Recruiting with Chatbots

by Sabine Steiner in — July 2019
Remember the talking paperclip in Microsoft Word? It was a little annoying, but it was a forerunner to a phenomenon that has now reached the world of recruiting. Chatbots are increasingly taking over websites and simulating amazingly authentic conversations with users and potential applicants.

The Most Serious Problem Solved by Chatbots

A chatbot is just what it sounds like: a chat window that uses a computer and artificial intelligence to answer questions and even conduct whole conversations. Some are supposedly so good that even professionals cannot tell they are chatting with a bot. Nowadays, companies are using chatbots to answer questions, collect data, make appointments, and give users the impression that their concerns are being taken seriously. Chatbots are a major way recruitment firms can leverage big data.

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Chatbots can help solve one of the most serious problems in recruiting: lack of time. Sometimes one recruiter is responsible for hundreds of applicants in addition to a busy schedule packed with other duties. Sometimes there just is not enough time to answer questions from candidates. This is where a chatbot can be handy.

Tempting Reasons for Deploying a Chatbot

The speed and availability of chatbots make them tempting for use in recruiting. Chatbots are available around the clock, seven days a week. No matter when a candidate poses a question, the chatbot is there. Chatbots can also talk to two or two hundred people at the same time. These two advantages alone make chatbots tempting to companies that process a lot of applications.

7 Use Cases for Chatbots

Recruiting departments can use chatbots to:

  1. Ask for documents like a CV or a diploma in a charming way
  2. Update applicants on their status
  3. Get information about candidates’ prior experience and qualifications
  4. Make a preliminary selection of candidates based on their profiles in a neutral way, ignoring factors like race, gender, or age
  5. Get candidates to rank themselves in certain areas (e.g. “How good is your English on a scale of 1 – 5?”
  6. Answer questions about the job, company culture, and application process
  7. Make appointments for interviews.

Executive Search: Additional Advantages with Chatbots

Although not apparent at first glance, chatbots also have advantages for executive search firms. The chat gives potential candidates a opportunity to ask questions in a discrete way, protecting their privacy. The latest chatbots can also switch between different modes of communication, for example between text and speech. This gives busy executives more ways to interact with your website, for example chatting via text while standing in line at the airport or chatting with a voice-activated assistant like Siri in the car while driving to an appointment.

How to Set Up a Chatbot Well

Be sure to clarify what the chatbot should be able to do and how it will react to questions it cannot answer. Most chatbots these days use artificial intelligence to learn. This still means that they start out with few capabilities and need maintenance and fine-tuning before you can unleash them on candidates. Budget resources for maintenance and improvements to make sure that your chatbot remains state of the art. Also be aware that chatbots are not a set-it-and-forget-it deal.

Caution: Far from Perfect

Before you rush into the world of chatbots, think back to that annoying paperclip in Word. A chatbot that pops into your screen but can barely answer any questions may chase away candidates and damage your employer brand.

Even though people are getting used to chatbots and starting to enjoy the experience more and more, chatbots can go disastrously wrong. Microsoft learned this the hard way when trolls turned its chatbot into a racist monster in less than one day. While that is unlikely, the chances are much higher that a relatively primitive chatbot will annoy users when it runs out of answers after the second question. A chatbot is no quick fix, but planned and implemented well, it can contribute to your candidate experience.