The time has come for recruiters to choose chats/conversations over static job application forms
As conversational agents (the elegant name for chatbots) now reshape the candidate experience across all channels (SMS, messaging apps, in-app messaging or websites), every employer is faced with a decision: should my initial point of contact with candidates be a form or chat? In other words, should I start with a conversation or ask candidates to fill a static application form?
This design choice must take into account several factors:
- Which method offers the easiest experience for candidates?
- Which method will offer the highest conversion rate? This will be affected by the length and simplicity of the form. A short mobile-optimized web form with 3 or 4 questions is very effective. Achieving this simplicity though is easier said than done. Browsing through a few career websites quickly illustrates how difficult it is for employers to keep things short and simple…
- Which method collects to highest quality, most reliable data? This may vary by channel. For instance, collecting videos would be easier via messaging apps like Messenger than via a website.
- How does the selected method impact the employer brand? Read here why your recruitment process is part of your employer brand.
Given the complexity of this design choice, it may take years for the dust to settle on this battle between forms and chat, and for a clear winner to emerge as the dominant data collection method. The transition to more conversational experiences will likely be slow and painful. Processes in sales, finance, HR will slowly transition, with an army of change management consultants to make it happen. Each of those functions will eventually be profoundly disrupted by the rise of the conversational agents.
Recruitment as a binary or non-binary outcome
Whereas every job application and every resume start to look the same after a while, every conversation is quite unique. Open-ended questions yield unexpected answers which can prompt more open-ended questions which can yield more unexpected answers, and so on, allowing for a great deal of complexity. That’s what we call the art of the conversation. And that’s what recruitment entails in the real world.
There are two ways to visualize the recruitment process: binary and non-binary.
Vision 1: Binary. You can boil recruitment down to two potential outcomes: is the candidate hired or not? Visualizing recruitment this way makes everything beautifully simple.
Vision 2: non-binary. You can instead view the process as one that has a multitude of outcomes. The graphic below doesn’t even begin to unfold the full complexity of the real world, where hundreds or thousands of potential outcomes and scenarios can play out.
Conversational agents, now powered by natural language processing, can ask open-ended questions to candidates and map (“understand”) the data contained in their answers. This means you can totally embrace the complexity above. They can also answer questions asked by the candidates at any point of the conversation. This changes your recruitment process from one that was relatively linear to one that can be incredibly messy and complex. What if the candidate, in the middle of an application, realizes this job is better suited for a friend of his than for himself? What if the candidate talks about a special rare skill he has that is in high demand by one of your colleagues? Oh the possibilities!
8 Reasons to embrace conversations over forms
Today, employers have a choice to make: embrace the complexity of real-world conversations or keep things neat and tidy by sticking to static application forms? The complexity of building a conversational agent that represents your brand faithfully is considerable, so I wanted to give you some reasons to get excited before you set off on this long journey (which I believe everyone will eventually have to take):
1. Conversations find the optimal path faster
An open-ended question leads straight to the meat of the matter. E.g. “What position are you looking for?” A conversational agent will recognize immediately the candidate’s intention and be able to skip all the other stuff. That’s why forms are often so frustrating, because they feel like a waste of time compared to the speed of information flow in a conversation.
2. Conversations are real-time
Whether chat or voice, a conversation is much more real-time than an email exchange or a form. When communicating via messaging, you can ask a quick question (e.g. When can we talk?) and expect a real-time answer. It is reported that 95% of text messages are read within 3 minutes. That’s good enough for me!
3. Conversations can be hybrid machine/man
Injecting a real human interaction in a website is not easy. Many are now experimenting with “live chat” agents, or with virtual open days, when candidates are invited to log in at a particular day and time to talk to live recruiters. This works, but it misses out on the real-time component, which is so needed for active job seekers (nobody likes waiting for a response to a job application). Some CRMs like Talkpush allow for a hybrid experience, where the human recruiter can take over from the AI at any point in time and send a personalized note. E.g.“LOL! I loved your answer to the 2nd question!” (note: bots can’t recognize a good joke when they hear one.) or initiate a phone call. Using NLP, you can also flag which interactions require human intervention (e.g. “Humm… I’d like to talk to your manager”)
4. Conversations are two-way
The recruiters ask questions as part of the interview process: that can be replicated in a form. But candidates also ask a lot of questions, and those can be very wide-ranging and go far beyond the info you can find in a job description (also, how many of your candidates really read the full JD?). Conversational agents can be trained to handle 95% of questions with high accuracy, allowing for a two-way exchange which far exceeds the experience of a form.
5. Conversations can be viral
Asking candidates to pass on job descriptions to their friends has been common practice for a long time. What’s new is the ability to do so via messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, where candidates maintain most of their social networks. Asking a friend if he wants to have a chat with a recruiter is certainly most effective than asking them if they want to fill a form.
6. Conversations are contextual
Using NLP, a conversation agent can recognize if the context has changed and start a new sequence. “Context” is core to building any decent conversational AI. It is context that indicates the direction of the conversation.
7. Conversations are sequential
Your company can have one uninterrupted sequential conversation with your candidates from the moment they first hear about you, to the moment they start working for you (and beyond). Watch the video below to visualize how a candidate can engaged throughout their journey, from their first interaction with the company to their first day on the job.
This sequence uses the concept of “contexts” highlighted in #6. Employers can thus visualize the entire sequence of conversations from start to end (including any phone calls, if you wish to switch that on), thus improving their overall understanding of their talent pool and their employees.
8. Conversations are fun
When visualizing chatbots, most people think of boring old SMS text… But today’s reality is already completely different. See the many ways in which Messenger is making communication more fun and visual.
David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook had this to say to kick off 2018:
I predict that visual messaging will fully explode in 2018; people will expect a super-fast and intuitive camera, video, images, GIFs and stickers with almost every conversation. Even in the workplace, where conversations can be more serious, we see people embracing emojis and video to help drive a point home.
Beyond the audio/visual elements, there is a lot of room to be creative with conversations. You can choose for your agents to be playful, friendly, brash, youthful, wise, or any other personality trait that you think would best represent your employer brand. Best of all, your conversation agent can be quickly modified and adapted that it never stops growing and improving. This can be done gradually, over the years, without having to revamp your whole career site.
Read on Sudeepta’s blog post where he explained some of the design decisions he made and why he prefers chatbots over forms for most of this sourcing campaigns. Below is a summary table from his post: