How Chatbots Can Create Lifelike Recruiting Conversations

Chatbots have become a hot topic of conversation. These days, they can help you do everything from ordering double decker tacos to finding your soulmate. Chatbots have grown so popular, in fact, that Gartner predicts that, by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse. Now that's a notable prophecy!

What about the recruiting space? Do bots have the potential to change the dynamic between candidate and recruiter, too?

For the most part, bots have been introduced to recruiting primarily as a way to enhance messaging and communication among team members, particularly relating to the status of candidates in the recruitment funnel. Several applicant tracking systems have recently incorporated chatbots as a more streamlined method for sharing updates to a group of new applicants or updating teams about new applications. While these collaborative enhancements are helpful, they don't really allow for true engagement with the candidate, nor do they facilitate natural conversations that further the candidate's progression through the hiring process.

To take chatbots to the next level of interactivity and effectiveness, it is necessary to supplement current functionality with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing. By introducing these enhanced capabilities to a recruiting chatbot, we can enable more lifelike, intelligent conversations, and chatbots can deliver spontaneous responses to candidates no matter what they ask or how they ask it.

The benefit of using a recruiting-specific chatbot is that it doesn't have to be programmed to respond to an almost infinite number of questions and answers like in the cases of Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. Instead, for the vertical market of talent acquisition, the AI and natural language processing will revolve solely around conversational content that relates to questions a candidate might pose during the recruitment period. For instance, a recruiting chatbot might be able to reach out to a candidate to ask about their interest in a particular job and answer initial follow-up questions from the candidate, such as anticipated job responsibilities and education requirements. Imagine the potential cost savings resulting from this type of solution, not to mention the amount of time that would be freed up for recruiters to engage in more strategic activities.

In case you think these capabilities exist solely in the realm of sci-fi books, allow me to share our experience here at Crowded, a sourcing and engagement platform for tech jobs in the New York metro area. We recently introduced a recruiting chatbot that narrows the scope of usage even further so that we can refine the bot's ability to engage in high-level, realistic conversations with candidates. Specifically, we have focused our chatbot on the software developer market.

Why focus first on recruitment of software developers? There are a number of reasons, one being their propensity for early adoption of novel technologies. In addition, we've also determined that the most successful launches of chatbots have been those with highly specific use cases, such as Poncho for customizable weather forecasts or 1-800-Flowers for ordering a bouquet. By solving for the challenges that recruiters face with software developers specifically, we can master the conversational nuances particular to those types of roles.

Ultimately, the bot's capabilities will expand into additional verticals and markets, but for now, we are busy helping software developers find their next job without going through the hassle of filling out cumbersome, time-consuming online job applications. Our chatbot reaches out to candidates to walk them through the few steps necessary to build a Crowded profile. By engaging in a conversation rather than requiring the completion of an onerous web form, the chatbot delivers a more constructive and positive candidate experience and sets the stage for the candidate and hiring manager to connect on next steps via text message, Facebook Messenger, or email.

The results of our bot's interactions have been encouraging. Response rates are 6-8 times better than with traditional recruitment channels like InMails or phone calls. What's more, since engaging in thousands of conversations with tech candidates, our bot has become conversant on topics that are important to developers.

We also have developed an "escape hatch" to ensure that candidates don't become frustrated with the bot or start to have negative experiences. In cases where the bot may not understand a candidate's comment or can't answer a specific question, the conversation can be escalated to a human being in our office who can take over the conversation seamlessly. As a result, the candidate continues to be engaged in a natural dialogue, and potential frustration points are avoided.

Regardless of the market, the possibilities and applications for bots are endless. We'll continue to test and analyze the conversations the chatbot undertakes. Doing so ensures we can use the best of machine learning capabilities to refine and improve the free-form nature of the candidate experience.

Howard Schwartz is the CEO and cofounder of Crowded.