Time for a chat? Conversing with a virtual recruiter

The idea of a chatbot with artificial intelligence (AI)...

which mimics conversation with human beings, is enough to have some recruiters fearing for their livelihoods.


Chatbots are a great way of releasing time to enrich human contact though.

Sky Betting & Gaming worked with Leeds-based digital agency Chatter to create a chatbot version of its TV sports presenter Jeff Stelling. “It makes the recruitment experience more ‘always on’ for candidates and more fun,” says head of recruitment Matt Hughan. “What’s more it’s easily accessible on mobile.” 

And as Max Armbruster, CEO of recruitment technology provider Talkpush, points out, recruiters shouldn’t view chatbots as their replacement, but rather as the natural evolution of web forms: “It is simply more natural for candidates and employees to answer questions in a sequential manner rather than having to complete long web forms.”

What can they do?

Relieve the recruiter of many routine tasks. They can be used to engage the candidate, answer questions, provide recruiting tips, help screen candidates, schedule interviews and other administrative parts of the recruitment process. Eyal Grayevsky, CEO and co-founder of jobs marketplace FirstJob, which has created a recruiting chatbot called Mya, says it can also be used to automate passive candidate outreach work and onboarding. He adds that while the greatest return on investment (ROI) probably comes from using chatbots in high-volume, it can improve the candidate experience across all levels. Hughan says chatbot Jeff also helps to build the employer brand: “Pushing relevant content to the right people and shining a light on what it’s really like to work at Sky Betting & Gaming.”

Dispel gimmicky image 
There is a danger that chatbots could be seen as gimmicky but when implemented well they can deliver cost and time-savings and help to convert more candidates from the hiring funnel. Ike Stranathan, CEO of US-based outsourcing company Staff Virtual, claims that Talkpush’s chatbot Stanley has helped it to increase hiring volumes from Facebook five-fold. “The recruitment chatbot has become the growth engine for our company,” he says. Meanwhile, Grayevsky reckons a major benefit is eliminating the “black hole” that candidates can get lost in. “If done right, it’s truly a win-win because you can improve the speed and efficacy of the hiring process while enhancing the overall candidate experience.”

Reflect the organisation 
Like any member of the recruitment team, the chatbot represents the company, so its personality and behaviours must be consistent. “Adapt the tone of your bot to reflect your employer brand. Do you want your brand to be friendly? Formal? You decide,” says Armbruster. Hughan adds it can take time to perfect the personality but believes that the use of Jeff in itself marks Sky Betting & Gaming out as a forward-thinking employer. “For us, introducing AI is a great way to help support the candidate journey.” While a serious recruiting tool, he recommends making it fun and so there is no confusion whether it is a real person or not. 

What can’t it do? 
The chatbot is not a replacement for human contact nor lazy recruiting processes. Bear in mind that not all candidates will want to complete the application process via a chatbot, cautions Armbruster. “If some candidates want to speak to a recruiter, make sure that the chatbot is able to collect their contact info and have a process in place to get back to them asap,” he says. He doesn’t recommend asking the chatbot to multi-task and handle many different types of transactions. “Build one chatbot for initial interviews, one for onboarding and one for exit interviews.”

Continuous improvement
Conduct an in-house pilot confined to a few test candidates. “You will learn so much from that first proof of concept that will inevitably inform your approach,” says Grayevsky. The key is using a quality product that uses AI-based communication to make the experience of speaking to the bot seamless. Hughan advises “constantly iterating”. “Feed new topics, learn from conversations and add subjects where appropriate,” he says. As this area is so fast-moving, work with a specialist partner. “Don’t embark on this on your own,” says Armbruster. “Work with a vendor who can continuously improve your bot to take advantage of the innovation in natural language processing.”


A chatbot is a computer program with a human face that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to converse and interact with users, typically across the internet. Developments in natural language processing, whereby computers can understand language as it is naturally spoken rather than from computer code and machine learning, where computers can teach themselves to do things, will make chatbots even more valuable to humans in the future.

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