How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chatbots in HR

Apr 26, 2018 6:03:30 AM / by XOR

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The very idea of using chatbots in HR may seem very wrong at first. After all, who can deal with human resources better than a human being? How would applicants feel having to talk to an algorithm instead of a person? Why would we trust a machine to do the job that requires careful consideration?

So the phrase “improving HR efficiency by using chatbots” may feel counterintuitive. It’s a common assumption that “intelligent assistances” are intelligent enough to help you set an alarm, but are virtually useless for anything more nuanced: “Maybe one day machines will get as smart as people, but now they are nowhere near”. So how could we put them behind the wheel in something as nuanced as HR?

The answer is that we don’t have to give away all the power and responsibility to profit from chatbots. Nobody says (well, nobody I know of) “Fire all your HR departments immediately and replace them by Alexa”. When people are talking about “improving HR efficiency by using chatbots”, they mean that some particular tasks can be delegated to chatbots, improving their overall efficiency.

What are these tasks? Nowadays you can see chatbots for different HR-related tasks. Some of them help recruiters with pre-screening, some can answer employees’ questions such as “What’s our company policy on paternity leave”. Some gather employees’ feedback. There are also chatbots for people looking for a job.

It’s easy to grasp the idea of “questions and answering chatbots”. Instead of answering the same generic questions over and over again, you delegate that to a machine and deal only with more complicated ones. Sure, that can save some time (given that you’ll also have to invest your time in creating the answers database). But people asking similar questions isn’t a major obstacle in HR.

A major obstacle, however, is the efficiency of dealing with candidates. Nobody wants to accidentally miss a most suitable candidate. Yet, nobody wants to spend time on carefully examining hundreds of candidates when most of them are obviously unsuitable for the job. Since a recruiter is pressed for time, a game of trade-offs begins: it’s reasonable to lower the bar in dealing with the initial bulk of applications (“let’s quickly sort out the unsuitable without getting into details”) to have more time for the most promising applicants. This “lowering the bar” often means that most applicants are receiving no reply at all, which makes them dissatisfied and blemishes the HR’s reputation of the company.

So on one side we have recruiters who try to juggle several things at once, one of them being a routine mechanical task that they do as hastily as possible. And on the other side we have applicants that are frustrated, because they don’t get the feedback they want.

It’s not that human recruiters aren’t able to pre-screen candidates better than chatbots. It’s just that most of the time they won’t pre-screen them anyway. And it’s not that applicants don’t want to have a conversation with a person. It’s just that most of the time they won’t have it anyway.

Given that, chatbots can improve the situation for both sides. They can relieve the recruiter of the routine pre-screen process, redirecting to the recruiter only those candidates who have passed it (possibly sorting them according to how likely will they match the vacancy). And they will also ensure that applicants aren’t left without any feedback at all, providing them with information (and being available 24/7), so even those who don’t pass, don’t feel totally left out in the cold. Using machines actually helps to create a more “human” experience, nothing more or less.

AI and chatbots is still a quickly evolving field and there’s still so much more to achieve, but investing in chatbots is a ‘must’ for the future: they’ll be getting more useful over time.

XOR

Written by XOR

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