John Curtis-Oliver, partner at Boyden John Curtis-Oliver, partner at Boyden

By John Curtis-Oliver, Partner at Boyden

"Robots will be able to do everything better than us. ... I mean all of us…. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization" ~ Elon Musk (2017)

"….people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios …. I don't understand it.… In the next five to 10 years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives." ~ Mark Zuckerberg (2017)

The UAE is leading the way in the field of Artificial Intelligence with a range forward thinking innovations, not least the inspired decision to appoint Omar bin Sultan as the Minister of Artificial Intelligence.  It is a subject which dominates conversation the world over.

As the technology industry’s elite struggle to agree on the potential impact of AI and a raft of people queuing up to advise on the potential disruption it will cause, this article will study the potential impact on the executive hiring and the executive search industry.  

The success or otherwise of executive hiring has long been a source of concern for boards.  Tony Hsieh famously admitted that poor hiring decisions had cost Zappos over $100 million.  The executive search industry is seen as a means of mitigating this risk, reassuring shareholders that there has been a credible process to reduce the risk of a bad hire.  A sound research-based methodology means that boards and other executive decision makers can hire based on a reliable body of evidence and a thorough due diligence process.  If the individual proves not to be successful, they can comfort themselves that they are off the hook as their only crime was to appoint a reputable executive search firm to drive the process.  

I have been surveying technology industry leaders from around the world to get their sense as to the extent to which, at executive level, machines can replace humans at each phase of the executive hiring process, either now or within the next five years.  HR professionals and executive search consultants were not included in the study as the priority was to learn from the technology experts and understand how they view the industry from the outside.  Respondents were asked to comment on the executive hiring process rather than on executive search as an industry.