The Role of Chatbots When Hiring Many People — Or None 

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May 21, 2020

COVID-19 has changed the landscape for employers worldwide. Over the coming months, companies in highly impacted industries will continue to find themselves either laying off or furloughing employees. 

Or they will be in dire need of lots of new people, and fast. Sectors such as healthcare and essential retail are seeing an unprecedented surge in hiring volume, which is highlighting the importance of an efficient and effective high-volume recruitment process. 

Except, as priority shifts to driving as many applicants as possible through the hiring funnel, candidate experience is very often the casualty. The number of incoming applications can overwhelm recruiters’ ability to process them, leaving candidates in the dark and desperate for information. 

In times like these, candidate communication is more important than ever. However, employers are limited in their ability to communicate with job-seekers. Or are they?

Artificial intelligence, more specifically conversational AI (CAI), can help keep open communication lines between you and your candidates. Indeed, while only 11% of organizations currently deploy recruiting chatbots, nearly 60% of large organizations use them, according to TLNT’s research report, “The Future of Recruiting Is AI and Automation.” 

Banishing Black Holes

The ability to handle tens of thousands of applications and scale candidate communication at this level is impossible for any team of human recruiters. With CAI chatbots, though, all applicants can receive feedback on their job applications, eliminating the “black hole” that most candidates fall into otherwise. 

Conversely, industries implementing hiring freezes or closing portions of their businesses also aren’t immune to the communication black hole. In recent weeks, companies such as Macy’s and Disney have furloughed tens of thousands of employees. Again, the level of communication necessary to work with a pool of potential candidates this large is beyond human capacity. Communication here should be thoughtful and deliberate. Having a sophisticated CAI tool to engage people, answer questions, and provide information can help create positive experiences.

For instance, one meaningful way to use a CAI chatbot for scaling recruitment support is to use it for early-stage communication. A chatbot can engage candidates seconds after they apply for a position, and then continue engaging them in real-time via conversations that help determine if applicants meet the requirements of the position.

Similarly, say a company has paused hiring for 1,000 roles for which there were 20,000 applicants. Using CAI, you can build and nurture relationships with those applicants until you’re ready to begin hiring again by sharing position updates, other openings, application status, etc. 

Chatbots Are (Surprise!) Not Humans

The right CAI will augment, not replace, meaningful human efforts. During this pandemic stage, human connection and support among hiring teams, candidates, and furloughed workers is especially important. While staffing teams may still be able to perform their jobs remotely, doing so during a pandemic is anything but “business as usual.”

Fifty percent of the organizations with a conversational chatbot report that the most significant benefit is improved candidate experience followed by saving in recruiter time, according to TLNT’s research. Sure enough, the right tools can help free up time for human recruiters, alleviating workload when there are too many applications to handle. 

Some of the tasks a CAI chatbot can handle are data gathering and entry, interview scheduling, and pre-screening conversations. Not only will candidates feel assured through consistent communication, but HR and staffing teams can ideally feel confident in knowing that their bases are covered with job-seeker communication as part of a high-quality candidate experience. 

That said, it’s unlikely that any AI will ever build relationships with candidates like human recruiters can. AI will also not have the ability to truly gauge a candidate’s potential, nor can it evaluate complex answers that people give to interview questions. AI also cannot and should not be used to evaluate candidates’ personalities for culture purposes — doing so allows for too much potential unconscious bias. Additionally, convincing candidates to accept offers is also beyond the scope of AI. However, what AI can do is improve offer conversion by creating a highly engaging experience early on in the hiring process.

Ultimately, the pandemic is teaching us that the entire world of work needs to be more efficient and more personal through the assistance and meaningful use of technology. Conversational AI is merely part of that. 

Editor’s note: To learn more, register for TLNT’s upcoming webinar “A Conversation About Conversational AI and Chatbots.” 

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