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Chatbots in Recruitment

18/04/16 Steven Bernat Senior Consultant - R&D / Engineering



Prepare for the invasion of the ‘Chatbots’… but will the Recruitment Industry utilise this new feature?

Chatbots are big news in Silicon Valley right now. “Bots are the new apps!” said Microsoft chief Satya Nadella recently. Facebook once again continues to enhance its features for business and has just released a new tool that will let any business build ‘smart chatbots’ that customers can interact with via the Facebook Messenger app. Facebook says ‘chatbots’ will change the way a business communicate with its customers. Will the recruitment industry utilise and trust A.I (Artificial Intelligence) communications to allow ‘chatbots’ to automatically reply to its candidates?

What are chatbots?

A chatterbot (also known as a talkbot, chatbot, bot, chatterbox, artificial conversational entity), is a computer program that use artificial intelligence to simulate a conversation with a human via auditory or textual methods. In the simplest terms, it's a piece of software that a human can chat with to get things done. It is already being predicted as a replacement for all of the apps a person has downloaded. Eventually, a single chatbot could become a personal assistant to take care of everything, whether it's calling an Uber taxi or setting up a meeting. For example, a chatbot from British Airways could tell a customer about a delayed flight, whilst another chatbot from Royal Mail could tell a customer that their package is its way, and so on.

Chatbots in Recruitment

Whilst A.I is a powerful technology, businesses need to know how to harness the power. Giving chatbots the power to act on behalf of a recruitment consultant could be a big risk. Can a chatbot act upon a recruitment company’s behalf, without becoming similar to the automated phone line, answering machine and automated attendant systems?
Chatbots could change everything about how one surfs the web. In the future, a candidate could just say "Are there new software engineer C+ jobs in London" in to a handheld device and a chatbot would know the candidate’s location and be able to answer conversationally whether the candidate should contact a particular recruitment company. No apps and no search box required!

With natural language as an interface having its presence since the beginning of computing, it sounds like a technology that could revolutionise recruitment communications for candidate enquiries. However, if the ‘chatbot’ technology lifts off, there should be a measured adoption to ensure recruitment companies protect the perception of their business in the recruitment sector. It could eliminate today’s demand to simply talk to a human being. The ‘dumb-bot’ revolution will come first, with company’s trials, hiccups and errors, before we see the know-it-all’s take over the recruitment industry.

What could go wrong?

In a word, Tay.

In March, Microsoft launched a Twitter chatbot named ‘Tay’ that was supposed to have conversations with Twitter users and learn how to sound like a ‘millennial’.

Instead, it learned how to love Hitler and hate feminism.

Tay is an object lesson in how artificial intelligence can be ‘taught’ all the wrong things. Fortunately, the humans who built the bots appear to have learned some lessons: if you chat “Hitler” to Kik’s Vine bot, it responds, “Sorry we’re keeping this PG-13. Try again!”

To re-in act a recruitment consultant’s conversational abilities, computing will need to come to fruition, by having more sophisticated computing systems to enable chatbots to successfully work. Pioneers in A.I such as Sematic Machines are already developing conversational artificial intelligence for a broad range of uses, with many possibilities in the consumer space. Developers such as Talla are currently developing chatbots purely for businesses, to help with recruitment, marketing and office management tasks. Considering all this, the future of recruitment could be dominated by true conversational systems that can recognise semantics and context in order to direct potential candidates to a recruitment company.

Adam Walker Redline Group Director commented “These new technology challenges demonstrate what an exciting time it is for software developer job seekers. With bots being developed in a variety of software languages, if hardware control is important for the bot to function properly, there's C/C++. If you want it web based, you're looking at JavaScript and a server-side language (ex: PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python). Then there are the "intermediate-level" languages like Java (and C#) if you need the bot to be platform-independent. This means that many skilled software developers working across different industry segments may take the opportunity to move into new industry segments such as A.I and bot development”.