In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Max interviews someone from the other side of the table — Rosie Maharjan, a job seeker who decided to take matters into her own hands and to create a conversational interface that would validate if there was a good culture fit between her and her future employer.
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Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. A show about innovation, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush the leading recruitment automation platform.
Max: Hello, and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers podcast. I'm Max, your host. And today on the show, we have someone from the other side of the table. We normally invite people here from the talent acquisition side. But somebody did something very unique on the other side, on the candidate side, which got my attention and the attention of a lot of other folks. Miss Rosie Maharjan, I hope I'm pronouncing it right. Welcome to the show Rosie!
Rosie: Hi, glad to be here.
Max: We are glad to have you! Rosie, I think you'll talk about this better than I will. Tell us about this chatbot you built, you know, my company builds chatbots for big brands like Walmart and McDonald's and does recruitment automation for all these big brands, but we've never built a bot for the candidates and the job seeker yet. So I'm interested I mean, I think our audience would be interested in seeing how you came up with that.
Rosie: Yeah, definitely. So I built a chatbot that interacts with recruiters that come onto my website when they come on to see my design portfolio. And so the chatbot essentially goes through the questions that our recruiter would be curious about in the first place or what they usually ask me in the first round.
And so my assumption was that it would save us both time, and that it kind of goes through what I'm looking for in my next role. Where I'm at? like being you know, younger looking for an associate role. And save the time of people who are looking for senior designers, or looking for something else. And kind of get more clarity of what type of candidate I am, and what I'm looking for as well as really highlight my skills and my creativity in a unique way.
I got the idea because I came across conversational UI, being a conversational UI designer on a job application I saw, and I wanted to look into what conversational AI was. And so I kind of experimented with this chat bot and I had a question that was a little bit controversial. I don't think it should be controversial, but it basically was a little filter at the beginning, before the recruiter could interact with my bot. It asked if they believe that black lives matter, which is a huge human rights issue that's happening right now. And If the recruiter said, no, it would politely tell them that I would not be a good culture fit. And then if they did score that sort of a filter, then they were able to interact with my bot.
Max: Hold on one second, because I've got an international audience and black lives matter has resonated with the entire world, but perhaps not so with the same intensity as it has in North America. Walk us through it.
The recruiter would start interacting with you and asking your bot about the Rosie background and then... Does your bot have a name? Or is it Rosie the bot?
Rosie: I just call it Rosie bot.
Max: Okay. Rosie bot will ask the employer: What do you think about black lives matter? Is that right?
Rosie: Yeah. Essentially, in the beginning, the first question the bot will ask is, are you a recruiter? And if they say yes, then it asks, do you believe black lives matter?
Max: Boom! First question.
Rosie: First question because, yeah, I don't want to waste anyone's time. You know, like if you want to see if you're a culture fit or not, you want to make sure that they're fighting for social justice and equality. And so, if that's not a priority or that seems too political, then I don't know. I don't think I would be a good fit and I don't want to pretend like I would be. And so it was kind of bold.
Max: Obviously it works on two levels. One you're screening them out. And two, you get a lot of attention with that Rosie bot, because it was right in the heat of a strong political discussion on black lives matter. So I imagine you got a lot of interest, you made some new friends like me.
Rosie: Yeah. I was trying to be more transparent than controversial, you know, I just wanted to be like, just straight up. These are things that are important to me. These are values that I have as a designer that will be emitted in my work. And I want to make sure that I'm in a company that also strongly has those values.
Max: Well, I love that. I think we are dealing with a world where there is more and more data. So from the recruiter standpoint, from an employer, they get more candidates now than they ever have before. They don't know what to do with it. And for you, I mean, in a way you're a job seeker and you can update us on what kind of job you're looking for, maybe our audience can connect you with opportunities. But I suppose there's also hundreds, or maybe thousands of positions to consider. So many maket places to choose from. The volume can, I suppose, become overwhelming. Is that how you're experiencing it?
Rosie: Sort of, yeah. I think the way that you have to apply for jobs now is so different, I think, than it used to be. You can't just hit the apply button. That's like going in blindly, you usually would have like an internal referral or something, and that would help you.
But I think that kind of, especially for young designers and new grads, it makes you seem like, ah you just want a job! Like you don't want to just settle for something. Where in reality, I think we have the power to be a little bit more selective about our job, and make sure that we are somewhere that we feel like we are making a difference.
And so that's kind of the filter I wanted to create there and make sure that I am somewhere that holds those values, and where it does make that impact. And I think it really worked for the most part. Whoever contacts me or whatever job I get, I know that they have passed that bar! Like it's not a conversation we have to have.
Max: Yeah. Oh I get that but, can you imagine this forum, this conversational AI form... I mean, most people are not going to get thousands of recruiters to come to your websites to talk to your bots. That's a stretch. But potentially it could happen that you would build an AI that's smart enough that it could, you know, it could handle a first level interview. You could have two bots talking to each other, and they would come to an agreement. And you wouldn't reveal everything until you meet somebody in person. But before that you'd have that first filter happening.
But in order for that to happen, we'd have to have a lot of volume in, on both sides where you'd have to have maybe thousands of jobs talking to your bots before you get just the right match, the perfect culture match that would come to you. But still today for you as a job seeker is it a lot of going through, you know, one job listing at a time? One marketplace at a time? Or have you been able to use that, all the fame that you've gone with that bot on Twitter to generate random job opportunities?
Rosie: Yeah, it was like that in the beginning where I would have to kind of apply. Hand by hand, you know, make sure you have a cover letter and everything for each place, but yeah, with the bot, it helped a lot with standing out. I would say. And even people who didn't see the Tweet or didn't know about this thing going viral, like they can still go to my website and they see that. And it's a really creative and unique thing to have on there that shows a bit of your personality, and like, the way that you work.
And so it's been a lot easier because now instead of me having to apply to a lot of places, people are reaching out to me. Like I've had a lot of companies and startups reach out to me and either be like, you know, do you want to interview with us? Do you want an internal referral for this position? Like we're hiring this. And that's been really great because it kind of easies the stress for me from trying to apply to whatever I can, to like having a lot of options of people who are really recruiting me as a junior. So that's been great!
Max: Fantastic. Yeah. Startups don't care so much about how junior you are, as long as you get it done. And you're showing that you could. Where can people go? Where's that website you're describing? Where you show your portfolio.
Rosie: Yeah. Honestly, if you just look up my name on the SEO, it's going to be the first thing that shows up. It's just my name. It's rosiemaharjan.com and it's going to be right when you enter the website, it's on the bottom right corner.
Max: Yeah. And then for those who are online now, I really recommend you go see that website. It's engaging. it's got movements. It's got some dancing. If I remember correctly. And some animation and it really makes you want to work with Rosie. So you're looking for design work?
Rosie: Yes. I'm looking for specifically a product designer role or a UX designer role. And yeah, I would say I'm pretty well-rounded and I'm looking for a job that is pretty well rounded. Not just focused on design, but the whole aspect of everything. And that provides a challenge as well as a mentorship!
Max: Cool. I'm sure you will have a pick of the litter, as they say. The conversational AI designer roles that you've found online. Are those in consideration today? Do you see yourself building chatbots in the future or you're looking for something more visual?
Rosie: I really love the process of building a chat bot. I mean, just the way you have to mentally map through everything and think about anticipating use needs, thinking about what they're going to say and how you want to create that dialogue. As well as kind of working with the code a little bit to make that happen and doing the research side of it. But I do think at the end of the day, I'm very much still a visual designer. That's where my passion lies. And so I really love this product design. It combines the visual with all of the research and the mind mapping. I'm looking for a role that does have all of that. So I think product design is a perfect job for me, and I'm really excited to see that. I think conversational AI is also really cool, but I do want to take it a step further with visual design.
Max: Yeah, I get that. I think it's very intricate work. To work through every scenario on a chatbot and there's the visual component. It's lesser, even though increasingly, you can have gifs and videos and sound and make it richer.
And certainly platforms like Typeform have also enabled designers to get very creative around the conversational UI. But it's not the same as having a whiteboard, let's say.
Max: To bring it back to the political spectrum a little bit, not that it's my area of expertise, but this filter, we could call it a filter. Right? So you're filtering the wrong employers out. I suppose, in the US it is expected for every company to have a position on these topics. Right? And to have like a public position.
Rosie: Sort of though. Not quite, because in terms of other political issues. It's not like every company is gonna be out there having an opinion out there. And it's actually, you know, kind of frowned upon to talk about politics in the workplace. But with this black lives matter movement it's less political, I would say, and kind of more about a human rights issue.
And so that's where the line is really divided. And in America, there were a tons of protests. I mean, it was in the news everywhere, especially in May, with the death of George Floyd and the rise of police brutality. And so with all of that, the issue is to just become more and more pressing with the election coming up and everything.
And so now we're at a point where maybe it wasn't like this a few years ago, but now we are definitely at the roadblock of either you have a say in this or you don't. It's not the same issue as like marijuana. It's about human rights! And so either a company has put up a BLM statement or they have not. So that was a huge thing that took over social media as well during May at summertime.
Max: I mean I did not put out a statement for my company. But you know, of course we're against police brutality, and of course I believe black lives matter!
But i also still see it as a polarizing issue that is going to be a distraction from my main business, you know? So that's why for me, it never came up. To be honest. Except from some people in marketing who thought it would be a good idea to put out a statement.
Rosie: Yeah. It's definitely. It's definitely more of like companies showing their support, but there are issues even if a company did show their support. Like Apple, for instance, posted a lot of BLM statements. And then I had a designer at Apple, reach out to me by email and send me this huge thing of like, this is ideological bigotry! And like sent me a bunch of paragraphs about that. And so it was like, wow an employee at Apple sent me that! So it's like, they are saying that, but not emitting it in their hiring practices.
That's one example of that. Where it's kind of more performative than actually doing it. So I think it speaks louder to actually be doing that in your hiring and make sure you're not having racial bias in hiring, than put out a performative statement and then not do anything else about it! It's really easy to say black lives matter and then walk away.
Max: Yeah well, the discrimination discussion on eliminating bias in the recruitment is one that has been going on for a long time in our space. And no one has really necessarily solved the issue because AI on one hand could be built to increase systemic injustices, or it could be used to, you know, equalize every candidate. And there are some people who even... Some software where it erases the family name or the first name and last name of the candidates in order to avoid the recruiter anticipating, you know, which ethnicity and which cultural background the candidate is coming from.
And I've also spoken with the recruiters who believe that. The best is to meet people face to face because when you do, you see their humanity. You know, like you and I are having a video call now. And, you know, even if I had a mental picture of a candidate who was, you know, a different size, shape and color, then eventually, you know, if i meet somebody face to face. I would get over that and I would start to get over it.
It's a very complex issue. And one that I tiptoe in very cautiously because I don't have any solutions, other than, let's build a recruitment process, which can be as democratic as possible and open the gates to as many candidates as possible. And then give them some questions that are job-related. It's a complex issue for our space. Any thoughts on that?
Rosie: It's a really complex issue because it's on one hand, like the AI itself is racial bias. And as we get more in technology and maybe as the recruitment process gets more evolved with automated systems, there is this risk of, like facial recognition systems, for instance, like there's not enough data on people of color with facial recognition. Maybe that might come into play with recruitment if they ever use that. And just a lot of issues with that. And then on top of that with recruiters, you know, there might be this unconscious racial bias in their hiring practice, as well as, just making sure you're not hiring them for the right reasons.
I think there's a lot of tokenization that happens with hiring practices sometimes, where maybe they just have to fill in this many black people, this many Asian people at our company. Instead of actually making sure that there's a supportive environment for people of color, and making sure that it's a comfortable place and that they feel supported, rather than just filling in a quota.
Max: Yeah! Outside the US there are markets where it's still very commonplace to have, you know, job ads that are asking for a specific ethnicity, you know, in Asia that happens quite often as well. So, I don't know, it's less prevalent outside of the US, these discussions. And it makes me wonder how the US is going to overcome, you know, the current state of tension where it's at. It does not seem to be getting better.
Rosie: The US it's a lot more diverse than a lot of other countries too. And there's a history of oppression there. And that's I think one of the areas that's not really being acknowledged enough. Like there was this whole Jim Crow laws, that created a lot of marginalized communities that because they were being suppressed in these ways they're, you know, in poor communities.
That's something that's like another factor. And that's why they're actions like affirmative action taking place. But a lot of people would be like, what's wrong with white people? Like that's how a lot of people see the issue rather than seeing the history behind it, and understanding why those initiatives are important.
Max: Yeah, I would correct you on the fact that the history of oppression is limited to the US and there's history of the question. Of course, slavery is, you know, pre proceeded, the creation of the US and there are oppressed minorities in every country. So I don't think it's a country specific issue but anyway we certainly, I can tell you, the world is watching and trying to learn from the mistakes that others are making.
And I think you've certainly helped to advance the discussion and help to rethink the way candidates should be treated. Where the candidates are the ones who should be asking the questions just as much. They should be validating culture fit just as much. And hopefully soon, you know, millions of job seekers will get inspired from what you've done and build these AI so that they can find a place where they feel welcome, at home, with a good culture fit. I think, you know, for me, what I loved most about your initiative was the fact that you took it into your own hands! So congrats for that!
Rosie: Thank you. Yeah. I hope it empowers other people, other job seekers to feel like they can take power back, take back the narrative and make sure that they're working somewhere, that they feel comfortable and good about.
Max: Yeah. Super. All right. Well, we already have your website. Is that the best way for our audience to contact you if they want to know more about your work?
Rosie: Yeah, definitely. And I wrote a blog post about how I created it and everything too. It's on the UX collective and the next web, I think if you just search Rosie Maharjan chatbot, it's going to pop up!
Max: I'll put that on the links. And we'll share that with our audience. Thank you so much, Rosie, for sharing your experience on building chatbots from the job seeker or the candidate side.
Rosie: Yeah, definitely!
Max: I hope you enjoyed my interview with Rosie, a job seeker who decided to take matters into her own hands and to create a conversational interface that would validate if there was a good culture fit between her and her future employer.
I do think that there is inspiration there for both job seekers and for employers because cultural fit is probably the most important thing when you're dealing with a large sample and when you're about to enter into a relationship, that could be very important. And for many years, cultural fit is not something that you could adjust for later on.
So thank you, Rosie. I hope you enjoyed this and if you've got more examples of innovation happening on either candidates or recruiter side. I'd love to have them on the show. So please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe to our recruitment hackers podcast if you enjoyed this, we'll have more to come.
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