According to a recent study, seven in ten companies in the UAE plan to hire new employees in the next 12 months, so there’s seemingly no better time to launch the region’s first AI-driven online recruitment programme. Glesni Holland sat down with Melissa O’Neill, CEO of LEAP, to discuss the platform’s progress so far.
Can you give us an overview of the work LEAP does and explain how the platform was established?
LEAP is an online career platform based in the UAE, which has been developed using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. My partner and I had been working in the recruitment industry in Dubai for almost seven years – primarily for the technology sector, when we began developing LEAP. We often came up against the industry’s pitfalls, which we see here more than anywhere we’ve ever worked, and decided that there had to be a better way of conducting this process using this kind of technology.
Why did you feel the UAE was well-suited to this type of platform?
Companies in this region are having to contend with hundreds of applicants for every job role. Particularly in the UAE, the population is growing at an exponential rate, and its transient lifestyle means that there never seems to be a slump in hiring as the level of turnover in staff is incredibly high. But equally, if a candidate wants to get the most out of their application, and a recruiter is truly seeking the best person for the job, then traditional methods of recruiting – when faced with this volume of applications – just won’t cut it anymore.
How does this platform enhance the recruitment process for candidates?
While alternative recruitment software may solely rely on picking up keywords in a candidate’s CV to establish whether they’re a good fit, the artificial intelligence behind LEAP reads each application like a human would. If you have ‘marketing rockstar’ as your job title – and trust me, I’ve seen it – but a vacancy came up for ‘growth hacker,’ you would not typically get noticed because the keywords do not match up. However, your experience and transferrable skills – which are likely to be found deeper in your CV, might make you the perfect candidate, and this is where the platform’s realm of data comes into play as it can make those connections. In addition, we also aim to provide candidates with a number of benefits including employer testimonials from current staff members, candidate scoring and a time-saving applicant tracking system.
Is the technology advanced enough to ensure that talented applicants do not slip through the net?
The beauty of this technology is that the general public isn’t necessarily aware of how advanced it already is, or how regularly we use it on a day-to-day basis. Google and Netflix both run on AI, so while there is still a long way to go, there are already a lot of widespread use cases. It’s a very exciting time for us, and we’re confident that now the technology has started learning, it can only get better. This means that the more LEAP as a platform is used and the more data it collates and reviews, the more it is teaching itself. This, in turn, will mean our results are only going to become more accurate, and the whole process will become more efficient for both candidates and employers.
To what extent do you envisage recruitment processes becoming completely automated in the near future?
Personally, I think that there is absolutely the possibility that we reach the point where we can automate everything within the recruitment process. The real question is whether or not we choose to do that, because I don’t see the benefit of completely automating every process across the industry. At the end of the day, we’re humans, and we like to speak to a human and receive that personal touch in these kinds of scenarios, and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon. We were at an AI conference recently and we were asked how on earth humans are expected to compete if an applicant has an IQ of 140, compared to a machine with a drastically higher average. The simple answer is that we can’t. “Take a baseball bat to it,” was my colleague’s advice.
How has your experience been working with IBM on this venture?
IBM contacted us about becoming part of their Global Entrepreneur Programme during our development phase, and their support has been invaluable. We’ve been very lucky in that from this initial contact and support, the team invited us to the Web Summit in Lisbon last month. This was a fantastic opportunity for us, and was also where we launched our AI-driven chatbot.
Any plans to expand further in 2018?
Our current plan is to look to initially focus on the UAE, and then look to expand regionally. One stumbling block we’re currently trying to overcome is ensuring the technology is fluent in Arabic. But as the entire platform is online and accessible from anywhere, there’s no reason why we can’t look to expand in every region eventually.