The Fascinating World of Smart Chatbots and Recruiting

chatbot recruiter

I am fascinated by the Chatbots Revolution. And yes, we can call it a Revolution as it seems it is turning out to be much greater than the apps revolution! The numbers of chatbots hosted on Facebook Messenger alone are over 100,000 within 1 year! Chatbots technology is hailed as the disruptive new comer and it seems it will be greater than anything we have witnessed to date. I will add on the same note that not all is alive and well in the chatbot kingdom as Facebook also released that these bots have just hit a 70% failure rate…But I will be very forgiving regardless as I believe it only mirrors the natural process of a technology evolution (According to Gartner) – Innovation, inflated expectations, disillusionment, enlightenment and finally a ‘productivity plateau’, which refers to mainstream adoption. It seems we are now experiencing stage 3.
I will remind you that downloading apps was going through the same process, now that the hype and excitement is over it seems that out of the dozens if not more apps we downloaded – We actually don’t use more than 6 apps on a daily basis…(I have 8 screens on my iphone, loaded with apps I hardly ever use..)
All this compiled with the fact that messaging apps have an unbelievable adoption rate (over 2.5 Billion People hv at least 1 messaging app and many using several on a daily basis..) can only point out to what will, for sure, become a norm in the not-so-far-away future.

Pondering and wondering about this topic and how this revolution will affect recruiters and sourcers, I decided to give my friend Alon Mei-Raz, a Chief Product Strategist at HPE and a very sought after machine learning & chatbots key note speaker, a call and luckily managed to lure him for a quick lunch meeting with me so I could get his view on this topic.

Alon quickly distinguished between the “gofer bots”, “stupid bots” or “purpose based bots” – Simple decision or rule based tree bots that answer simple questions and carry out simple tasks and cannot answer anything it wasn’t designed to (reach a dead end) and the rising smart bots, based on machine learning, big data, AI and other advanced technologies that not only conducts a discussion in natural language but also “observes” the conversation and provides insights.

For example, when we tried to find examples in the recruiting world Alon mentioned the goal to be able  to write or speak to our bots in natural language – “Find me a “pretty senior” candidate with “vast” experience in software management” and have the bot answer back to us – “Here’s that candidate, but I also have this candidate, who doesn’t comply with all of the criteria but based on what you said about this company in the past, I think he/she could be interesting for this role”.

Alon points out that the reason there is such a dramatic surge in smart and insightful chatbots is that it’s a good time now – AI has been around for many years but in the last couple of years, it reached an accuracy level as never before. Data quantity also grows exponentially. Numerous cloud based machine learning platforms were introduced lately offering strong capabilities, such as NLP (The natural language technology), sentiment analysis and more.  And of course, the great adoption of messaging platforms (such as Facebook Messenger), that host large number of bots as a one stop shop.

Let’s talk abit more about smart bots. A smartbot is a bot that has added value – it is INSIGHTFUL. For smart chatbots to be good – you need to teach them. They need to learn. Sometimes they can arrive with knowledge from the “factory”, but you need to customize it to your own needs (the analogy that comes to mind is from the movie “The Little Shop of Horrors..“Feed me Syemour!..Feed me all night long”…).
Another feature to help it succeed is PERSONALITY. There is an ongoing discussion on the personality of chatbots. We are now also able to “EMOTIONALLY CHARGE CHATBOTS” (Work of Hao Zhou and his team at Tsinghua University). For me that means we are getting one step closer to saying “Empathy WILL PROBABLY be automated”. Users will stop using a boring bot that doesn’t emotionally engage with them. An emotionally aware chatbot could significantly change the recruiting industry!
Scripting an engaging bot conversation that makes users come back for more is the task in hand.
“Personality” in the bot world means defining the purpose, matching required characteristics and a suiting INTONATION.
They also have to be ENGAGING and prepared for “what’s the meaning of life” and “is there a god” questions.
The bottom line is that the recruiter or sourcer’s “Minny Me bot” will have to be engaging, have a great personality, empathic intonation and insightful. Piece of cake…

“The basic added value and purpose of a chatbot is to replace human repetitive tasks” Alon said. “Bots don’t have a schedule, they are available 24/7/365 and they don’t require an employment agreement…”
Where does this formula apply in the recruiting world – What are those repetitive tasks that we carry that can be replaced by smart chat bots. Without thinking too much, here’s several such tasks…

1.  Searching my ATS for potential candidates
2.  Screening and reviewing CVs and profiles
3.  As much as I hate to say it…Searching Linkedin and the web for potential candidates
4.  Engagement – Initial and screening phone calls to potential candidates
5.  Rejection letters
6.  Interviewing
7.  Maintaining an ongoing relationship with candidates in any one of the recruiting stage

In order to understand what is already happening in our space, I stepped into the web, as well as spent time on several demos. I am not mentioning the simple bots that mainly deliver roles according to your search criteria. I wanted to see what are the more advanced options out there today.

1.  Mya  – By FirstJob – Someone wrote about her “The moment I met her, I was hooked. She was sensitive to my needs, responsive, inquisitive, direct, and had a sense of humor. Most importantly, she improved my chances of getting the job I want. The only problem I’ve encountered so far: I won’t be able to take her out to lunch to thank her”.
Mya boasts a whopping 75% automation of the recruiting process. improves recruiter efficiency by 38% and increases candidate engagement by over 150%. Even more impressively, candidates are 3 times more likely to hear back from a recruiter if they respond to Mya’s questions.
She instantly engages with applicants, poses contextual questions based on job requirements, and provides personalized updates, feedback, and next-step suggestions. She is able to answer any question a candidate has related to the employer, including topics about company policies, culture, benefits and even the hiring process. When she can’t answer a candidate question, she queries the recruiter, gets back to the candidate, and learns how to respond the next time.
Ultimately, the platform takes the data that Mya obtains through her conversations and turns it into quantifiable intelligence around the engagement level of each candidate and how closely they fit the target profile.

2.  Job Pal – This white label chatbot is available on FB Messenger, Skype, Slack and Telegram. Their machine learning and NLP powered chat bots enable companies to automate candidate engagement, pre-screening and interview logistics. At this point their chatbot is not very intelligent but it is learning and growing as we speak…Everytime it encounters a question it cannot answer, it is forwarded to the recruiter who answers the question and the machine, in return, learns how to answer next time.

3. Lara Bot –  Lara Bot was launched by the dating service Match.com. It communicates with more than 280,000 users per month in 10 different languages. At some point the company was looking for an intern and decided to create a new mission for Lara: ‘Lara the Recruiter’. It was finished in one weekend 🙂
Rather than using a ‘classical’ method for the internship, sending a CV and motivation letter, they told the applicants to use Lara. To their grand surprise, within a few weeks, Lara had interviewed around 400 applicants, around a hundred of them serious candidatures. Very rarely are the bots capable of “undersanding”, and thus of responding to open-ended requests. First, Lara detailed the mission of the internship, which teams would be involved and the practical details. Then, she would ask some questions, open-ended or closed (“Why is this internship right for you?” etc.).

4.  RAI – From HiringSolved
Rai is an experimental AI interface. You interact with it like a human assistant. It can find candidates for your job and even help create and send messages to them.

5.  XOR (pronounce EX-OR) – A chatbot recruitment assistant. It’s Available 24/7, so it immediately responds to every candidate.  Guides every candidate through the application process.  Asks pre-screen questions.  Provides information about the hiring process.  Updates candidates if the application status changes. Informs candidates, if a vacancy is closed. Delivers recruiter’s messages to candidate’s messenger.  Provides onboarding and training materials.  Available on Messenger, Viber, Telegram, Slack and by SMS.

The following is my view on chatbots and sourcing/recruiting  (besides loving their very cool new age names…)

1.  Market adaption – To me, it seems that it is just a matter time, that smart chatbots will infiltrate and conquer the sourcing/recruiting industry like some kind of a (good?) epidemic.
The only serious caveat I see is the hard work needed to translate the professional recruiting world into information to “feed” the chatbot. This may, perhaps, slow down adaption.
2.  Augmented Self – We will become super recruiters and sourcers, suddenly able to process much more information much more quickly. Scalibility is the norm.
3.  Involvement – Hybrid Chatbots will keep us aware and still involved when the person in the other side wants a better answer than the bot can deliver at that moment.
4.  Availability – We will be more available to deal with stuff that we want to be on top of – such as closing the deals, strategies etc.
5.  Red flags – I cannot overlook the very much needed way to be able to frequently QA all these processes. How can we know that our chatbot is not taking “too much liberty” in learning new stuff and come up with answers that we do not agree with (as a company?) This whole topic is still a major “black box” and we are already finding out problems.
5.  Linkedin Chatbot – Shannon Pritchett mentioned chatbots in relation to Linkedin – “It would be a huge win for LinkedIn to experiment with this technology for recruiters and sourcers to help with tedious tasks like scheduling and reminders. A LinkedIn chatbot would surely have its critics, but it could reduce many nuances on the website such as recruiter spam”.
6.  One-stop-super-smart-people-aggregators chatbots – I predict, that there will be a time when the super advanced recruiting chatbot will MERGE and REPLACE tools like AmazingHiring/Aevy/Talentbin/Entelo, Crystal Knows etc – Once a potential candidate converses with our chatbot – All his information will be presented to me on the spot – As I see it today on my supercharged (full of gazillion chrome extensions and tools) Linkedin/Facebook etc public profile.
Remember where you heard it first…

Karen Azulai is a Global Sourcing Evangelist and HR Tech Enthusiast. Karen, lectures in sourcing conferences and conducts advanced sourcing training in Israel. Feel free to contact her at karen@everythingsourcing.com.

“Rocking” The Sourcing Boat – Do we need to “re-calculate” and re-evaluate some issues in the sourcing industry?

evaluate

My intention is to, first and foremost, make us stop for a second and take a hard look at ourselves and what is going on in our industry. We are all creatures of habit and most of us swim with the current, some of us because we don’t want to create any waves (or don’t have the time to do so…) and others because we do not necessarily notice the undercurrents. And as far as I am concerned, there are definately some of those going on.

I have read many truly enlightening 2017 trend articles and posts, but there are some topics that I have not seen anyone discuss (and I apologize if someone did and I have not seen it) and I feel compelled to bring them up even if I will, as we say in Hebrew, “slaughter some sacred cows” during the process …
Perhaps reflecting here together on these issues will prompt us to “re-calculate” our route and bring in some needed changes (IMHO).

1.  How to educate the recruiting/sourcing market
Challenge: Regardless of the huge advancement in the sourcing arena and technology, a whooping massive percentage of the recruiting market is still very traditional – They source via Linkedin and Boolean searches only, not aware of the huge benefit and effectiveness of the ever evolving world of sourcing technology.
Getting new information through “to the masses” is not very effective. Allocating time to read professional material from all over the internet in the various different websites and social networks is challenging and tedious. The sourcing Conferences are doing an amazing job out there, but are extremely expensive and inaccessible and are the privilege of the few. The “Sourcing Message” does not seem to reach the recruiting/sourcing “masses”.

Solution:
Leading sourcing conferences should introduce live streaming (fee based if you wish) and virtual sourcing conferences should grow in numbers (Introducing the First Virtual Summit on Sourcing Talent 2017, Jantje Bartels), so that focused information and knowledge becomes within reach for everyone.

2.  Cost of sourcing tools
Challenge – Some of the great sourcing tools out there are super expensive. Regretfully, founders are not eager to accommodate those that their tools are not within their reach.

Solution
– Introduce convenient price models for sole recruiters, smaller companies etc. I believe, that beyond the materialistic goal (which is fine and they can charge corporates and successful companies as much as they want) they have a social responsibility to enable every recruiter/sourcer out there to be able to use them. There are social revolutions all over the globe to make housing and everyday necessities more affordable. As I see it…Sourcing tools should not be an exception!

3.  Get more people involved
Challenge – The sourcing industry (as well as Sourcing Conferences) are mostly led by the same few. They are an elite unit, impacting the profession and designing and paving the industry to what it is today. They take us to “where no one has gone before” and deserve all the recognition in the world. However, they are the voice of the very few, many others out there are also doing amazing work and are not part of the mainstream “buzz”.

Solution – We have to find a way to get more people involved in our industry, perhaps via unconferences, such as TRU HR (Bill Boorman) and other local initiatives such as Meetups (Kasia Borowicz) that will enable a less intimidating venue for those who are considered “less sexy” (as they are not affiliated with a known brand) or are intimidated to speak in front of hundreds of people to shine their true colors and then for “conference scouts” to invite them to speak in an international conference and share their message and “out of the box” thinking.

4.  Sourcing Professionals Road Map
Challenge: Since Linkedin, chrome plugins and tools are available to and for everyone – Companies tend, more than ever, to hire low level and inexperienced sourcers in house to do the job. The more professional sourcers (with a higher price tag) are approached less often and if so more for higher level, managerial roles (build and lead sourcing teams, for example).

Suggested (interim) solution – Experienced sourcers will reposition themselves as mentors, consultants, Sourcing Trainers, researchers or even “sourcing recruiters” (Jan Bernhart). Some will continue with the craft, but will deal with the more complex roles, rather with the low complexity ones.

 

I realize we are all building our industry as we go along, as it is in its infancy. We are all doing the best we can and in the best way we know how. But we should also take the time to check ourselves as a collective (Sourcing professionals, vendors etc) and see what it is we can do better, for the sake of all of us in this amazing profession.

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About me: I’m a passionate Sourcing Professional, Advanced Sourcing Trainer and International Lecturer. I love to share my thoughts and ideas on everything and anything sourcing 🙂 Don’t hesitate to connect with me on Twitter @karenazulai, Linkedin and Facebook, or email me at karen@everythingsourcing.com.

Sourcing failures have never been formally discussed in a sourcing conference until last week at SOSU (The Sourcing Summit in Amsterdam 27-29 September, 2016).

I feel very fortunate to have been able to air this topic and share my thoughts about it. I’ve had many sourcing successes but also some projects that have failed. I always felt there were so many reasons to why talent sourcing can go wrong and I wanted to share those with my community and moreover, have them share their failure stories. Judging by the plethora of posts and presentations on this topic as well as by the nodding heads and smiling faces during my lecture, it was very apparent to me that no matter from what country we are from, we all struggle with the same issues.

To date, most lectures, webinars, and workshops are all about what works for sourcing great talent. As to why it sometimes does not work, we are requested to do some “reverse engineering” on our own, sort of speak…and extrapolate from what works, what it is that does not work.

However, that is not the way to go about it. There is a myriad of reasons why sourcing can go wrong that have nothing to do with a bad engagement email or not using the right tools.

For the sourcing process to function like it should and produce positive results, there are so many pit holes we need to avoid. Should we fall into one, the whole process will be compromised.

IMHO, these are the main (meaning there are others but I believe they are of less importance) factors for potential failure points on the company’s side:

  1. The role is not well defined (including incompatible compensation)
  2. Hiring managers are not engaged
  3. Company has no or very little branding to show for
  4. Process in-house takes too long
  5. Responsibilities between the sourcers and recruiters are not well defined

And where we as sourcers may go wrong:

  1. Not asking the right questions before the search begins
  2. Not using all of the available resources as well as creative ones
  3. Not doing a good enough job on the first impression with the potential candidate
  4. Working on too many roles
  5. Not raising a red flag quickly enough when a search is not yielding results
  6. Not defining success

To go through a sourcing process that will be considered a success for both sides, I believe these 4 high-level ingredients need to be present:

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Manage expectations / Define success
  3. Find those places in the process that seem not to work well and fix them as you go
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Hiring managers HATE surprises!

Knowing this will enable you to launch a sourcing project and address the problematic issues BEFORE they develop into something that will hinder the process and the sourcing success.A friend who is also a pilot, told me that both pilots review a checklist before take-off, to be sure they are not forgetting anything to ensure the safety of the flight. But what’s more interesting is that they review other checklists at different stages of the flight. If pilots are doing it? We can also have such a checklist before we embark on our sourcing project, to ensure, as much as possible, the success of the sourcing process.

My main message though is, we as sourcers HAVE THE POWER TO INFLUENCE THE PROCESS. We do NOT hide behind the recruiters. We have to UNDERSTAND the business we are in (the competitive arena). We must air our opinions. We must follow up on our potential candidates as they go through a process within the company to ensure they do not get stuck in “bottlenecks” and slowly but surely disappear from the radar.It is our responsibility to do the best we can to make the process WORK and to be able to explain to our business partners why it failed.

I hope that we can keep this discussion open and share our stories, so we can all learn and perfect the Art of Sourcing.

(My presentation will be uploaded to my Linkedin Profile and my website everythingsourcing.com within a few days. Check back again soon!)

 

Gabriela Toren – Director International HR at Allot Communications

“Karen is the most experienced and professional sourcer , very high emotional intelligence (EQ). She is very creative, possesses excellent interpersonal relations, quick to respond and delivers relevant candidates with the right skills and responsibilities. She understands the business and is a trusted advisor in the sourcing process. “

Unconventional Sourcing Methods coming through! Make way!

Heads up people, something different is going on in our sourcing world!
The shortage of talent pool calls for creative ways to widen the talent pool.
Two weeks ago I mentioned I was going to harness CrystalKnows to find potentially suitable candidates by no longer searching for experience and skills, rather for character traits that will indicate this person may be suitable for the role (Within the industry).
To expand a little bit about that: I was searching for a Field Marketing Manager for a very well global company. It’s a very difficult task as they are based in a remote area, relevant candidate pool is scarce. Without using big data to support my assumption (…) those people who perform marketing roles are mostly outgoing, first class communicators, team players with a tendency to be data driven. My task was to find super professional TECHNICAL people with no apparent marketing experience, but, according to Crystal Knows, possess those personal traits. Those people, as we know, ARE the VERITABLE purple squirrels, unicorns, name it what you wish…As CrystalKnows still does not enable access to big data, I have to do a lot of legwork…I’m  still working on that.

My post generated some sarcastic remarks, but I am used to it as I always talk about things that are not mainstream until they do, sooner than later..become exactly that 🙂

I was happy to learn about Bryan Chaney‘s SourceCon session “Weird Science: Turning Talent Attraction Into Sourcing Success” – Where he described a successful sourcing adventure using Facebook Advertising. They were able to close a role that’s been open for 60 days within one week, not only by targeting the usual and expected variants like current employer and previous one but also by their follows/interests and likes (such as liking a company or even liking Lady Gaga or TV series) on Facebook. Facebook enables employers access to big data about prospective candidates. Lucky for them!

Yes, I know the two examples are not the same – Bryan was using scientific Big Data and CrystalKnows is still “frowned upon” (Although I am sure big data will be part of it soon as well)…
My point is – We have to think out of the box to tap into talent pools that we did not think about before. Start strategizing your searches in 3 tracks – Traditional, data-based and creative sourcing techniques and find those “unlikely” candidates to fill in your roles, in a quicker timeframe.

(I’m speaking on how to avoid sourcing failures at the international, Pan-European Sourcing Conference SOSU in Amsterdam 27-29 Septemeber!  Come by to say hello!!)

Candidate Testimonial

“Hi Karen… I’m intrigued and impressed by your most impressive opening mail”..”
The words I live for from a potential candidate… And there is a lot more from where these came from!

When did we become so insensitive?

Two weeks ago, I, like many of you, was approached by a Sourcer/HH, who suggested I consider a new opportunity. A new role. I’ve received such requests in the past but not one of them was in any way as challenging and as exciting as this one.

It made me pause and think it over – I am a freelancer, my own boss, extremely content and happy with what I’ve accomplished so far. Why should I contemplate becoming an employee again? Why am I even thinking about this? I surprised myself…This move was definitely not on my “road map”.
I made a few calls, consulted with some friends, researched the company online. I continued to think and toss the idea back and forth in my mind. I did not get back to her with an answer because I didn’t know what the hell to do with this idea she planted in my mind. I was sure (and still am) that I am living my dream job! Can it be there is something else that is as fulfilling and exciting?
After a few days, she wrote again asking to know where I stand with that role. I shared my thoughts with her and told her I needed a few more days. I also asked about the salary, hoping that would make it easier to say no. Alas, that was not the case…

After several more days, I decided the challenge was too big for me to pass on and decided to, at least, start the interview process and see if it’s right for me and for the company.

What goes on from here, is really not important. What is important is that I got to walk in my candidate’s shoes and I got to FEEL how it is on “the other side”.

In our sourcing/recruiting/HH industry, we are full of axioms, tips and tricks on how to get your candidate to engage quickly. We also learn that if they didn’t answer within 24 hours, we are probably doomed. Others think that following up is the best thing to do, “at least 4 times” (as one slide claimed), “Call them if you don’t hear from them” others say. Now that I’ve been there? I can say –

IT’S OK OUR CANDIDATES DON’T ANSWER IMMEDIATELY.
GIVE THEM SOME TIME AND SPACE TO THINK YOUR OFFER THROUGH.
GIVE THEM RESPECT.
HONOR THE PROCESS.

Yes, you have to recruit 6 employees by the end of next month, yes, your boss is measuring, collecting and reviewing data on how effective you are, how many you approached and what was the return rate. Percentages, numbers on a board, excels.

Companies that hire my services ask me how many candidates can I provide and in what time frame…Again numbers and more numbers.

We mostly interview quickly (generalizing here), checking skills sets, other facts on their resumes. But before we sit down to interview ( Via phone, skype or f2f) do we take a deep breath and really try to know the person in front of us? What their wishes and likes are? Do we really enable a stress-free, non-judgmental environment where they can check out this new role that we presented to them (and they did not ask for?)

We chose to work in an industry that deals with PEOPLE and their LIVES – HUMAN RESOURCES.

Let’s be HUMANISTIC on how we source, on how we approach, on the time we give them to PROCESS our offers. Being empathic and respectable can exist side by side to being effective and goal oriented. They are not one instead of the other, they are both a 100% stand-alone.
We can definitely help them reach a decision, but let’s do it in a respectable manner, acknowledging their difficulty to decide. It’s about THEM. Let’s not forget that.
It’s also ok for them to ask about the salary – It’s their prerogative. It doesn’t make them greedy and all about the money, it’s only one other component in their decision making process, a process they were not asking for. Understand that.

This experience has changed me as a Sourcer reaching out to potential candidates and it is clear to me that my outreach emails and my whole professional demeanor will express this new found wisdom.

What is Global Sourcing?

The art of researching, identifying and engaging with passive potential candidates via the internet, while using innovative tools and technology to make the search and the engagement more effective.

Most sourcers are extremely curious, autodidacts, love research and are motivated by the end goal, which is: Finding the right candidates for the role wherever they are on the globe!

Other accepted terms: Internet Recruiter, Cyber Head Hunter and anything and everything sourcing afecionado..