2018 has been the year of the bots. We are seeing the widespread deployment of bots in user engagement. We are also seeing companies recruiting with bots being employed at various touchpoints of the recruitment process. From initial contact, selection to onboarding of staff, these bots are being used to engage and qualify. This video by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) shows some of the applications available today.
Just how effective are recruitment bots? To what extent should you employ bots in your recruitment process? What are the considerations before we leave our candidate engagement to bots.
To begin, let us understand a little about the technology behind bots. Bots can be broadly classified into two categories - Contextual and Rule-based bots. In each of these categories, bots can interact over different interfaces - eg. web, voice
Contextual bots are built on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). These technologies allow the bot to learn and improve over time. A good example is the now famous Google AI bot showcased recently. This is the future - one where users are able to have a natural conversation with bots trained to handle and anticipate questions. AI bots are already applied in various recruitment scenarios from pre-hire assessments to candidate sourcing.
As their name suggests, this group of bots provide pre-programmed responses to a set of pre-determined input from the users. Chatbots that are frequently found on websites are mainly of this variety. Users are guided linearly through a series of questions by the bot and progress is made via a web of decision trees or keywords. Improvements to these bots require human intervention and they do not have reinforced learning capabilities of their cousins discussed above.
Is Recruitment Ready for Bots?
Imagine a bot intelligent enough to pre-qualify a candidate for a job, field questions about the role, schedule an interview with the team etc. The holy grail of a recruitment bot is not beyond the realm of reality. Google has shown us that the technology is here and improving rapidly. Examples in the WSJ report quoted above shows that bots are entering the HR space. Are we prepared to embrace it? Is it an affront to the very core of HR as a people function? Will they take over our jobs?!
“Everyone wanted this holy grail,” one of the people said. “They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those.”
While the technologies behind contextual bots are maturing rapidly, it is certainly not without its challenges. There are examples of AI gone wrong. A recent case reported by Reuters shows even tech giants like Amazon with its army of AI and ML experts could also get it wrong with its recruitment bot. Someone in the report was quoted as saying: “Everyone wanted this holy grail, They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those.”
Once questions of technology maturity and those surrounding how human-bot interactions should be managed (eg. disclosure, legality) are sufficiently addressed, we can be assured that bots will be commonplace as part of our recruitment toolkit.
For now, bots are best used to collect and present information, and perform repetitive tasks in the recruitment process. One huge advantage of bots over their human counterparts is consistency - you train it once and see it go.
In the next instalment, we will discuss about how rule-based chatbots can be used to engage potential jobseekers and what should your considerations be when employing such a solution to your recruitment process.