In 1950, Alan Turing predicted that by the year 2000, computers would be able to pass off as a human during a text conversation. Last year in 2017, Gartner predicted that by 2021, 50 percent of organizations would spend a significant budget on chatbot creation and bots than on the traditional mobile application development.
Today’s recruiting software has simplified some of the most time-consuming aspects of talent acquisition, and is increasingly incorporating analytics that can make predictions about candidate fit and quality. Chatbots are one of the latest additions to the HR toolbox.
In this interview with Hari Krishna, we discuss the role of chatbots in recruitment and the future of recruitment:
Q: What inspired you to start Param.ai? What were the challenges you were trying to solve?
I spent close to 14 years in Talent Acquisition industry and worked with companies like Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, Oracle, IBM, etc. One of the challenges that were common across product development companies and services companies was that all the companies had large volumes of resumes in their Application Tracking System (ATS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems but manually filtering those resumes and mapping candidates to job openings from these systems was a very tedious task for recruiters. Finding qualified candidates from the large volume of the applicant pool and engaging them is the key to successful recruiting. This is where I felt that technology could play a key role in making the recruiters’ life easy. At Param, we are trying to automate resume screening through our smart algorithms and candidate engagement through our intelligent assistants.
Q: You recently launched a recruitment assistant. Tell us more about it. How does it work?
The Recruitment Assistant, Lisa helps recruiters to identify top prospects and engages with them quickly. Lisa can make quick-action recommendations like pre-screening a candidate, changing candidate status, view open jobs, view the candidate list against jobs, etc.
Once the candidate is stack-ranked in the Param platform, Lisa will pre-screen the candidates and provides the recruiter with critical insights about the candidate such as availability for interview, candidate’s key skills, information about the notice period, and his/her compensation expectation. This information will help recruiters further qualify candidates and engage with the most qualified candidates.
Lisa makes it possible to pre-screen multiple candidates at one go. She also acts as a communication channel between the candidate and the recruiter, helping candidates know their application status, addresses their queries, etc. By this, we are trying to bridge the communication gap between recruiter and candidates without adding to the recruiters’ workload. This helps companies raise their bar on candidate experience.
Q: How is it different from other recruitment chatbots that are available in the marketplace?
The most significant difference between Lisa and other chatbots is that Lisa is backed by the stack-ranking intelligence provided by the platform. Lisa understands match between the companies' hiring patterns and the candidate background. For instance, if the candidate has applied for a job where he/she is not a great fit, and there is another job where he/she is a better possible fit, Lisa will recommend the more suitable position to the candidate, giving them the option to apply for it. Thus she will set both candidate and recruiters up for success.
Q: What struck you to come up with the idea of a chatbot?
Our idea and intent is to simplify the communication between recruiters and candidates. Recruiters deal with a lot of transactions and accessing the platform or ATS every time might not be possible. We wanted to build something which will help the recruiter take quick actions on the move, especially on the phone.
Q: Talking specifically about chatbots, how do you think chatbots can impact the recruitment?
“Candidate engagement” is the area of recruitment where chatbots can have the most significant impact. It is impossible for the recruiter to be able to respond to every candidate query alongside all the other tasks they have on their plate currently. Also, a lot of the candidate queries are repetitive. With such ‘assistants’ coming to the recruiters’ aide, they will form a channel of communication between the candidate and the recruiter, helping address the candidate’s concern of lack of communication from the recruiter(s), and the recruiter’s concern of lack of time. Chatbots will also be intelligent enough to make some quick-action recommendations to both recruiters and candidates, helping them move forward with the next step quickly. Additionally, chatbots will also reduce the effort and time spent on tasks like pre-screening, follow-ups and scheduling interviews.
Q: How can a chatbot impact the engagement level of both the potential candidates and the recruiter?
With technology opening up a lot of forums for companies to post their jobs in addition to their career pages, the number of applications received for each job posting has multiplied. However, very few of these applications are qualified for the job. In spite of resume stack-ranking, recruiters still have multiple applications to deal with for each Job. At the same time, candidates expect a response from the recruiter on their application status.
Assistants play a crucial role in these two cases. The assistant can inform the candidate about their application status (especially if they haven’t qualified for the job applied for). It can pre-screen and engage with the qualified candidates enabling recruiters to focus on moving ahead with qualified candidates through the further steps in the hiring process such as scheduling interviews, making offers, etc.
In the current job market which is candidate-driven, while the most important thing for candidates is a prompt response from the recruiter/company, for the recruiter is it to move quickly on qualified candidates.
Q: Don't you think the involvement of a chatbot in recruitment will lead to the elimination of human touch? Do you feel candidates will be happy to talk to an automated algorithm?
I don’t think so. Human touch is required for things such as exploratory calls, role sell discussions, explaining company policies, compensation philosophy, etc. Most importantly, building relationships and engaging with candidates. No chatbot or automation can replace these functions.
In fact, according to a recent survey by Allegis Global Solutions, 58% of job seekers said that they were comfortable interacting with AI apps and chatbots in the early stages of the application process and 66% said they were glad to have AI apps and chatbots handle interview scheduling and preparation.
What the chatbot can do is acknowledge candidate applications, check availability for interview, notify recruiters about queries and concerns the candidates may have etc. Between waiting for more extended periods to hearing from a human and receiving instant response from a chatbot, I’m sure candidates wouldn’t mind talking to an automated algorithm/chatbot especially for the above use cases.
Q: What kind of trends are you observing in the chatbot marketplace? How do you foresee the adoption of chatbots in HR processes in the future?
There are quite a few players already in the market, and the trend is picking up. While most of these solutions are integrated with ATS/ CRM systems, a few operate as stand-alone applications. The adoption rate of such technology is picking up. When we started Param, building an assistant was not on our initial roadmap. We started building Lisa only when our customers asked for it. Our customers wanted a solution which would help ease the candidate engagement process with the top prospects identified using our stack-ranking feature. The other driving factor was the thought on how to show the recruitment intelligence available in the platform to recruiters? Adding one more report to the metrics/dashboard page wasn’t how we wanted to show this information. With the desire to take a slightly different approach to present actionable data in an interactive manner, we ended up building the assistant.
Recruiters are looking for something that can allow them to engage potential candidates, helping them to reduce time to hire and increase the number of candidates who complete the application process. Chatbots are creating a lot of a buzz and ushering in a new way of working for savvy recruiters that want to increase their productivity.
Q: What are your future plans for expansion?
As I mentioned earlier, we have only started with the primary use cases. The idea is to give Lisa some time to evolve, learning from patterns and acquiring the ability to make smart conversations with both candidates and recruiters. We are thinking along the lines of adding Market Intelligence or ATS Intelligence to help hiring managers and recruiters make data-driven decisions. Auto-Scheduling of interviews and Post-offer engagement is something that is on the roadmap next, and we have already started working on this.