09 November 2017

Chatbots: HR robots are coming

Chatbots – it may sound as if they are humanoid robots which work alongside employees. But that’s not quite right, however. Chatbots are virtual ‘robots’ which do the groundwork of communication tasks for people. Chatbots are already working in Human Resources Management.

Carerix is also active in the German market and works closely with commercial journalists to highlight trends within the market. This article is a translation of: Chatbots: Die HR-Roboter kommen (German)

What are Chatbots?

Users are coming across chatbots more and more frequently. In fact, users are often not even aware that they are actually communicating with a robot. Many companies’ websites offer an interactive dialogue window, for example, into which they can input open questions. The short message that you see there is often not from a real person, but from a bot: chatbots are algorithms for communication tasks which select the most appropriate messages from a number of possible responses.

Applicants want to communicate with chatbots

Chatbots have also been ‘working’ in Human Resources Management for a long time. On career sites, for instance, they already answer simple questions from talented candidates about job vacancies, career opportunities or about a company. According to a study carried out by Bamberg University, ‘Recruiting Trends’, however, only 3.3 per cent of the top 1,000 companies are currently using such digital career advisers. But four out of ten of these believe that they will use them more often in the future! Candidates are quite keen to use them! 53.2 per cent of them believe that chatbots will enable people in the future to ask a company questions. Chatbots can do far more, however, than merely formulate general information about an employer. The virtual assistant, which was developed by the Joboti startup, is programmed, for example, to help with the application process using artificial intelligence (AI). This product is a robot lady called: EVA.

May we introduce you? Eva, the smart robot recruiter

In a simulated chat, Eva immediately answers a candidate’s open questions and then asks for all the candidate’s personal data that is relevant for the recruiter. Name, address and career progress, for example. The virtual HR worker processes this information and stores it for the recruiter in a structured candidate profile. The HR manager can do further work on this and, for example, can find out how well suited a candidate is for a particular post using matching algorithms. The skills needed for a particular post are thus automatically compared with the talents of an applicant. If everything fits, the candidate can be contacted directly and invited to interview.

All chat data go straight into the Application Tracking System

The Joboti chat module has also recently been fully integrated into the Carerix platform. All data collected during the chat is stored immediately in the ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Users can therefore collect a lot of data about candidates in the shortest possible time. Since unlike a human recruiter, Eva needs no sleep, no holiday and no time off for anything else. Companies can thus also gather information and encourage applications outside of their business hours. ‘Using Eva means that a third of all visits to job centres take place outside of normal office hours’, says Luuk van Neerven, the founder of Joboti. ‘Candidates can ask Eva low-threshold questions 24/7 without having to speak to a human worker’. In this way, companies lose fewer potential candidates.

Chatbot – a tool of the future

For Barbara Wittmann, Member of the Executive Team of LinkedIn™ DACH, it is already clear that chatbots are more than just a gimmick in recruiting. In her keynote speech ‘Digitalisation and Social Recruiting – the search for talented candidates is breaking new ground’, at the largest German employment fair in Cologne, ‘Personnel of the Future’ (Zukunft Personal), she emphasised that chatbots could revolutionise the recruitment process in the next few years. ‘As long as new technologies offer an advantage for companies and are used by candidates as well, they will sooner or later become established’. Above all they have what it takes to considerably free up recruiters and thereby greatly enhance efficiency in staff recruitment. And the fact that the ability to recruit staff more quickly is becoming more and more important is something that is very clear, according to the analysis of the career portal StepStone. In its white paper ‘Candidates in Focus’, the company states: ‘Candidates have become more impatient’. From their point of view, the application process might take a maximum of two months, but a third of skilled works reach the limit of their patience after only one month. Most of them expect an initial reliable reply after a week at most.’</cf

Chatbot: not only a tool for recruiting

That chatbots could be used to great positive effect is also believed by Dr. Sven Laumer, research associate at Bamberg University, who, like Barbara Wittmann, is a firm believer in them: ‘This will evolve more and more into a standard form of communication with IT systems’. Especially since smart helpers are also already being used to great effect in many other areas of Human Resource Management. In many companies, even the most simple administrative tasks such as questions about holiday dates or maternity leave provision, for example, cannot be dealt with independently by employees. Employees still have to send their questions to the HR department and wait for an answer – which costs valuable time, particularly for large companies. The robot lady, Mila, was developed to deal with this problem. She receives sick-notes from employees – by chat via a special app. At the same time as confirming that she has received an empoyee’s sick-note and politely wishing him/her a speedy recovery, she sets off a routine which sends the information to the relevant manager so that the latter can fit this in with his/her duty roster. Employees can also use Mila to plan their time, check time plans and do many other tasks.

Chatbots: How will the technology develop?

Chatbots such as Eva and Mila are, however, only the beginning. The subject could become of real interest for companies if after the first generation of the comparatively simply structured chatbots the next generation is introduced which uses the full power of artificial intelligence of machine learning. HR managers could then also introduce robots that are capable of learning in areas in which complex analytical tasks have to be solved. HR could then ask the bot something like: ‘Does this applicant have the personality for a managerial job?’ HR would then be in a position, on the basis of certain personal and social media data, of being able to identify psychological characteristics which could assist in influencing decisions.

Chatbots: are they replacing people…?

Chatbot manufacturers are clear that chatbots cannot handle application procedures entirely on their own. ‘Chatbots are not intended to replace people, but to give people optimal support’, emphasises Hans-Jürgen Benker, of Carerix. ‘The final decision about whether an employee is really suited for the company can only be made by a person. This is because robots will always lack that certain human extra: emotional intelligence. And that is not programmable’.