Press Release: ON Partners Champions Soft Skills and Human Engagement in AI-Enhanced Executive Search

May 7, 2024

— As AI advances, the need for human touch in the executive recruitment process becomes even more critical to unlocking soft skills —


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(CLEVELAND, OH.: May 7, 2024) (Global Newswire) – This month, ON Partners, a pure-play retained executive search firm building C-level and board leadership teams, validates that while it integrates cutting-edge AI technology into executive recruitment processes, this scientific advancement is not intended to substitute for the assessment of soft skills. As AI evolves and becomes more sophisticated in its ability to sort through talent data and more quickly identify top talent, it continues to lack the nuanced and high-touch communication necessary to assess executive leaders across industries.

“We can’t over-science the intuition in retained executive search,” said Bryan Buck, Partner at ON Partners.  “While there’s a significant influx of AI investment in HR technology today, we’re still in the early innings of effectively applying AI to executive recruitment.  GenAI can assist in making the recruitment process more efficient, but it’s important to understand where the blind spots still exist. AI does well in pattern-matching the industry and functional fit, but it relies heavily on peer-to-peer interaction to understand critical soft skill assessments like culture fit, executive presence, communication style, and compatibility.”

A recent article by Business Chief and a survey conducted by reported that nearly a quarter of employers are already experiencing a critical skills gap.  As a result, four in five HR professionals are placing a stronger focus on soft skills, which is an aspect that generative AI does not address.  In addition, as early as 2020, a Deloitte study found that 92% of companies believe that human capabilities or soft skills matter just as much as hard skills in the process of filling roles for companies across various industries.  Skills such as effective communication, adaptability, leadership, critical thinking, innovation, and teamwork are some of the numerous known soft skills that will become more vital as AI continues to evolve.

“In building and evaluating technology available in Executive Recruiting, we continue to lean into core strengths. For example, we stay away from any offerings that aim to speed up and automate the outreach or messaging process. Human-to-human communication is a valuable medium for assessment and evaluation – and it’s not something we want to replace with ChatGPT or canned scripts – no matter how much more efficient it is,” said Jin Ro, Chief Product Officer at ON Partners. “Evaluating a candidate’s leadership, motivation, drive or integrity are at the core of what makes our recruiting partners so valuable to our clients and cannot be automated.”

Despite AI technologies’ widespread adoption and innovation, ON Partners has observed a deeper client desire and demand to gain insights into candidates beyond professional qualifications. Clients are increasingly interested in understanding what drives candidates’ life ambitions, not just their career objectives. There appears to be a connection between these motivations and their achievements. While AI can provide valuable data, the human touch remains essential in delving into these nuances to ensure that the right individuals are matched with the right roles.

“We are at the front end of ensuring AI is used to make the recruitment process more efficient, predictive, and inclusive,” said Brad Westveld, Partner at ON Partners.  “However, there is no substitute for human engagement, and we believe human interaction is key to understanding when a leader fits the organization.  You must be aware of their motivation and be able to confirm if it is what the company desires as well.  These are factors that are not AI-driven.”

“The talent pool will continue to expand and shift, thus driving new expectations for executive leaders in the space,” continued Westveld.  “As a result, the overall market will continue to evolve, creating new possibilities while uncovering new challenges that CEOs and boardrooms must be prepared to solve.  While AI can be strategically leveraged in the beginning and the end of the recruitment process, it’s that critically important space between where human interaction is still quintessential for proper candidate assessment and selection.”

Learn more about ON’s approach to executive search data innovation representing the talent market by downloading its recent talent intelligence reports, including the 2024 Women’s Report and 2024 Variance Report.

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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