Recruiting Bots Are Here to Stay

More companies use ‘bots’ to aid the hiring process

By Dinah Brin Dec 16, 2016
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​After launching FirstJob, a San Francisco-based online marketplace for early-career job seekers, in 2013, founders Eyal Grayevsky and James Maddox started to understand the pain points and inefficiencies faced by both applicants and employers.

For job seekers, Grayevsky said in a recent interview with SHRM Online, "85 percent of applications went 'dark,' " resulting in applicants becoming frustrated when they hear nothing back and employers suffering damage to their brand. Recruiters, he said, had trouble managing high volumes of applications, typically well over 100 per posting.

Enter five-month-old Mya, FirstJob's artificial intelligence chat "bot" (short for robot) that starts a conversation between applicants and recruiters from the moment the job seeker applies. Mya talks with applicants about their backgrounds and answers their questions, and helps employers sort through applications to find the most qualified candidates.

Mya is one of the early developments in an emerging movement toward the use of bots in recruiting, job hunting and networking.

"Every candidate walks away with a piece of feedback, whether or not they got the job," said Grayevsky, whose company works with Fortune 500 employers. A dozen clients, including a seasonal employer processing more than 30,000 applications within a month, are using the technology, and nearly 700 companies have joined a waiting list to use Mya, he said.

"It's just creating an incredible amount of efficiency for them," Grayevsky said.

Other businesses are entering the chat-bot-for-employment territory in one form or another.

Artificial intelligence bot TARA( Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Automation), part of an eponymous venture-backed San Jose, Calif., company, uses chat to help small businesses hire freelancers from a pool of 50,000 prescreened contractors to develop software or work on other projects. Businesses looking to hire freelance developers start by chatting online with TARA.

In one case, Pittsburgh- and San Francisco-based client Gotham Alpha turned to TARA to find an experienced developer to quickly build some key software. Within a day, TARA connected Gotham Alpha with a former Microsoft developer, who built the tool within a month.

[SHRM members-only resource: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

LinkedIn, which already has a messaging function, recently added personalized "conversation starters" that use information from members' networks to help them initiate contact on the professional social network. LinkedIn also introduced a bot to help members schedule meetings and learn more about each other in advance of an appointment.

"Conversations are how professionals connect and get business done, whether your goal is to get a round of funding, find a new job opportunity, or source ideas and perspectives," blogged Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn product vice president, when the company introduced its messaging bot technology in September. "We believe this combination of bots and messaging on LinkedIn could be game changing and will [be] something our members can use daily."

Ryan Healy, founder and president enterprise chat-software company Brazen, hopes so.

"I believe bots are going to replace the current things that are impersonal, like filling out registration forms or filling out applications," Healy told SHRM Online during an interview at his company's headquarters in Arlington, Va. "So you'll talk to the bot instead of filling out [forms]. You'll see a lot of that over the next five years."

Marketer Esther Crawford created her own personal chat bot, EstherBot, to interact with employers when she was job hunting. Crawford landed multiple job offers, but instead of accepting one, she recently founded San Francisco-based Olabot, which helps other job seekers build a personal resume bot.

EstherBot gave chatters a choice to learn about Crawford's work history or interesting facts about her, or to learn how to make their own resume bot, according to tech news site  VentureBeat. Resume bots built with Olabot will chat on Facebook Messenger, at least initially, the company says.

VentureBeat notes in a separate article that Chris Messina, a lead Uber developer and inventor of the hashtag, now has his own MessinaBot—built by Crawford and her business partner—that can make appointments for him. Messina told the publication that personal assistant bots will help simplify people's lives.

At FirstJob, Grayevsky said, "Mya facilitates a dialogue with each candidate as they apply." Every candidate gets different questions based on his or her qualifications. Mya learns a great deal about each candidate and prioritizes the applicant pool on the back end, he said.

Mya, available on mobile web and SMS texting, initially screens candidates via text, can answer applicants' questions in real time using natural language processing and can schedule appointments for the hiring team, Grayevsky said. Since the technology uses machine-learning elements, Mya learns how to handle conversations that she might not have been able to at first, he said.

If candidates lack some objective criteria for a job, Mya gives them the opportunity to explain why they're well-suited for the job anyway, according to Grayevsky.

"We're not replacing the human touch at all, we're just helping the recruiting team" with initial tasks, including dialogue "at the top of the funnel," Grayevsky said, noting that a human recruiter in the background is analyzing the information and making decisions. "We're just enhancing the process with additional touch points."

The bot aims to create transparency and a positive experience, with candidates being able to ask questions early on about the company culture and what the company is seeking in a candidate, as well as find out the status of their application, Grayevsky said.

"Almost every candidate that uses the technology that we've surveyed loves the experience because they're used to the black hole," he said.

FirstJob had a head start in the recruiting bot space, but other teams are pursuing similar technology now, Grayevsky noted. "We're the only fully in-production AI recruiting assistant that's scaling and kind of been proven through case studies and hundreds of thousands of data points."

Grayevsky believes that in five years, most employers will be using Mya or a competitor.

"I absolutely believe that's where the industry is going. We're going to have to use it in the right ways. We can't take out the human element. I absolutely think this is where the market is going."

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance business, health and HR writer based in Philadelphia.

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