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In a high-employment economy, there's a critical tangle in the modern recruiting experience that technology can help unravel: Job candidates want a simple and transparent application process with regular updates about their status—not frustrating silence.

"Candidates often make a decision to join an organization solely on their interaction with a recruiting team during the talent acquisition process," says Madeline Laurano, co-founder and chief research officer at Aptitude Research Partners.

Meanwhile, overstressed HR departments are falling behind on the screening process, fielding hundreds of applications for each opening. Employers know they need to make the recruiting experience better at a time when many good applicants have multiple opportunities—over 60 percent of companies responding to the 2018 “Hire, Engage and Retain" study conducted by Aptitude Research and Cornerstone OnDemand identified improving the candidate experience as their number one priority.

But how? Enter: the chatbot.

Consumers have grown comfortable engaging with chatbots for everything from tech support to banking, so much so that for many, communicating with a chatbot while applying for a job would seem natural. The chatbot can bring welcome relief to employers and actually improve the recruitment process.

Chatbots Enable Speed and Two-Way Engagement

A well-designed chatbot, customized to an employer's specific needs, can speed screening by asking key questions about experience levels or salary requirements. It can also answer FAQs about the job, benefits and the company itself. And, crucially, chatbot conversations can create a far more engaging process than the all too common file-and-forget alternative. A CareerArc study cited in Employee Benefit News found that 65 percent of candidates never (or rarely) hear back from a company after an application.

Cornerstone OnDemand and Aptitude Research Partners studied Boston College as one example of thoughtful automation. The private, 4,000-employee college in Chestnut Hill, Mass., is an attractive employer, and draws 150 to 175 applications for every opening. “Unfortunately," the study concluded, the college's legacy hiring system “left candidates wondering if they had even applied and unsure if they were advancing through the system."

Boston College partnered with Cornerstone OnDemand to modernize and automate pieces of its hiring system. “In a short period of time, it was able to reduce the number of complaints and improve the candidate experience," the study notes.

Large employers willing to examine their hiring systems are finding similar benefits. The report found that companies that invest in automation for talent acquisition were three times more likely to improve time-to-hire and two times more likely to improve the candidate experience.

Finding Untapped Potential For Chatbots in Recruiting

There's plenty of room for innovative employers to move ahead of the pack. Recruitment is still far behind marketing, supply chain and sales in its speed to adopt automation ideas like the chatbot. According to the Aptitude Research report, only 20 percent of companies understand the role of automation or AI in talent acquisition; only 22 percent use recruitment automation for sourcing; and only 7 percent use chatbots to communicate with candidates.

The Aptitude report offers several recommendations for recruiters looking to adopt automation: Consider automating in stages; get expert advice from consultants who have customized chatbots and other AI tools; and make sure screening algorithms are not shutting out whole categories or demographics.

Perhaps most importantly, current employees should try out the chatbots. It's always good to know how new technology looks to your best recruits—the ones you've already hired.

Photo: Creative Commons