Chat bots in recruiting: some basic thoughts

For a couple of months now, I’ve been playing around with a chat bot for our recruiting process at hub:raum. And though it is not yet as sophisticated as I want it to be, I am already a major fan for a couple of reasons. But whenever I speak to recruiters and HR people, I find that their knowledge of what bots can already do in recruitment are basic to non-existing.

I’m putting my thoughts on it out here for the less tech savvy HR people to give them some input and ideas on chat bots in recruiting and increase their understanding of it. I’ll also continue writing some more in-depth insights on other chat bots I’ve researched and share some more information and articles on their evolution.

What a conversational/chat bot can do for your recruiting today:

Even though our chat bot has no specially developed artificial intelligence yet, it can answer standard questions and thereby do two powerful things:

  1. it extracts information from a candidate
  2. it gives information to a candidate

Why is that powerful?

  • Because it does it 24/7
  • Because it is immediate response
  • Because it is straight forward information. No politeness, small talk or irrelevant conversation needed.

Collecting Data and skipping the BS

A candidate who wants to know how the job is paid, can and will ask the bot exactly that straight away. Where as in most countries this would eliminate your chances of landing the job if that’s the first question you ask a recruiter. But then again, it might be determining for some candidates and either motivate them to apply at all — or not. Same for questions like “will I get a company car”, “how are the working hours” etc. Stuff you don’t put in job postings but are still important for a candidate.

Candidates vs. applicants

When recruiters publish jobs today they will obviously only receive information about actual applicants. But those are just a small amount of the group of candidates who have seen the posting somewhere but just didn’t apply. Most recruiters I know unfortunately only focus on the applicants. They don’t care about the people they didn’t reach. They don’t ask themselves what held them back from applying. Some of them might even not be interested in the actual numbers of their conversion rates of the job postings.

Integrating a chat bot as the gateway to the job postings the way that we did also means, that every candidate interacts with the bot. Even though they might not apply, they leave a trace. An anonymous or a personal — depending on what a candidate wants. I may not know who the person is who chatted with my bot and didn’t apply, but I know at least, someone was there and I can track back the conversation knowing when the candidate ended it. This enables me to interpret why someone was not interested and in the case that this candidate opted in to receive further information in the future, I can even get back to them — fully automatically through automated job alerts, career events nearby or targeted content.

As a recruiter you cannot expect anymore that jobseekers are ready to apply right away. Some might need a few months or even years to make the decision or be the right fit. A chat bot can keep in touch with them fully automated.

With Facebook messenger, this will even be on the lock screen of their phone. Right in their face. Full attention. Personalized messages to retarget and re-engage a candidate and trying to convert him or her into an applicant.

That’s the game recruiters want to play. Not only speaking to the bunch of applicants luring around our career page all the time, some of them desperately looking for a job. As a recruiter I want to (at least !) find out about those candidates I didn’t convince in the first place with my standard job positing. Moreover though I best find ways to get their attention, convincing them with the information they need that talking to us might be of value to them, too.

And a bot will and can do exactly that. Sunday evening when they’re at home and not busy with their day-to-day work, Monday morning commuting to another day in their unsatisfying jobs, during the holidays when they have time to think about their career choices… whenever I might have the best chances to grasp their attention. And not end up in their spam folder next to the other LinkedIn messages of fellow recruiters.

Signal vs. noise

Our bot comes with a standard set of questions it asks a candidate in order to display relevant jobs. Mostly this will be “location” “job type” or “profession”. So in a MVP version, a chat bot in recruiting is just a smart filter to show a candidate job openings and start a conversation with them in order to make them apply.

But there can and will be more to that. What amazed me most about the bot conversation I saw is that candidates actually spend a lot of time typing in text in a chat even on their mobile phones. Not only clicking on so called “quick reply” buttons but also giving detailed answers to questions a chat bot has. So with an artificial intelligence in the bot, these valuable information will help both sides filtering out signals vs. noise when it comes to applying.

But even though our bot is yet not intelligent enough to understand much information, it can — by the help of quick replies — have a conversation that enables two things already:

  1. filtering out candidates who are not relevant to me (based on whatever kind of criteria I want)
  2. telling those candidates who don’t fit that the chances to land a job are poor and hence applying would not be recommended

Why would I want the latter? Because every application a job seeker compiles, sends out, waiting for feedback, following up with the recruiter, trying to get an interview etc is frustrating, annoying even and in any case: takes a lot of time. So why would a recruiter not tell a jobseeker who is (for whatever reason) not a fit, that it would be a waste of time for them to apply? Why not tell them even why that is when the reasons can be communicated? Some of the jobs I recruit for demand specific skills on specific levels, may it be programming or even spoken languages or industry expertise. Or even availability or location. So why not let a job seeker know about these definite criteria instead of raising hopes and wasting time?

A bot is already an enhancement to a recruiter’s life.

Generally, I truly believe that a bot can enlarge my capabilities through smart automated workflows and thereby enrich the candidate experience immensely. But it will surely be exciting to see which other bots will evolve and whether they will focus on serving either the jobseekers or recruiters needs.