The Recruitment Hackers Podcast

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Recruiting in High-Speed Environments: Lessons from the Startup Trenches

September 27, 2023
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      5 min read
      Max Armbruster
      Max Armbruster
      CEO Talkpush

      Accelerating candidate engagement through the use of conversational AI

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      Episode 85_End Cover

      In this podcast episode, Max and Martyn Redstone of Bot Jobs explore how conversational AI is shaping the future of the recruitment landscape by causing changes in candidate expectations and behavior while enabling recruiters to provide more high-value services, automating the recruitment process and creating brand-new categories of jobs.


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      Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇



      Max: Hello, welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers podcast. I'm your host, Max Armbruster. And today, inviting to the show for the first time, Mr Martyn Redstone, who is an Uber geek, and an analyst of the TA tech world and who has been working in the world of recruitment chatbots and conversational AI, for as long as the industry is, which is only about five or six years but has been consistent in his interest of finding ways to connect with candidates faster through the use of technology. And so today's discussion will be about that exactly; like how - what's the next step for talent acquisition in terms of treating candidates, like customers and getting a little bit closer to them? 


      And what can we learn from the world of consumer marketing? So that we can - because usually, recruitment is a little bit behind consumer marketing. Recruitment marketing is usually a few years behind consumer marketing. So what can we learn from the leading technologies in that space and the best practices in consumer marketing? Notably, because Martyn has recently spent some time working with Hootsuite, which is a company which specializes in omnichannel marketing and delivering messages to different channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. 


      So there's a - yeah, there's probably some good parallels that can be drawn from there, or that's what we're hoping for. And finally, Martyn, for your introduction. Martyn is also the founder of Bot Jobs, which is a job board for people who little bit - who are in love with bots, and who prefer to talk to bots than to talk to humans. So they can go to that job board and they can find other - they can find opportunities for people like them. Is that a fair summary? Martyn?

      Martyn: I think so. I think so. Yeah. And, just for the benefit of everyone else, I did give Max permission to call me an Uber geek. So it's not a derogatory term. Very proud of that, actually. But yeah, no, thanks for the introduction. Yeah. So, Bot Jobs, just to clarify is a job board for conversational AI professionals. So everything from Conversation Designers through to Engineers, Software Developers, Marketers, Sales people, anything to do with that conversational AI ecosystem. It's a bit of fun, but it's enjoyable. Great to see the trends and keep my toes dipped into the world of recruitment as well. 

      Max: Yeah, perfect intersection for us. Because yeah, these bots, these bot professionals are both the job creators if they work in TA, but they're also job destroyers. And so at Talkpush, the company that I run, I really enjoy the fact that there's that sort of balance where I get to help the industry and create jobs, on the other hand, I do automation so I see some jobs disappear. So you know, little bit of good and little bit of bad for humanity. And, right now, how are those conversational AI people faring on the job markets?

      Martyn: So when we look at the kind of conversational AI world, hiring, still going like the clappers. In the - on the tech vendor side of things, we're still seeing hiring in kind of the smaller and medium-sized tech businesses, the ones that have already gone through, they're kind of their seeds, their seed rounds, their series A's, you know, they're still got cash, they're still growing. And some of them are doing exceptionally well from a growth perspective. And they're still hiring like the clappers. What we're also seeing, quite interestingly is large corporates that are now realizing that conversational AI has to be part of their strategy, their business strategy, and so they're starting to hire internal conversational AI teams to run that customer experience, customer context strategy. So that's very, very interesting. 

      But to go back on your, on your point about job creators and job destroyers, I think that's a, I think that's something that I've been dealing with for the last five or six years that you've mentioned, I've been in this world where people say, oh, you know, chatbots, you know, and automation, it's just, it's just going to replace people, it's just going to take over people's jobs. And that's what you're out for, you're out to kind of replace recruiters with bots. Now, interestingly, over the last five or six years, I've never actually really seen that. I've never seen - 

      And we've seen examples where chatbots in the retail world or in the recruitment world have automated up to like 85% of all conversations that happen. And yet, we haven't seen 85% of recruiters or 85% of customer service people being laid off because of that. And a great example is a global sports retailer who was able to literally turn off their customer service telephones because their conversational AI solution was so strong, they were able to turn off all their phone lines and deal with every single inbound inquiry. 

      Over - actually, Facebook Messenger was where most of their conversations happened. But actually, what that meant was they realigned their customer service team into providing higher - providing service into higher value conversation. So conversations where they can upsell where somebody is then transferred to a person to say, you know, I - wondering if this is in stock, or something that the conversational AI couldn't cope with, where they had the ability to actually increase the revenue coming into the business through customer service. 

      So a lot of businesses now are seeing customer service as a revenue centre, rather than a cost centre, because they're able to actually concentrate now on higher-value conversations rather than the just - the mundane stuff that can be automated. I see that happening in talent acquisition as well, where we're going to find that we're when we start taking away some of the more mundane repetitive stuff from recruiters that they're able to become more high-value partners to the business and to the hiring managers and to their candidates as well. Which I think is going to happen. I don't see it as a race to replace people.

      Max: Yeah, yeah I mean, I would say that there is some truth to automation, killing some jobs. But of course, recruiters have the EQ and the experience who reinvent themselves and be relevant in a more automated world, because certain things will not be automated. So yeah, that's the projected outcome for us is that they'll still be there. Recruiters will still be there to sell the job. They'll still be there to get people excited. They may not be needed for the repetitive you know, data collection piece of it.


      Martyn: And I think I can talk generically about most tech businesses that have been going through these reductions and transformations is that most tech businesses didn't see - didn't predict the change in the market would happen post-pandemic. And I think that a lot of businesses have been caught by that.

      Max: Yeah, because they had a crazy, they had a crazy boom. And it's slowed down because, well, consumer spending slowed down, everything slowed down a little bit. So yeah, they couldn't repeat 2021. Now, so it's more contextual than then technology. But the technology is still valid. And the most popular question for the bots was where's my order? So what can we learn from that? On the recruitment side? How do we apply this experience? From E-commerce to recruitment? What's the equivalent of where's my order?

      Martyn: Do you know what? I think that I was only at HootSuite for a short time. And I've been in the recruitment industry for 17 years, and I only had a four-month break of going into kind of the retail/e-commerce sector. But the amount that I was able to understand and pick up around the expectation of a consumer was quite interesting. So not only the whole “where’s my order thing”, but also channels as well. So I think we're, I think as an industry, we've always been quite - I say this in the nicest possible way - arrogant around us knowing what our candidates expect from us. 

      And I think that we’re the ones that tell candidates what they need to expect from us rather than the other way around. So, you know, I mentioned Facebook Messenger, earlier with the global sports brand, but you know, the multitude of channels that candidates or consumers want to interact with businesses on whether it's WhatsApp, whether it's Facebook Messenger, whether it's Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, you know, there's a massive boom of Commerce on Tik Tok, as well. 

      And that just shows the change in generations and the changing consumer behaviour, but I think it's important to make sure that you give the person that you're engaging with as a business, that agency to say, you can talk to us on any channel that you'd like to at any time of the day or night. And that's where that kind of conversational automation comes into it. So, so the first thing is the channels and thinking about where your people are, that you're interacting with, what's the door to your business. What's your - What channel are they coming in on; where are they? 

      And that changes all over the world, as you know, you know, wherever you are in the world, people's behaviour in terms of the technology they use to communicate with changes. But the other interest is, like you said, the whole kind of where's my order thing? You know, it. And I think if we'd have gone into a business and said, right, you know, we're automating your FAQs, we're automating “do you have this, these pair of trousers in white and a size, in a medium size in stock in my local store”, would it have gone: “this is exactly what you want”?. Because you know, this is where we think everybody's going. 

      But actually, when you talk to the business and say, Okay, tell us, 80% of all of your, of all of your conversations coming into your customer service team. Tell us what those 80% are. And, you know, the massive chunk of that is where's my order? And then there's a little bit of what's your returns policy? Or what's your opening times on your stores, things like that?

      Max: Yeah,

      Martyn: It's about understanding business. So

      Max: I totally know what you mean. And I just want to rephrase it for our listeners. So a lot of time in the Chatbot world. A lot of investments will be spent on the initial engagement, where a candidate would come in and would come in asking questions like, What kind of jobs do you have? What is the right career path for me? And that has attracted investments, as well as marketing pitches, and a lot of companies have been focusing on that. But actually, candidates never really asked for a new place to search jobs because they already have websites and job listings and things like that, what they want is connectivity. 

      They - what they want is also the where's my order afterwards. So if you start your research from the moment that they have placed an order or in Job parlons, they've applied for a job. And then you figure out how to use NLP and conversational AI to take care of them from that moment on, you're gonna get more benefit - a lot more benefit for a lot less investment, basically, did I? Is that a good rephrase? 


      Martyn: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, and I really didn't want to mention this today. But I think that's what, that's what I'm excited about with chat GPT, there's not much that I'm actually excited about it with. But what I'm excited about it, what excites me about chat GPT is the realization that people are having, that a conversational tool isn't just transactional. And it can be a true assistant, basically. And that's the long tail kind of plan for most of these assistants that we work with. And I can't really say them out loud for the benefit of everyone's got them on their desks everywhere, not really trigger everybody's technology in the room. 

      But you know, the little pucks that people have on their desks and what have you, you know, the whole point of that is, eventually there'll be a complete conversational assistant. And that's what, that's what people come to expect now from a brand you know, so if you're, if you're doing a, an application via WhatsApp, let's say, just think about how you deal with a WhatsApp message from your friends or from your family, you know, you pick it up, you open WhatsApp, and you send a message and you expect a response at some point, that's the same expectation they have with the brand. 

      So somebody's applying for your job. By WhatsApp, they've got that message still on there on their phone, they're going to pick it up, and they can message it and say, hey, just wondering what's going on with my application. That's a natural instinct for somebody nowadays to have. So thinking of it as a conversational tool as a conversational assistant, to your application process, and your interaction with business, not just a transactional, “I've uploaded my resume, here's my link to my LinkedIn profile, off you go”. You know, it's, it no longer should be looked at as transactional, it should be looked at as a, as a long term, relationship based conversational journey.

      Max: I'm thinking we should start as well. Flagging if candidates are using chat TBT to answer interview questions, because we, you know, we asked millions of interview questions every month, and we do evaluate the quality of their answers. And Chad GPT seems like it does a pretty good job. So but there there there are tools now to determine when or whether there's a high likelihood that this was generated by Chat GPT. So if somebody if a candidate did use it, should we eliminate them from consideration or maybe even bump up their application to the top of the pile because, you know, their use of technology?

      Martyn: I heard a great analogy this morning about Chat GPT, and it got - and I’ll probably get it totally wrong because I'm on the spot here. But, it went something like this, you know, several 1000 years ago, when, when people started building things with wood, you know, they probably had a rudimentary nail that they were slamming him with a rock or something. And not once, yeah. And finally, an apprentice built something called a hammer and start hitting a nail in with a hammer. Not once, did anyone say how they use that hammer to do something more efficiently. They thought, What a great idea. It's giving you a helping hand to speed up your process to get things done better.


      And so do we now think that we should be chastising people for Chat GPT because it's merely a tool to do something more efficiently? So a lot of people now have, you know, challenges, you know, not even now, a lot of people have challenges in how to answer something. And so the whole point of chat GPT is to give that person a helping hand because a lot of the stuff that spurts out is, is hallucinogenic. But, ultimately, because of the way it works, it can't always give you something that's factual. And I won't bother going into the technicalities behind it. But it won't be ever 100% factual.

      Max: So it gets its wisdom from the internet. So

      Martyn: Well, it's not even about where it gets, okay, I'm gonna say it. So it's, it's not even about where it gets its wisdom from but the whole point of the GPT model is it's an algorithm for under - for predicting which word comes next in it. A string of text. So, that's the way it works. It's not even just about it goes off into its model, find some information regurgitates it. That's how it learns, it learns on the information, it learns on the patterns of words and all those kinds of things. What it's actually doing is using that learning to understand the subject, but then to predict each word that comes next in the sentence or a string of text. 

      And so that's why it's very, very good at predicting it. But it's not always going to be 100% correct. And that's why it becomes quite, I call it hallucinogenic. Because it feels like sometimes it's hallucinating. I've run various tests on it, and various experiments, and it's it, you can't rely on it to be factual. But ultimately, what you can rely on it to do is to string those words together. And so it's a great place to start. If you're struggling on how to start off your response to an interview question, start off your blog, start off your LinkedIn posts, all those kinds of things, because you should be using it to generate ideas and easy-to-generate structure, then go in and make it your own. 

      So I go back to my original point, do we chastise people for using chat GPT to give them a helping hand in doing their job properly, or applying for a job? Or do we see it as a bad thing? I think - I'm still open to ideas on this. But I like to put it out there as a thought.

      Max: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, you know, Oscar Pistorius was not allowed to run that race with his enhanced leg. I'm not sure I'm pronouncing his name correctly, and candidates are being evaluated on their communication skills and written ability. You know, of course, it feels like, it feels like they're being they're cheating, or, you know, it's cheating, but I get your point. It would be a better employer, who would ask the candidates, you know, please, please ask an intelligent prompt to chat GPT to solve this problem.

      Martyn: And ultimately, as professionals in the world of talent acquisition, we and kind of people-related stuff, we need to understand that the world is changing, and it's changing very, very rapidly. You know, two years ago, you would never have heard of a job title called a prompt engineer. And yeah, I know, you know, I personally know Prompt Engineers. Exactly.

      Max: Do they have prompt engineers on your job board already?

      Martyn: Not yet. No. Coming soon, there is talk about kind of adding some generative AI stuff onto there in terms of jobs, but I'm very focused on conversational AI, which is a slightly different kind of realm of artificial intelligence. But, you know, talk about conversational AI. You know, 5-6-7 years ago, nobody was talking about conversation designers as a job. And yet, you know, that's one of the hottest jobs in the world right now. Is a conversation designer, and people, you know, 18 months, two years ago, three years ago, when I talked about the fact that I trained as a conversation designer, people were just laughing at me thinking, you're off your rocker, you're on a different planet. What the hell is a conversation designer?

      Max: I used to make that joke to my team because we had our conversation in 2016 by 2018, you know, they were getting so many looks on LinkedIn, you know, who they were, you know, it was impossible to keep them basically. I should have kept their job titles like Technical Support Engineer.

      Martyn: Yeah. But it just goes to show; so in 5-10 years' time, are we expecting copywriters? Are we expecting marketers to come up with their own original content and their own original ideas? Or are we expecting them to utilize the tools that are available to them to generate ideas and allow them then to take those and move them forward into something amazing?

      Max: Yeah, I think that's a rhetorical question. So I'm gonna ask you, what is my final question on everyone of -for every one of my guests come to the podcast, which is to talk about a recruitment mistake that you made in the past. And I don't know if you've hired anyone recently, but it can be, you know, recent or the long, long ago past may be a memory that you've managed to silence because make a wrong hire. But Trent, if somebody's listening right now, maybe they can avoid to make a terrible mistake based on your experience. So does that experience you have one in mind that comes to mind - a miss hire you made?

      Martyn: That's a really good question. I would say quite the opposite. I know this sounds terrible.

      But I think one of the biggest mistakes So I probably made in my, in my career when it came to hiring and people was I once took over a team. And actually, I was actually I was promoted from within that team to, to head it up, which is always a difficult situation anyway, because you're when you're young and you're full of energy, and you're quite new into the world of work and you think, great, this is my first opportunity in a kind of a leadership position, you don't really understand some of the complexities of people and what have you. 

      And so, I think that one of my, one of my biggest mistakes, I don't think was about hiring people. I think it sounds terrible, what to say out loud about people keeping people Yeah. And so, you know, the challenge I had was, because I spent some time working as part of that team. I knew that there was some of them that weren't, they weren't up to the job and weren't able to perform as well as other people. And I, in the most humanitarian way I should have, should have let them go as quick as I could do. 

      But because of that relationship that you have with those people, and because you want to, you don't want to come across as like the ogre that's taken over and chopped everyone away. You keep people on for the sake of keeping people on and sometimes you have to make a brave decision, that that has to be made. And that's part of having a leadership responsibility that sometimes you have to make decisions that aren't comfortable for you or for other people.

      Max: Grow up people, you know, if you're a manager, you're gonna have to, you're gonna have to hire sometimes, and sometimes, you know, recruiting is of course, fraught with dangers, and you can make a lot of mistakes, but it's better hiring somebody and risking hiring the right person rather than being 100% sure you're keeping the wrong one?

      Martyn: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, and that was a long time ago, I had hair and I didn't have any grey in my beard. So yeah, so that was a long time ago. And I've learned a lot since then. But I think if I look back on my career, that was probably one of my first kind of major learning curves was kind of my first real entrance into the world of leadership and management.

      Max: It's such a common mistake that people make to delay hiring because they're emotionally invested with an underperformer. And so yeah, sometimes recruiting is exactly what the doctor ordered. Even if you do make mistakes. So takes take risks to take bold risks, especially in this market.

      Martyn: Absolutely, totally agree.

      Max: There's a lot of great talent out there and go to Bot Jobs.

      Martyn: Absolutely. For any conversational AI people that you want to hire, Bot hyphen

      Max: Great. How else can people get a hold of you, Martyn?

      Martyn: LinkedIn is always the easiest way. I'm on that thing. 24/7 So so if you want to contact me, it's

      Max: name is Redstone just the way like it's pronounced

      Martyn: spelt like it's pronounced yet. And

      Max: LinkedIn, read Martyn's. LinkedIn feed is pretty geeky indeed. So you're

      Martyn: Absolutely if you want to be immersed into my world of conversational AI and other lovely things then, then connect with me. And yeah, that's the best place to get hold of me.

      Max: Awesome. Thanks. Thanks for coming on.

      Martyn: Thanks for inviting me, Max. Been pleasure.

      Max: That was Martyn Redstone founder of Bot Jobs, who went on to have a conversation with me about how every big brand is continuously investing in conversational AI and making that connection easier for people to get answers to their questions on the most pressing question, which in the consumer space, as he said is, "where is my order" in the recruitment space? What is the status of my application? Hope you got something from that conversation. I certainly did. And that you'll follow us and share with friends so that we can grow this podcast.


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