AI Skills Are Up 142-Fold? Yeah, Right.

A surge in applicants claiming artificial-intelligence expertise leaves recruiters skeptical.

An applicant for a retail-sales role claimed “extensive experience with AI.” A tech-department applicant said they were “conversant in AI modeling.” And an HR applicant listed a “certificate in AI security.” A finance executive referenced “deep-language coding.”

Those who spend their days with their noses in résumés have observed a sea change this year: Everyone, from entry-level applicants to executives, is claiming to have artificial-intelligence (AI) skills. LinkedIn recently released data indicating a 142-fold increase in applicants listing AI know-how on their résumés over the last year. “It’s the new ‘digital skills,’” says David Vied, global sector leader for medical devices and diagnostics. “The term is already a constant, and has been watered down very quickly.”

Skepticism is warranted. Like ‘big data’ and ‘digital skills’ before, ‘AI skills’ is the latest buzz phrase to make the rounds. The concept is in vogue not just in hiring, but anywhere innovation is encouraged, such as funding rounds for tech start-ups, where AI-related pitches are more likely to get seen by investors. To be sure, buzzwords are always in play, says Shanda Mints, vice president for RPO analytics and implementation at Korn Ferry. “It’s honestly one way you have to keep up with the market, especially in the tech space.”

For job applicants, claiming to have AI abilities is currently critical to getting past résumé filters—which scan for the minimum qualifications for the role— during the hiring process. The special sauce is to make that AI knowledge directly relevant to the job, and to be able to fluently discuss and demonstrate it. “The idea is to use AI tools to do this particular job better, and more productively,” says Deepali Vyas, global head of the FinTech, Crypto and Payments practice at Korn Ferry. She notes that for people not in AI-focused roles, taking a quick AI class, like those offered by Udacity or LinkedIn Learning, can be fruitful in providing the foundational background that’s expected in all employees these days.

Experts advise applicants to clearly explain how they’re using AI, both on a résumé and during an interview. But depending on the role, familiarity with AI—versus expertise—may well be sufficient. For example, take a management position: “You may only need to be conversant and able to manage tech experts,” says Sharon Egilinsky, a partner in Korn Ferry’s ESG and Sustainability Solutions team. For other positions, simply understanding what AI can do, and being able to demonstrate that knowledge, may be enough.

For interviewers, experts suggest delving into the specifics of applicants’ skills. Did the applicant use AI as a tool, or actually develop a model? At the moment, the hybrid role is prompt engineer: someone (often with a liberal-arts background) who is not an AI developer, but understands what prompts result in good outputs. “It’s making the sausage, versus putting sausage as an ingredient in a dish,” says Vyas. 


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