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Chatbots: the ultimate headhunters

New tech can help make HR more human

By Tom McNichol

  • High‑performing organizations are more likely to have automated HR processes
  • Recruiting is one area of HR where AI is now making inroads
  • AI tools can help HR pros focus on strategic, human‑centered activities

The battle for tomorrow’s talent will be waged by AI‑powered algorithms, not headhunters. That doesn’t mean hiring experiences will be cold and automated. Instead, AI will take on the repetitive aspects of recruiting, allowing HR pros to spend more time on important, human‑centered activities.

Forward‑looking HR departments today are turning to AI and automation tools to handle many of the repetitive, labor‑intensive tasks that have long been the bane of HR, from sorting through stacks of resumes to tracking employee engagement scores.

With digital assistants increasingly handling the grunt work, CHROs will be able to focus on higher‑level responsibilities, such as networking, mentoring, and developing an organization’s long‑term strategy for the new era of AI.



AI tools will help recruiters and prospects respond to questions and concerns quickly, clearly, and conversationally, delivering the seamless, intuitive experiences that we’ve come to expect from consumer apps.

“Employees are happiest and most productive when tools are easy to use and content is customized,” says Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow. “Introducing predictive analysis and AI into employee systems personalizes the experience for people, increases access to information, and decreases friction, which shows employees that their well‑being and success matter to you.”

The adoption of automation, robotics, and AI is accelerating dramatically in companies, and particularly in HR, according to a 2018 report by Deloitte. In HR, AI adoption is already seen as a competitive advantage; 22% of the highest‑performing organizations report having implemented some form of process automation or AI in their HR departments, compared to just 6% of the lowest‑performing organizations.

“Companies that automate HR workflows have more engaged workforces,” says Birch Faber, a VP at TextRecruit, a San Francisco tech vendor that provides live chat and AI tools to help companies recruit and hire. “Employees who worry less about getting quick and consistent answers to HR questions can spend more time focusing on primary job duties.”

Of course, machines—even very smart ones—can’t replace every HR function. But there are many ways that digital technologies can help create process efficiencies, reduce operational costs, and give HR staffers more time to do work that creates lasting value for their company.

Among the most popular AI tools in HR these days are those used to support the first priority of many CHROs—recruiting and hiring the best people. Sophisticated AI chatbots that focus on recruiting can carry on conversations like a human, pick up on small details in exchanges, and respond in a friendly and collaborative manner.

Here’s a look at how some of these first‑generation AI tools are helping CHROs step up their hiring game.

Candidate screening

Earlier this year, Comeet, a collaborative recruiting tool, launched a beta version of Cory, its AI‑powered chatbot. Cory asks candidates an array of screening questions based on data in resumes. If a prospect is deemed a poor fit, Cory will suggest other matching positions.

The tool “helps both the candidate and company to invest their time in conversations more likely to yield successful hires,” says Tomer Dikerman, Comeet’s co‑founder and chief product officer.



Cory assists candidates with other tasks, such as answering FAQs, informing and updating them about the process, and scheduling interviews. It even helps HR managers improve the recruiting experience by collecting candid, anonymous feedback from candidates at the end of the hiring process, says Dikerman. It will also pinpoint areas for improvement, pulling in feedback about recruiters and interviewers alike.

Another AI‑powered hiring chatbot is Mya from Mya Systems, which uses proprietary natural language processing and machine learning techniques to automate outreach and communications with job candidates. According to the vendor, more than 70 enterprise companies and a handful of recruiting agencies are currently using Mya in their hiring processes.

Job matching

Other AI tools offer help in aligning promising job prospects with the right skill sets—which themselves are changing rapidly for organizations adopting AI to automate tasks. Pymetrics, for instance, uses online “games” that collect behavioral data to match candidates with the right jobs.

Hiretual is a similar, AI‑powered search tool that builds custom dossiers on potential hires by sorting through unstructured data from the Web and adding it to a prospect’s profile.

The tool “grows smarter and smarter over time with each match,” according to Steven Jiang, Hiretual’s CEO and co‑founder.

Recruiting at scale

Recruiting firms need specialized tools to meet the hiring needs of large companies. Catalant, which bills itself as a “talent marketplace,” uses proprietary machine learning algorithms to match job‑seekers to opportunities, says co‑CEO and co‑founder Rob Biederman. Catalent combs through lists of potential workers to match the right types of potential employees with companies seeking specific skills.

While many of these AI applications show promise, the old rule still applies: buyer beware. “There’s a lot of noise from companies who only claim to use AI,” says Ed Donner, CEO of untapt, an online job board.

AI hiring tools still need a lot of supervision from HR professionals, Donner adds: “The best machines are the ones that take input from real human recruiters and model themselves after their best hires.”

Additional reporting by Grant Gross

Tom McNichol is a longtime tech journalist whose articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, the Atlantic, Slate, and other publications.

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