itself.

Lesson learned: Machines can only learn from the data they are given. Make sure yours is well-balanced.

Google passes the Turing test

Well, almost. Google’s new Duplex assistant is capable of calling and booking appointments so that you don’t have to – and it sounds just like a human voice. Still in the early stages, the implications for the technology are huge, potentially taking care of several time-intensive tasks such as scheduling interviews. This kind of technology is already being used by businesses, with Marks and Spencer replacing all call centre staff with AI that can understand human speech, freeing up staff time to concentrate on more complex and interesting responsibilities.

Lesson learned: Not all interactions require the human touch. Let AI take care of the basics while your human employees look after complex tasks.

Vodafone transformed lost sales with chatbots

When Vodafone realised that a ‘significant’ number of customers were dropping out during the checkout process, they introduced TOBi, the first chatbot in the UK telecoms industry able to complete a customer transaction from beginning to end. Chatbots are beginning to act as virtual salespeople and businesses no longer need to rely on the user to begin interactions. For recruitment, the chatbot can encourage the initial conversation, increasing the number of enquiries from candidates and clients and answer those enquiries, reducing time spent by consultants.

Lesson learned: Increasing customer engagement leads to increased sales. Chatbots are a cheap and proactive way to engage with potential clients and candidates.

There may have been highs and lows for AI in the past year, but it’s clear to see the technology is beginning to find its feet, and it won’t be long until it establishes itself within the world of business. This presents an opportunity for recruitment firms to be trailblazers and begin exploring AI and automation in that context, rather than be left playing catch up once again. Lesson learned.