Is AI Removing the Candidate From Candidate Experience?

What happens when job seekers use software to apply for thousands of jobs?

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Nov 30, 2023

Recently, Wired reported on an individual who used AI software to apply for jobs. The article cited how Julian Joseph use a bot, perhaps appropriately named LazyApply, to submit applications for roles, pointing out:

“After Joseph paid $250 for a lifetime unlimited plan and installed LazyApply’s Chrome extension, he watched the bot zip through applications on his behalf on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, targeting jobs that matched his criteria. Thirsting for efficiency, he installed the app on his boyfriend’s laptop, too, and he went to bed with two computers furiously churning through reams of applications. By morning, the bot had applied to close to 1,000 jobs on his behalf.”

LazyApply eventually completed 5,000 applications for Joseph, as a result of which he got 20 interviews. That’s a terrible return rate, but perhaps not so much when you consider that the approach is much more efficient than manually filling out applications.

Nonetheless, the low return rate raises another question: Did the lack of interviews suggest that the bot didn’t fill out the applications well, or might recruiters have sensed that a bot applied for the roles, or perhaps the bot didn’t apply for appropriate jobs?

Turnabout Is Fair Play

AI-powered applicant tracking systems and chatbots that conduct initial “interviews” are popping up everywhere, and recruiters often see their positive side. For instance, a chief of culture, experience design, and transformation based out of India has glowing predictions for AI, stating:

“AI is transforming recruitment and talent attraction globally. It enhances candidate experience, streamlines processes, and also promotes transparency. We will get to more personalized interactions by using AI for initial screening through its data-driven insights.”

But now on the flip side, candidates can also use AI. So basically, AI is helping to create scenarios that remove the candidate from the initial candidate experience. Pretty soon, we’ll have bots doing the applying and bots doing the screening and rejecting. It won’t be terribly human-centric, but that may not be bad.

“I think this is brilliant,” says HR generalist Jen Gair. “Until recruiters stop asking you to apply with your resume and then fill out four pages of the same information, I think this is the way to go. So, I’m not really a fan of AI, but I actually like this.”

Likewise, Melissa Thompson, an HR manager at Mood Media, isn’t concerned with bots filling out applications, but she is concerned with how people interview: “I don’t really care how people applied,” Thompson points out, “but they should be able to interview without needing to type my questions into ChatGPT.”

Meanwhile, Meg Martin, an HR consultant, sees a potential downside: “If employers are going to be bombarded with AI-generated applications, then [candidates should not] dare complain about using ATS to manage and filter the sheer volume.”

Sure enough, if everyone started using AI tools to apply to 1,000 jobs overnight, the overwhelming volume would mean recruiters would have no choice but to let the AI-driven ATSes select the top candidates.

The Battle Between Applicants and TA

While recruiters want to hire people and candidates want to be hired, some adversarial relationships pop up. People complain about recruiters who cast their nets too wide and reach out to passive job seekers who would not be a good fit. I once had a recruiter contact me for a sports management role, which not only doesn’t fit my profile; it doesn’t fit my personality. Broad net casting can go both ways with easier applications.

The same Wired story quoted an anonymous recruiting manager at a Fortune 500 company, who said about candidates using AI to apply for jobs: “It’s like asking out every woman in the bar, regardless of who they are.” Yet this is the same method of wide-net casting that recruiters have used for years. If recruiters believe that candidates who do this are not serious about the roles to which they’re applying, one can likewise say that recruiters who cast wide nets also aren’t serious about targeting the right people for positions.

In addition, candidates complain about application processes and ridiculous questions or games that they have to play to get through the initial screening. While some of the headaches are due to bad user-interface design, asking candidates to answer “You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?” is purely on the heads of the talent acquisition team.

And so the process feels like a battle because only one candidate can win each job, and each recruiter can only place one person per job (competing against other recruiters, in many cases), so using any possible methods to win seems smart. Whether it’s the recruiter spraying tons of people on LinkedIn with InMails or the candidate using AI to apply, it’s all part of the same game.

Finally, Natasha Pudikova, an external HR consultant at GO DGTL, offers a snappy answer when asked how she would view people who used AI to apply. “In a negative way? No. I’d get them an interview. Sometimes, the laziest are the best performers.”

This echoes Bill Gates’ statement: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

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