December 12, 2016

Are Chatbots the Future of the Candidate Experience?

Written by
Matthew Kosinski

According to Forbes staff writer Jacquelyn Smith, an average of 118 people apply for any given job. By some estimates, corporate jobs draw more than twice as many applications per open role.

Even with an applicant tracking system (ATS) to weed out unqualified candidates, the sheer volume of applicants for a position still poses a significant problem for many recruiters and hiring managers. That’s because recruiters and hiring managers, like the rest of us, are expected to do more with less , less time, less money, fewer team members, etc. Many recruiters have to juggle multiple openings at once, and hiring managers are busy overseeing their teams and departments.

ALSO READ: 6 Recruiting Platforms That Help You Source Better Talent

As a result, recruiters have very little time to dedicate to the candidate experience. Paradoxically enough, they’re so busy trying to find the right candidate that they have no time to attract the right candidates.

Why worry about a negative candidate experience? Because it can severely damage your organization:

  • 83 percent of candidates say they are more likely to never apply to a company again after a negative candidate experience.
  • 63 percent say they are more likely to decline a job offer.
  • 59 percent say they are more likely to tell others not to apply.
  • 42 percent say they are less likely to buy the company’s products.

Communication plays a major role in determining the quality of a candidate’s experience. Receptive, responsive recruiting teams lead to happier candidates, but recruiting teams that are too swamped to chat lead to frustrated and disillusioned candidates.

There is a way out of this bind, and it isn’t hiring more recruiters or filling fewer jobs. In the not so distant future, the answer may be artificial intelligence (AI).

Will Your Recruiting Team’s Newest Member Be a Chatbot?

There are opportunities to inject AI into almost every step of the recruiting process, but the technology is posed to make its biggest impact at the top of the funnel through the introduction of chatbots like FirstJob’s Mya.

Chatbots are exactly what they sound like: bots that can hold realistic, meaningful conversations with people. Their role in recruiting is simple, but profound. While recruiters and hiring managers are busy screening candidates behind the scenes, chatbots can talk to them online. When candidates have basic questions, comments, or concerns, they can pose them to the chatbot — which, if programmed correctly, can answer most of them. When the chatbot doesn’t have an answer, it can ping a member of the recruiting team to step in and help.

In that sense, chatbots could potentially fill the applicant “black hole” that ruins so many candidate experiences. Instead of sending emails into the void, candidates can reach out to chatbots and get quick answers. Plus, the bots can keep them updated on their progress in the hiring process and alert them to important next steps.

While chatbots are keeping candidates informed, they can also gather additional information for recruiting and hiring teams. They do this by posing questions and inviting candidates to elaborate on their skills, credentials, and experiences. This data is relayed back to the recruiter, providing a more complete picture of each applicant.

Chatbots as Screening Tools

There’s also an opportunity to use chatbots as more advanced screening tools. In theory, companies could merge these bots with ranking/scoring programs so that, as the bots collect information about candidates, they also use that data to assess each applicant’s fit for the role.

Currently, many recruiters use an ATS to help screen unqualified candidates, but this is an imperfect method. ATS screening relies on resume keywords, which means you aren’t assessing candidate quality as much as candidate resumes. That also means applicant tracking systems are easy to game. The result is that unqualified candidates slip through the gate by packing their resumes full of keywords, and qualified candidates get filtered out because their language is imprecise.

A chatbot, on the other hand, can evaluate candidates based on more than just their resumes. As mentioned above, they can gather supplementary information about candidates, giving them much more relevant data to work with , and more data generally results in more accurate assessments.

AI Can’t Do it Alone

While AI (especially in the form of chatbots) has the potential to radically change recruiting for the better, it will never be a fully-automated, set-it-and-forget-it technology. To stay alive in the war for talent, each employer must ensure that behind automation stands a team of talented, engaged recruiters ready to play their roles.

That means stepping in to assist candidates when the AI doesn’t have the answers. That means paying attention to the intangible qualities of a great hire that AI can’t detect. That means building real, human relationships with top-tier talent.

Chatbots can act human, but they can’t be human. That’s why recruiters exist.

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of When he’s not writing about employment et al., he’s listening to hip-hop, reading poetry, and bingeing on sitcoms.

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