Your complete guide to chatbots in recruitment – Part 1

Chatbots can dramatically influence the way recruitment is done – however, no other HR technology faces the same level of misunderstanding and prejudice. So let’s break it down. Here you’ll learn and get an idea of how recruitment chatbots work, what they can do, how they’re designed and how to select a chatbot vendor.

What the heck is a chatbot anyway?

First of all, forget everything you know about robots, artificial intelligence, star wars and science fiction.

All that over-the-top AI-buzz, human-like names and marketing slogans are really pulling people’s imagination and creating different sorts of expectations that are quite far from reality. Let’s see chatbots as what they really are: useful messaging services that can automate simple conversations in areas like customer support, ordering services, personal assistance and of course – recruitment.

I know what it sounds like and I know what you’re thinking – “What!? Recruitment is a sophisticated psychological game, this can’t be handed-over to an algorithm! Human relations can’t be replaced by industrial computerized processes!” These are pretty common reactions from recruiters when they first hear about chatbots.

But here’s the thing. Sure, there are deep human interactions being done in recruitment. But there is also a lot of administrative work: sending emails, making calls, screening with questions, explaining the recruitment process, consolidating information and passing it down to someone else – all that administrative jazz.

Chatbots are still too primitive to replace human conversation; however, they’re efficient enough to handle the transactional part of the job. As you’d see later, it’s for the good of both recruiters and candidates.

Chatbots were born from smartphones

People are now accessing more information than ever via smartphones. Classic web pages are more suitable for large desktop screens and therefore mobile apps were born. Now, the chatbot is just another step in this technological evolution.

Imagine that you need to order a taxi: on a computer you’d open a website and fill in some order form, while on mobile, you’d be able to open an app and fill the request or simply open messenger to text the service provider where you want to go. The taxi service will automatically reply asking you to confirm your starting location and if you want to order the taxi now or later. Chatbots are not a replacement, it’s an alternative to existing means.

Many services already allow people to interact with them via a chatbot. The real explosion happened in China, where a largely popular service WeChat (WhatsApp style) evolved from a mere chatting service to an all-in-one app that let users order food, hail cars, and pay utility bills through a simple payment functionality.

What are the key advantages?

“There’s no magical solution to add to the process where suddenly you have an A.I. powered chatbot that’s gonna do all the repetitive tasks for you,” says Luc Dudler, from a Recruitment chatbot specialized company jobpal.

We should see recruitment as a sequence of various steps and interactions and understand which interactions can be handled by a chatbot. See the most frequent use cases below: Engagement and discovery A candidate can contact the chatbot and ask questions about the company or about the specific positions. This functionality is quite sophisticated because it requires a “natural language understanding” to know, what the user’s asking. There should also be a well structured knowledge base in the backend. A good example is Sergeant Star – a chatbot by the US Army. You can give try it here:

  1. Sharing content. This is similar to automatic email sequences. For example, over the course of 4 weeks, the candidate can get small pieces of content about company insights. Or she can get practical information about the recruitment process and next steps. Content is shared as a text or in the form of snippets that can include photos, videos, maps, or links.
  2. Application. You can forget sifting for hours through job listings. Now candidates can use the chatbot to filter available positions and apply straight from the messaging app.
  3. Pre-screening. After filling out the application, candidates can receive additional questions to further determine their qualifications. Compared to getting a form by email, the advantage here is that the chatbot can easily engage candidates who didn’t complete the form. Also, the sequence of questions can change depending on answers.
  4. Booking the meeting. If the chatbot is well-integrated with the other HR systems, it can propose available time slots for interviews. No more playing phone tag and wasting time.

Recruiters don’t have to give up control of their recruitment process. They can still make the key decisions and have the face to face interviews. But when it comes to all the administrative and transactional stuff, why not hand it over to the chatbot?

Do candidates really like talking to recruiters?

Chatbot providers say that surveys show that people actually appreciate talking to chatbots more then talking to recruiters. Up to 76% of Millennials say they prefer receiving messages over calls, due to convenience, respect, and control.

Drew Austin, from the recruitment chatbot company “Wade and Wendy” says the key benefit to candidates is to tell their story. „Recruiters have no capacity. It depends on who the recruiters pick, and the rest are out of luck. To be able to engage every applicant, on their own time, 24/7, allows them to answer questions specific to the role, not just based on the one-size fits all resume. Also they will learn more about the role and reduce the time it takes to get a job.”

Luc Dudler confirms 64% of their users interact with the chatbot out of the business hours.

Here are the tangible advantages for candidates:

  • interaction can take place whenever the candidates wants, which is usually out of the office hours
  • conversation can be stopped and restarted later
  • chatbot is much quicker (compared to email)
  • conversation can be automatically triggered by certain events (e.g. send practical info for an interview 48 hours before, send an automatic update every 3 days).

One would expect that the chatbot is mainly for a millenial use case, however that’s not confirmed. All of the chatbot providers say the adoption rate is similar across all age groups.

An increase in candidate experience and thus a higher conversion rate is a solid argument for chatbots.

Chatbots are here to help recruiters

If technology can take care of the most repetitive and routine tasks, recruiters should have more time to focus on quality work with the candidate. Ideally, thanks to the chatbot, recruitment in general will become more human.

Drew says that some people think of it as “hey, wait, this may replace me” but at the end of the day, recruiters are overwhelmed. Recruiting is a thankless 24/7 job so a thoughtful, knowledgeable recruiter is not going to be threatened by the bot, they will be asking “how can I partner with this?”

“If a company automates 80% of processes and dismisses 80% of recruiters, they would save money, but the quality will be still on the same low level. It makes more sense to invest part of the saved time into a better work with candidates. Do what is the core of recruitment: talk to people, create relationship and bring value. The goal should be to work with less candidates but better,” says Bill Boorman.

The added value doesn’t come from automation only. If a company has a chatbot with Q&A functionality, it can easily get insights about what the candidates are most interested in. Anna Ott, from UNLEASH shares her statistics: people were asking mainly about salaries (24 %), information about the company (20 %) and information about the recruitment process (11 %).

P.S. Wanna know more about chatbots? Interested in how chatbots are designed, integrated with other systems and understand human language? Part 2 is coming soon.

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