Chatbots Bring Conversational AI to HR

And, Candidates Can’t Get Enough...

Artificial intelligence just captured the world’s imagination by making space history. The technology is having a similar spotlight moment of its own in Human Resources, turning thousands of job seekers into leads and personalizing their search experience from the moment they land on a career site.

AI-powered hiring chatbots are being used by more companies to engage and screen job seekers because of their efficiency and ease of use. Hospital systems, which have to hire at volume and make offers quickly in a highly competitive market for clinical staff, are just one example of employers that are reaping the benefits of these on-screen digi-bots.

“Chatbot is amazing,” said Ellen Page, Director of Talent Acquisition at Franciscan Health, an Indiana-based hospital operator with almost 18,000 employees. The company hired more than 3,000 people since the start of 2023 thanks to chatbot, which pops up on the career site and greets people with “Hi. Are you looking for a job?”

That’s a competitive advantage when recruiters can’t be there 24/7 to answer questions from nurses who may be looking for a new role during a break on the midnight shift.

“The fact that we can control that conversation with chatbot is significant,” Page added.

Success stories like that dispel the perception that AI could replace employees and HR leaders should be apprehensive to embrace the technology.

HR leaders believe in AI

Gartner actually found quite the opposite. AI will be part of most employees’ activities instead of replacing workers. The research also found that 76% of HR leaders believe that they will be lagging in organizational success without AI.

Lagging is not something that companies in the tech and financial services industries have to worry about. They’re posting impressive hiring numbers with chatbot.

Hewlett Packard Enterprises, a Texas-based cloud computing company, received more than 950,000 visits from casual job seekers to its career site in the first three months of the year. That’s double the traffic compared to the industry standard, and indicative of a company that’s an employer of choice.

Just as impressive — 26% of those 950,000 casual job seekers were actual hires that came via chatbot. Those are interactions HPE probably would have missed.

The company used to have little visibility into who was checking them out for a job. Pre-AI, half of those who landed on the career page looking for jobs would leave without ever applying. Knowing where traffic is coming from is one of the biggest guessing games in HR. HPE doesn’t have to guess anymore.

Chatbot freed up the company’s 200 global recruiters to engage in more rewarding face-to-face work with prospects. Instead of emailing candidates back and forth to arrange interviews, it’s all done for them. HPE’s talent acquisition team saves about 20 hours a month thanks to automation tools.

The one that got away

Companies spend millions of dollars trying to come up with an employee value proposition. Regions Bank, headquartered in Alabama, already had one. It was just a matter of packaging it into the right campaign to deliver to the right candidate at the right time. That’s where AI can help.

Two job areas in high demand at financial institutions are bankers (mortgage originators, corporate and commercial bankers, consumer branch bankers and wealth advisors) and those with technology and digital expertise. Without AI, employers can’t reach out directly to people with the skills they’re looking for.

Regions used to average about 6,000 applicants a month. After going live with the AI platform, that figure has now increased to about 14,000 per month. In fact, since the start of 2023, the company is averaging about 25,000 applicants.

Career site visits took off too, going from 70,000 a month to more than 100,000. The organization also knows that more than 70% of those visitors are first-timers. That’s huge. Imagine if just one of those people turned out to be a perfect fit. Every once in a while a unicorn comes along, but without knowing who they are and what they’re looking for, they quietly disappear and HR never knew they existed.

The Cigna Group leverages AI in its talent management practices. It takes the unique view of its global employees as candidates, ready to step into their next role.

“We have 74,000 employees, which are 74,000 candidates that we could be touching every single day,” said Mandy Day, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition.

What comes next for AI?

It’s an ongoing struggle to impress even the most qualified candidates. Quality and frequency of communication are key. Half of candidates will ghost an employer if communication is lacking, and the majority lose interest if they’ve heard nothing in the weeks following an initial interview.

Bad communication can ruin the best of relationships.

That’s never more true than in HR.

It’s all but certain candidates will walk if they are:

  • Unable to get answers to questions when it’s convenient for them
  • Unaware of the actions they need to take next
  • Unsure how to prepare for the interview process

The next iteration of AI will keep candidates in the loop and ready for the next step in the hiring process. Employers will leverage automation and AI to provide an always-on, omni-channel approach to engage candidates at multiple touch points.

This will create a frictionless and convenient experience, meeting candidates where they are, whether it be through chat, email or text.

For the first time, AI will assist candidates by:
  • Clarifying what the role will mean for them (i.e. detail what their career path could look like in the role that they’re being considered for)
  • Sharing specific guidance to prepare candidates for their next interview (i.e. whom they’ll be speaking with and that interviewee’s background)

AI is the new electricity

Whenever a new technology comes along, people are naturally skeptical. Electricity wasn’t in homes 150 years ago because of safety concerns. Can you imagine life without it today? AI is the new electricity. It’s invisible, ubiquitous and foundational.

Piloting a spaceship was once mostly a human endeavor. Today AI is working in concert with humans to land on the moon with pinpoint precision. I can’t wait to see what it does for HR in the next 10 years.

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