“Will AI kill recruiting as we know it?” On this episode, Chad Sowash goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t let up. Fortunately, Amy Butchko, VP of TA at Maximus, is light on her feet and takes everything the boys throw at her and counters like the true champ she is. This interview was part of ATAP’s recent online event and covers all things A.I. when it comes to hiring. From audits to legal minefields to messaging to budgeting and everything in between, this one’s got it all, including Q&A with the live audience of recruiting veterans.
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Intro: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.
Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? It's your lunch lady's favorite podcast AKA...
Joel: The Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman. Joined as always, the Barney to my Fred, Chad Sowash is here and we are super excited to bring in Amy Butchko, VP of Talent Acquisition at Maximus.
Joel: And I'd like you use your own imagination on what Maximus does.
Joel: If you don't know what they do, maybe Amy will tell us. Amy, welcome.
Amy Butchko: Thank you for having me today, guys.
Joel: Give us a Twitter bio on Amy Butchko.
Amy Butchko: A twitter bio. So, well, you did really well. So, Amy Butchko. I am vice President of Talent acquisition at Maximus, and at Maximus we are moving people forward. We actually connect citizens to services around government entities around the world, and among other things. And I lead their IT talent acquisition practice. So that is my reason for being here today.
Chad: So to humanize this AI session, okay? What do you do for fun? What do you do for fun, Amy?
Amy Butchko: Well, as we were having our little pre-gaming sort of getting ready for this, I was thinking about the one thing that I didn't mention where I use a lot of AI, and that is in my fantasy football practice.
Amy Butchko: So I think you're actually referencing the little red...
Joel: Practice like she has a degree and she practices fantasy football.
Amy Butchko: The red blob back there, which is where I take my red pottery bag to go and make pots on the weekends. But I do use AI and a lot of apps to help me with my Waiver Wire pickups and stuff. So we can talk about that. So those are two things that I do in my spare time.
Joel: So much swag. I think that would be cool. Like, just Maximus is different.
Amy Butchko: It actually is pretty fabulous swag. I don't, I'm trying to see if I have any, I think I have.
Chad: Is it like gladiator themed? Because I really feel like it should be gladiator themed.
Joel: She she has a armor plate. She has a...
Chad: Oh yeah.
Joel: Whatever that hell...
Amy Butchko: We'll save that for another podcast. [laughter]
Chad: Okay. So let's go ahead and kick this off. Thanks for joining us kids. We're gonna talk about AI today and a variety of ways. We've got Amy on here because she has a deep understanding of a lot of things and mainly being a practitioner in this space. So let's go ahead and dig into it. So first and foremost, Amy, I'm gonna ask the question that everybody's been asking. We're just gonna hit it right out of the gate. Will AI kill recruiting jobs or is the jury still out?
Joel: Oh my God. Buy him a drink first, Sowash, don't go right for the jugular man. Damn.
Chad: Right for it.
Amy Butchko: No.
Chad: We only have 30 minutes, man. We gotta make this count.
Joel: Ouch. Okay. Let's go.
Amy Butchko: Okay. So, I will be relatively controversial here I think. I do not think it is going to kill recruiting jobs. I think that as long as we are still hiring people, yes, we will need people. I think you guys have some different perspectives though. So I can yield for perspectives.
Joel: It won't kill recruiting, jobs, but will there be less recruiters?
Amy Butchko: Maybe. It depends on if our jobs get more complex, because one of the things that we've talked about is the fact that being AI enabled makes us more capable in some ways. Right? It's like having a bionic partner. And when you do that, things can get more complex. Things in my world are already pretty complex [laughter] So far, we still need people to unravel the what do the people need to do? How do we find those people? How do we talk to those people once we find them? That's the kind of stuff that makes me doubt that we can dehumanize talent.
Joel: Is Maximus adding or decreasing or stabilizing headcount in the recruiting sphere?
Amy Butchko: In my space, we're pretty stable.
Amy Butchko: And we haven't... I have been there for what? About a year?
Joel: Are you increasing? Like is the ivory tower talking about increasing or decreasing headcount for recruiters in the next 12 months?
Amy Butchko: The ivory tower doesn't typically dictate that in the world that I'm in. Typically the way, because... So Maximus is a government contractor in the United States. We do have a global presence, but the vast majority of the stuff that I do is based here in the US. And the way that I would describe my ever constant strategy for how I staff my team is it's always based on the business. So if we win a new contract, if we need additional resources to help support that we hire and otherwise we support the business that we have with the right number of recruiters and metrics play into that. I know we didn't really talk about this much in the lead up, but one of the things that really helps us is knowing from a data perspective and being able to aggregate the kind of data that we can get now out of recruiting systems about how many recs can a recruiter handle of a certain genre, and then really be able to know what your staffing levels are. So the ivory tower informed by whoever that is, informed by data.
Joel: The great Oz. Yeah.
Amy Butchko: Oh, well, let me know if that guy's around because he doesn't really work at Maximus as far as I know, nor any place where I've been. It's really about trying to figure out what your resources need to be to meet the demand of the day.
Chad: Right. And let's dig a little bit more into that. 'cause that's fairly general with regard to whether you're gonna have more recruiters or less recruiters. To me, the discussions around being able to take some of the really menial tasks off the recruiter's plate by using technology. Number one, to make them more efficient, number one, now that AI, and again, we're talking about recruiting versus the full sphere of like the job market. AI in itself, if it is historically like every other technology, it's gonna create new and more jobs. So therefore you're going to need more recruiters to be able to fill those jobs within. So what you're looking at and just, again, this is just my vantage point is that you're gonna have more efficient recruiters, you're gonna have smarter recruiters who know how to actually utilize technology, and you're gonna need more efficient recruiters because you're going to have more jobs and different jobs to be able to fill. Do you feel like I'm in line there? Or am I too not dystopian enough like Joel?
Amy Butchko: I think that some Joel Cheesman skepticism is warranted here.
Chad: It's always good. It's always good.
Amy Butchko: Yeah, I think you never wanna be the one that's wrong in the direction that you could be wrong, Chad. So I think that that one of the things that is missing from your hypothesis though, is that the complexity of the jobs that we are filling will also potentially increase. And when that happens, our ability to sort of unpack what a skillset would be to even fill one of those roles. Like what do I need if I'm hiring a data engineer? It's very different than if I was doing that from 10 years ago, and AI could help me know more about that as a recruiter in layman's terms and help me both speak to candidates and be more informed when I'm talking to a hiring leader who's probably very technical. So from that perspective, I think that that augmentation piece helps. Not ready to go full dystopia, but I wouldn't rule it out either, you know?
Chad: Right. So, literally automation in AI, thus far, conversationally, whatever you'd like to call it has been great for high volume roles. So to be able to, again, to be able to scale right? To be able to scale the need which has given, in many cases, job seekers a much better experience. So instead of going into a black hole, they go into a bot for conversation for prospectively, scoring, scheduling and then getting into interviewing. Do you see, because high volume's much easier in many cases it's a heartbeat, and are you close to the job, right? In some cases do you see that scaling up to more to more complex positions? And how quick do you think we see that kind of scale in our space?
Amy Butchko: We're not there yet, in my opinion. We are not there yet. I think that in the high volume spaces, yes. There are mechanisms and we have them here at Maximus. I don't run that team. There's an extremely talented group of people who does that here. But it is a different skill to do this at that type of scale.
Joel: How are you guys, because upskilling to me seems like that is more important than maybe it's ever been when you talk about these new skills, these new technologies. How does your organization look at upskilling? What are you doing to sort of prepare for the future? What tips would you give other companies that are in the same situation?
Amy Butchko: So, when I am evaluating a recruiter, or even myself, I'm looking at, are we using the tool set that we have today? So a lot of the stuff that you were just saying, Chad, about a great candidate experience with chatbots and being able to get instant answers and get outta the black hole. It's still not happening. We need to get Kevin Grossman on here to tell us about that, but go ask him. He would... It's not happening...
Chad: It's not happening in general, but it is happening for some companies who are utilizing that.
Amy Butchko: Who are utilizing the technology the way it is truly intended. And I think that Joel, to answer your question, I do think it's a skill issue. I think it is about training your recruiters. One of the things that happened when I got here was there were a lot of tools around and not particularly well utilized. There were some misconceptions that the tools work themselves, and they don't. There are some fantastic tools that can build a boolean strings, but if you give it junk, it's still gonna spit out a dumb string, right? And it's going to spit back bad results.
Joel: Yeah. And there's a story we talked about, you mentioned upskilling and education, but also communication. Because we had a story a few weeks ago about a guy who applied to McDonald's, which uses a Chatbot or Conversational AI. The guy went through the process, talked to what he thought was a recruiter. It was a robot, but he thought it was a recruiter, which is good and bad in this case.
Amy Butchko: Sure.
Joel: But went through the process, scheduled it, showed up for the interview, walked to the front counter and said, I'm here for my interview. And they had no idea what he was talking about, and gave him a paper application to fill out when he showed up. There was no one in management that knew what the hell was going on. So talk about the importance of communication, of understanding like, Hey, everybody, we have this AI tool that is scheduling interviews, and when people come in, if they say, I'm ready for my interview, that's because we're using this service. That communication apparently is not happening. And what tips would you give for companies to start having those conversations and helping job seekers understand what's going on, as well as your employees who may not know what's going on?
Amy Butchko: That experience, I think probably happens more often than we would ever imagine. I was actually just recalling when I went to Quest Diagnostics to go check in and go get my blood drawn, and I was supposed to be able to check in from my phone, and I was supposed to check in from the kiosk, but nobody told me that. So I sat in my car and then I came in and they were like, oh, yeah, that app doesn't work. And I was like, oh, cool. Can I still, okay, great. So it's that kind of stuff where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. And it's those human connections that still have to be made. And it's not that somebody from, I guess Oz or the ivory tower was supposed to come down and tell that McDonald's manager what to do. It was their systems and their people weren't connected.
Joel: And who's responsible? Should the vendor be having onsite classes about what's going on? Is it the buyer that should be educated? Like who's responsible for filling the gaps in here, building the bridges?
Amy Butchko: So who's responsible for making that hire? I think that ultimately it comes down to...
Amy Butchko: To those people, it's us. We are the solution and we are the problem when it comes to that.
Chad: And let me throw that out to you even more in a historical fashion. We had applicant tracking systems come on the scene fairly early, late 90s, early 2000s. They were very basic. They were, they were streamlined. And then we got involved, the humans got involved. And we started to make these processes more complex where it was a five-minute application versus a 30-minute application where they needed blood samples, social security number, everything. First born. So when we're talking about this, like the problem that Joel was just talking about, and then also the setup for the future. As a practitioner, what kind of guidance would you give to the other practitioners that are out there to be able to think more in simplicity versus complexity? Do you think that is incredibly key as we move forward or do you think that there's a necessity to be complex right out of the gate?
Amy Butchko: So I think some of the best advice I've ever gotten as a professional is to simplify my communication. It's the advice I still give to everyone, including myself to make things easier. I actually, I take issue with the idea that the humans made the complexity. I run across far too many vendors who think that they've invented HR and they know how it should happen.
Amy Butchko: And I'm not, and no disparagement, I love tech. Love it. I love it. I love being able to layer technology on top of technology and figure out what the right workflows are. But ultimately, the idea that it starts with tech and then the people came in is absolutely backwards. So if you're designing for the human, so if you're thinking in your head, so in Joel's example, if we're actually thinking about that guy who just is looking for that job and working backwards from his experience, then you might have a system that works.
Joel: Do we ignore the job seeker too much in tech?
Amy Butchko: I think we ignore the job seeker. I think we ignore the recruiter. I've also found enough systems in my time that are geared toward communicating to whom they think what the executives want to know, which is also based on how people think recruiting is done versus how it is actually really done in the wild. So I think that's, yes.
Chad: So when we start to talk about AI, it seems like there's all this noise. Is it AI, is it RPA, is it automation? And we're really focused heavily on the how, how is this being done versus the actual final outcome or the product. Should we be focused more on that outcome and then work our way back into the how or is the how really important just right out of the gate, because I don't think HR professionals have enough time to dig into what AI is, large language models are, versus RPA and automation, and they kinda lose sight over the final product. So what's your advice around that?
Amy Butchko: Oh gosh. Well, that's a big one. And I think that it really goes back to trying to figure out what you are really solving for... If the idea is that you are... You think you need to solve hiring, you're gonna come out with a different outcome than if you are, how do we make a great experience for somebody who wants to go to work at a McDonald's in Indianapolis? It's just a different point of view. And I think being able to kind of shift your point of view could be helpful there. So to answer the question more specifically about the how and the what, when it comes to using chatGPT, I think on my team, I probably have maybe 50% adoption.
Amy Butchko: And that's okay. It's kind of an infuriating tool if you ask it the wrong question or if you haven't figured out how to write the prompts to get the answers that you need. I have recruiters who are very sophisticated at it on the other hand, where they'll overlay a job profile in a de-identified resume to protect PII, because that's what we do here, and make sure that you are aligning skills to jobs, and then have the machine help you see the gaps more quickly. That is an example that one of my team members gave to me, which is fabulous, but how did she figure out how to write the prompts to make that happen? What questions is she asking? And that's where Joel skill becomes really super important. And it's still important when you're operating the robot.
Chad: Yeah. But you said something there that I think is important and we're trying to solve hiring. And that's a big job. That's a big job trying to solve hiring versus what I think some of these technologies help us with are the tasks of hiring and being able to write better jobs descriptions, or at least give us a co-piloting opportunity to write better job descriptions sourcing, scheduling, interviewing, scoring. All these different things. Should we not just break it down into the tasks as opposed to hiring as a whole because it feels like an elephant and we're trying to eat the whole thing at once.
Amy Butchko: 1000% right. That's exactly right. The complexity is both, it's the problem and it's the solution. Because RPA, robotic process automation is basically, it's zeros and ones, it's yeses and nos. If this do that, if not this, then do something else. That's your decision set. [laughter] So one of the other things that, when you talk about augmented capabilities on the part of recruiters, we did not talk about this in the prep, but this question reminds me of some Gartner research that I was looking at recently that was talking about how a recruiter can hold a certain number of racks on average to be, and that's pretty much like their, that's their ceiling. A recruiter can hold X racks. If you add a sourcer, assuming this is a person, add a sourcer, they're about 20% more effective if you add a coordinator, which to your point is about the scheduling and all of that stuff that goes behind the scenes, they can be about 50% more effective, which definitely speaks to the idea of how much time some of these "simple tasks" really take. They're not that simple, Chad. They're just not that simple.
Chad: The nudging and the continued engagement, as we've seen some of the conversational AI platforms and some of the other platforms, one of the things that we've not done well as humans, because from a scale standpoint, we just can't do it. Is reaching out to every single applicant to be able to give them updates and/or remind them that, Hey, tomorrow you have an interview, or to remind them, Hey, tomorrow is your first day. Right? None of that's simple, it's just that from the human standpoint, we can't scale.
Joel: Well, I think in lieu of this, I want to ask about Amy's filter and I don't want to go as far back as to say, like, let's just call, I'll go to rotary phones and ditch the technology. But I've been doing this for a long time, and every time I think, Okay, we've hit our max tech startup valuation ceiling, we bust through it and go towards another one. What do you look at with either buying a new technology, using a new technology? What questions do you ask to make sure it's useful? What are you asking your team, or what are you tracking in your team that would make you decide like, this isn't working, we're getting rid of it, this works, we need to do more of it. Do you have a process right now? Because I think a lot of companies are just inundated and overwhelmed with the amount of tools and you doing this as long as you have probably have some good tips on how to filter some of that stuff.
Amy Butchko: Gosh. Filtering out all of that noise and complexity. And I need a robot to do that. I think that my spam filter is a great first cut to be a little bit more serious about it. I'm thinking about a couple of RFP processes that I've been involved in at different companies, and evaluating vendors alongside each other. And one thing for me that is a huge red flag is when I get the sense that the tech has been created around what would be cool or what an executive thinks that they need to hear, right? Yeah. Versus what is real. And for example, if you're thinking about talent mobility, which is a big topic in our industry right now because this is how do we work with the people who already are here who may have desires to do something different or where the business is shifting so fast.
Amy Butchko: Some of what we are dealing with in industry right now is the fact that the jobs aren't necessarily disappearing, but they're moving over there and we've gotta figure out how to get the people over there. And if you start thinking about software to begin doing that, and then you start thinking you gotta like input all these really complex human qualities into it along with an ever increasing complex set of skills, it's dizzying. So when I think about how to do something like that with tech, I do try to kind of dumb it down and think, okay, if I've got this person and I've got this job, how would I make that transition as a human to help them? And then think about if the technology is mirroring that, because I don't think that we're gonna be able to do this in a way that's not intuitive to us as people.
Chad: So we've gotta get to this because I think this is one of the most important questions for any practitioner that's out there.
Amy Butchko: Yeah.
Chad: If I do see a reason to buy this new tech. I don't get budget for it. I don't have budget for tools. I only have budget for what I have right now. How do I get new budget? I know that you've done this before and you have experience about getting budget, and most practitioners don't. They just sit there with their arms crossed and say, well, I just don't have any more budget. That's not the right answer. How do you go get more budget?
Amy Butchko: Well, I think that the way I have done it is basically proving results with simple steps first. 'Cause some of this, I mean, you guys, this is not rocket science, right? I mean, we're bright, but this is not rocket science. So if you've got a problem that you can solve with a piece of tech that could potentially be done without a person, that's a great business case to make. Especially if you can start small with a license that doesn't cost that much. And then you prove your case, and then you can expand. Or if you've got other stuff laying around that somebody bought that maybe was there before you, that isn't working so well, maybe you can shrink that footprint a little bit and and really show value. So I think it could be both.
Amy Butchko: It could be taking... Like there's some tool sets that, that are just outdated. And things in our industry do become outdated. We, we don't need to name names just go listen to your podcast you can hear all about them [chuckle] and find out which names are becoming outdated, but really think about what your existing stack is doing for you. And if you can start to cut first, great. Then you can repurpose. And once you've repurposed, you can incubate, prove your process and then expand. And that is essentially the logic that I follow.
Joel: Yeah. Amy, I want to get you out on this. Governments are sort of freaking out about AI, particularly from the hiring employment side of the house. We've seen laws from New York, Illinois, California, companies are asking how do I make sure my AI is clean? I'm not gonna get in trouble by the Feds. What are some things that you wanna make sure questions you want to ask your AI or policies that you have to make sure that you keep yourself out of the cross hairs of the EEOC and other legal bodies?
Amy Butchko: Easiest question of the day. I stay very tight with my privacy and my compliance and my IT departments. Know those people by name and have folks that you can call who are experts. I know at least five different experts that I can call within my company. And a few people outside that can inform me and I don't make those decisions.
Joel: Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Chad: So we've heard...
Amy Butchko: Inform.
Chad: Inform, yes. I think we've heard that companies have backed away from new technology and AI and saying, look, these things are just, these regulations are way too onerous. This new New York regulation says once a year you have to get your AI audited, which I think it's not often enough. But anyway, we've seen companies actually back away from using this new tech. Are they going to be able to compete for top talent or really just to be able to fill their roles if they don't use that new technology, the new tech in this new environment.
Amy Butchko: We're gonna have to all adapt. That's my take. We're gonna have to adapt. I don't see us being able to go full on what I hear. We're not going back to the classifieds. We're not going back to old tradition. We're just, we're not. So finding how, and actually that's one of the things I love about where I am right now, is there's so many people that are smarter than I am about this, that I can be like, Hey, so explain to me how we can do this in the bounds and then we keep talking because every day it changes.
Chad: Yeah. Well, and for me, that is the smartest thing that I have ever learned is that when I'm not an expert in an area, go find one because you're not gonna become one overnight. That's pretty awesome.
Amy Butchko: Well, and if you were today on this topic, you're already outdated tomorrow. [laughter] So you got, I mean, it's the truth. It's the truth. Yeah. So we've gotta... So stay fresh. [chuckle]
Joel: Outdated much like my wardrobe. Amy, we have one question real quickly and we'll close this out.
Amy Butchko: Okay.
Chad: Here we go. Here we go.
Joel: Somebody wants to know, what is the title of the research from Gartner that you recruiter source or coordinator efficiency., there was a research that you...
Amy Butchko: Well, I think it might have been that. I don't remember. It is in my Gartner thing, that is not on my other screen right now but you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I think that Sue has my contacts and I will find it.
Joel: And that answers my last question about how someone would connect with you. I am Chees. He is Chad. You can find out more about us @chadcheese.com. If you listen to podcasts, check it out because we dropped knowledge bombs just like we did today. Thanks to ATAP for having us. And as far as I know, this is the closing of our interview.
Amy Butchko: All right. Happy TA day.
Chad: We out.
Joel: We out.
Outro: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of The Chad and Cheese Podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded it to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could've used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuggle heads instead. Now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap because you'll be back like an awful train wreck. You can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.