robot graffiti on NYC wall
PHOTO: jessie essex

Analysts have predicted that millions of jobs will be lost because of automation. Jobs involving rote or repetitive tasks are generally first on the list. Just as Amazon replaced many bookshops, bots or automation of some kind will replace many jobs in transportation, healthcare and even white collar jobs like lawyers.

One of the areas I have been researching is how bots fit into human resources (HR). I break down HR tasks into three areas: talent acquisition, administrative work and employee retention. Based on analysis of several HR departments, I believe that by 2022, automation will replace 24 percent of HR jobs. That doesn't mean 24 percent of HR people will lose their jobs, but they will be doing higher level and more strategic work. For the purposes of this article, we're going to look at how bots can impact the area of HR recruitment.

A study done on HR.com shows HR recruiters spend two thirds of their time (67 percent) pre-screening candidates and 28 percent of their time scheduling candidates. These tasks fall into the category of talent acquisition. It looks as if a small percentage of a recruiter's time is actually spent face to face interviewing candidates, an area bots can’t really automate as it requires empathy.

Two former recruiters felt there had to be a new and better way of being more productive and are working on automating the more repetitive parts of the process with the AI recruitment technology companies they lead. Arik Akverdian, founded VCV, which offers a voicebot that searches, calls and speaks with candidates before inviting them to record a video interview. Adia Fazylova is CEO of Xor.ai, which performs a similar service with a chatbot. 

The companies have very different business models and approaches to solving this problem, and they aren't alone. Other vendors in the market such as Wade & Wendy, Leo, TextRecruit and RoboRecruiter all deal with the automated set up of meetings and interviews.

Related Article: 7 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Reinventing Human Resources

What's It Like for Recruiters to Work With Bots?

Bots can free recruiters up from pre-screening research and interview scheduling, allowing for more time to interview qualified candidates, and make better hires.

A recent survey by Korn Ferry found:

  • 63 percent of recruiters said AI has changed the way they work.
  • 69 percent said using AI for candidate sourcing gets higher quality candidates.
  • 27 percent said AI has freed up more of their time.
  • 87 percent are excited about working with AI, and don’t feel it will replace them in the future.

Tim Prohm
Tim Pröhm
But what is it like for a recruiter to work with a bot that's performs the work he or she formerly did? We spoke with Tim Pröhm, vice president and global practice strategy lead, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting group at Kelly Services. Pröhm is tasked with identifying digital and technology trends in the talent acquisition space, building the business case, piloting innovative solutions within the organization, scaling the technology, and then understanding the risks and rewards of these solutions. One of his focus areas is chatbots (cognitive agents) as well as robotic process automation (RPA).

“Chatbots and RPA help Kelly to increase the candidate experience by enabling our recruiters to focus more on the human interaction during the application and interview process, while intelligent automation reduces the non-strategic tasks,” explained Pröhm. Although Pröhm is not a recruiter, he closely monitors the conversations candidates have with the company's chatbots. He looks at typical concerns and questions candidates have to refine the conversational intelligence and provide candidates with better quality responses.

The company launched its initial pilot about 12 months ago, to better understand the potential of the upcoming technology. It worked with Berlin-based jobpal to create the chatbot. The pilot was started in its recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) practice, where the company recruits talent on behalf of clients. The company focused on bot integration on the career page as a "candidate concierge" that would answer questions and make job recommendations (based on candidate preferences) by automating the FAQ function, as candidates usually ask multiple questions during the application process. The initial pilot group consisted of 25 recruiters and around 2,200 candidates and was integrated with the eRecruit applicant tracking software (ATS).

The bot also integrates with their ATS so candidates can get a job recommendation and also apply via the bot. Once that happens and the bot has done the initial screening, the bot can also schedule interviews and reach out to candidates with reminders or status updates.

“We found a reduction of 10 percent of administrative tasks, which enables recruiters to spend more time on personal candidate interactions. They expect the administrative reduction to increase to 20 percent over the next year," said Pröhm.

In the future, companies will likely have a high number of different bots to manage different tasks. Personal bot assistants will become more prevalent when better integrations with enterprise resource planning systems are available. Right now bots use text to interact, but conversational interfaces are improving rapidly (see Siri and Alexa), and will likely be the way bots interact with both recruiters and candidates in the future.

"All the recruiters in our organization (regardless of the generational segment) are over-consumed with administrative tasks. Some of our research in 2017 showed 70 percent of all surveyed recruiters have a positive perception (pdf) towards automation of non-strategic/transactional activities — we see this at Kelly also. We also saw a tendency that recruiters and candidates in the APAC region are slightly more open to these technologies than EMEA and the U.S," said Pröhm.

Related Article: Overhaul Human Resources to Meet Today's Challenges

Bots Improving Recruitment Process Transparency

Anthony Colella
Anthony Colella
Anthony Colella, senior vice president and chief product officer at Korn Ferry, is responsible for all recruiting products globally. “Bots are very effective in completing the traditional support function efforts of recruiting. This includes answering fact-based technical support questions, opening help desk tickets, etc. These are tasks that do not need human interaction — candidates want answers fast and it doesn’t matter if it’s a human that gives those answers.”

Colella said he saw bots evolving to fact check things such as if the candidates have the right experiences, degrees and salary expectations, and also improving process transparency, so candidates can see where they are in the process.

“Where we don’t recommend using bots is where there is a need for human intimacy, such as helping convey the employer brand or helping convince a candidate why they are good for a particular role,” said Colella.

Related Article: Accelerate Workplace Transformation: From Chatbots to Intelligent Agents

A Clear Need and a Clear Demand

Although it is early days for the use of bots for talent recruiting, it's clear how bots can help alleviate the amount of mundane and repetitive work recruiters are responsible for. Bots will never take the place of humans, but rather aid them by freeing up time to spend in direct interactions with candidates. It will take some time for bots to become integrated into large organizations, but I think that by 2025, bots will be a common place technology in most companies.