‘Siri for Recruiting’ Set to Debut This Year

By Roy Maurer Feb 2, 2017
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More decision-makers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the computational power behind data algorithms to boost outcomes in recruitment. 

Proponents of the emerging technologies say that AI will free up time so that recruiters can focus on becoming more-strategic talent acquisition practitioners.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to HR Technology]

One tool attracting attention is RAI (pronounced "ray"), an AI assistant called the "Siri for recruiting" and developed by HiringSolved, a talent search engine in Chandler, Ariz.

Shon BurtonHiringSolved CEO Shon Burton
Shon Burton, co-founder and CEO of HiringSolved, discussed with SHRM Online how the tool works, how it enhances recruiters' productivity and the concerns about whether AI will make the human recruiting role obsolete.  

SHRM Online: How does RAI work?

Burton: RAI is designed to assist a user in finding and contacting candidates for a given job. To accomplish this, RAI has to understand how to converse with people, and it has to be able to make good decisions about which candidates fit. As for how it works, it's built on top of HiringSolved's talent search engine platform. We started building that platform five years ago using a machine learning framework to analyze data from millions of resumes and social profiles. To make search better, you have to make machines understand and organize information in a way that makes sense to humans. That's what Google did for web search, and that's why they are a leader in AI.

AI technology is all about data. The big change with AI and machine learning is that the software can be built and improved without being given explicit instructions. These systems can learn by analyzing data, and the more data the system sees, the better it gets. RAI has a big head start in recruiting because it is built on a system that has now analyzed more than a billion documents and that has learned many things about people and how they work. The platform matches people to jobs based on a neural network that has been trained to do that function. RAI allows the user to harness that power just by having a conversation. It maximizes the accuracy and efficiency of recruiters by providing a Siri-like conversational interface for sourcing top talent.

SHRM Online: How is the tool different than using chatbots?

Burton: In short, chatbots are designed to chat. RAI has access to social data and talent analytics, plus it is tied into the user's CRM/ATS [candidate relationship management system/applicant tracking system] so it can learn from patterns and even take action on the user's behalf. Much like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google's assistant, a lot of the power of RAI comes from the platform that it's built on. For example, if a recruiter says: "I'm looking for data scientists with experience with Python within 25 miles of Chicago," RAI will respond with "I found 42 candidates that look good for the role, here's a preview, would you like to refine the search or e-mail these candidates?"

Basically, it's a conversational interface to a robust talent analytics platform. It leverages massive data analysis and learning capabilities, and wraps it all up in something simple and intuitive to use. Siri is amazing because you can say "Give me directions to the nearest coffee shop," which saves you time, but this functional capability relies on access to Google Maps, Google and Yelp data, and many other components. Imagine Siri without Google, Google Maps or messaging, and that's a chatbot.

SHRM Online: How will AI enhance recruiters' productivity?

Burton: Generally speaking, software automates tasks that humans either don't really want to do or aren't as effective as software at doing. This has been happening since the creation of the first computers. AI is simply making software smarter and more adaptable and therefore suitable to a larger variety of tasks.

Specifically with RAI, we're focusing on tasks that are cumbersome for humans. For example, if I post a job and get 100 applicants, it's time-consuming for me to review each applicant, compare them all, pick the ones I want to interview and contact them. This process might take me days or weeks—not to mention following up with those who aren't moving forward—to finish. RAI can do this in seconds, presenting suggestions for who I should talk to first and e-mailing those people for me, assuming I like the suggestions, and refining them if not. What's better is that RAI will learn from my interactions by analyzing how I respond to its suggestions and who ultimately moves forward in the process. Every interaction makes RAI and the platform it relies on smarter.

SHRM Online: How do you respond to the concerns of some recruiters who fear that AI tools will replace their work?

Burton: So, will AI technology put some recruiters out of work? It may in the long term because it will eventually make recruiting an easier task which requires less human time—and therefore fewer human workers—to accomplish.

However, I believe we want to interface with humans for many things. Think about the coffee shop, for example. Vending machine technology from the 80s could fully automate a coffee shop. Coffee shops don't hire hipster baristas because machines can't make a good cup of coffee. They hire them because people prefer to buy their coffee from other people. I suspect in the near future, we will find many areas where we prefer humans over machines.

SHRM Online: When will RAI be ready for mainstream use?

Burton: We've been testing RAI for about six months and gathering feedback. The first commercial users will be coming online in April.

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