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Artificial Intelligence to recruit estate agents? Forget it...

The head of the longest-established agency personnel consultancy in the UK says caution should be exercised over the use of Artificial Intelligence in recruitment processes. 

Property Personnel managing director Anthony Hesse thinks that estate agency should never forget that it is primarily a people business, and technology would have stark weaknesses identifying the right person for the job.

“At its heart, estate agency is and has always been about people. We may deal in property, but it is people who are doing the buying and selling. And we are at risk of missing out on some of our best potential recruits if we forget that” explains Hesse.


“Artificial Intelligence is all very well; but I seriously doubt that technology will be able to identify some of the subtle factors which only come to light in a one on one relationship between two human beings. In fact, I find the faceless approach of AI quite chilling” he adds. 

The practice of using AI and facial expression technology to identify the best candidates was first used in the UK last year. 

Supporters claim it enables firms to interview more candidates in the early stages of recruitment rather than simply relying on CVs, and that it provides a more reliable and objective indicator of future performance, free of any human bias.

The technology analyses the language, tone and facial expressions of candidates in response to a series of identical job questions which are filmed on their mobile phone or laptop. 

A set of algorithms then select the best applicants by assessing their performances in the videos against thousands of pieces of facial and linguistic information, compiled from previous interviews of those who have later proven to be good at the job.

However, Hesse is completely unconvinced.

“Far from being free from bias, this sort of kit would inevitably have in-built biases in its databases. This would mean that some candidates would be discriminated against, and talented applicants might be excluded, simply for not conforming to the norm.

“Some candidates might simply be good at doing interviews on video – but whether the same individuals will be able to perform out in the field is a different matter. Similarly, some people who would have been great at the job will be ruled out just because they don’t fit the data set from the past.

“There are those who say that they would prefer to be assessed by a ‘fair’ computer algorithm, rather than risking being interviewed by a human recruiter - who might be tired, stressed, or let unconscious bias cloud their judgement. But when estate agents are dealing with buyers and sellers of property, they have to deal with clients who are going through all sorts of similar emotions.”

And he concludes: “I’m no Luddite. But the fact remains that the best recruiter of people – is other people.”

  • Michael Riley

    Actually it will be the opposite, deep technology will be far far greater at selecting candiates than a human.

    We have a host of cognitive bias that even the most intelligent people struggle to balance. For example we tend to employ people like ourselves, or a certain race or gender. Or based upon some other spurious measure, well so and so had these traits, so this candiate must be good. Overlooking subtle differences in data.

    Estate agency is particularly poor at recruitment. In many cases it functions on high volume of candiates with a sink or swim mentality.
    The industry also has a rigid infrastructure/process bias. We force people to attend morning meetings (at Romans that was 8.15) and be in the office at allsorts of times. It might be that the very best potential agents are weeded out because they don't fit with this sort of working.

    For example, Billy from Scotland might be the best negotiator in the world, but he's not working for you, because your process cant capture that, with machines you will be able to. Great agencies will realise that the best people might not look like, be located near or want to work to the restrictive schedules and therefore adapt.

    Recruitment and onboarding in our industry is utterly abysmal in many cases and something we should be embarrassed by.

    Lastly, without going "full nerd" this isn't AI its more likely to be Predictive Analytics.

  • Richard Copus

    Interesting analysis. Cognitive bias has a sound footing. As long as we do not breach legislative guidelines on race etc or obviously spurious grounds, we are bound to employ candidates who think and work like us, even if they are of a slightly lower calibre than the computer says we should employ, because EASE of working in a comfortable and pleasant working environment in itself leads to increased efficiency and success. Having to work with someone who ticks all the theoretical boxes but grates is a recipe for problems. The best recruiter of people has to be people.


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