Want a job? It may be time to have a chat with a bot
Share |

Want a job? It may be time to have a chat with a bot
By Nicholas Cheng, San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco -- June 14, 2017 

If there is one thing Kirby Cuniffe has learned from 13 years of recruiting people for jobs, it’s that human relationships get you the best candidates.

Which was why he was a serious skeptic when a company came knocking at his Indianapolis staffing company’s door promising to do away with the traditional sit-down job interview — and replace it with text messages.

The startup, Canvas Talent, also from Indianapolis, allows recruiters to perform interviews by chatting with candidates virtually instead of talking face to face.

“I wasn’t too into the idea at first,” said Cuniffe, CEO of Aegis Worldwide. “I don’t like making candidates feel like they’re a number. I didn’t want to lose that personal touch.”

But to his surprise, he said, candidates were more responsive and “themselves” when approached by recruiters with a text.

Cuniffe says his employees, who place people in engineering, manufacturing and supply-chain jobs, have been able to cut down menial tasks like skimming through resumes, screening candidates and setting up appointments. Interviews are recorded with notes from Aegis recruiters on what they thought of the candidates, and emailed to clients.

“They can have like 20 different dialogues with 20 candidates going on at the same time,” said Cunnife. “Recruiting has become more efficient.”

Canvas CEO Aman Brar said his company, one of several that have sprung up over the last few years, will soon use artificial intelligence to recommend questions and answers for recruiters as they text back and forth with candidates — effectively blurring the line on whether job seekers are talking to humans or machines.

Human resources may seem like the last place to look for a bot takeover. But as in other sectors where apps have eliminated grunt work, there’s hope that artificial intelligence will free up hiring managers to look for better candidates.

Greg Morton, CEO of the Northern California Human Resources Association, said that automation has become a standard part of recruiting for the San Francisco trade group’s 20,000 members.

Recruiters, he said, should acknowledge that bots can make them more efficient.

Mya Systems in San Francisco also uses artificial intelligence to perform text interviews with applicants for low-skilled jobs, like customer-service representatives and industrial and service workers. It says it can replace three-quarters of a recruiter’s typical work with technology.

Mya provides a pop-up chat box that appears on clients’ career websites, asking questions about the potential employee’s desired salary and schedule.

“The future is AI-based recruitment,” Mya CEO Eyal Grayevsky said. Candidates who were being interviewed through a chat couldn’t tell that they were talking to a bot, he added — even though the company isn’t trying to pass its bot off as human.

A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed 300,000 people and found that those who were hired by a machine, using algorithms to match them to a job, stayed in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who were hired by human recruiters.

A report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that more than half of human resources jobs may be lost to automation, though it did not give a time period for that shift.

“Recruiting jobs will definitely go away,” said John Sullivan, who teaches management at San Francisco State University.

“You can shake a person’s hand, but AI can tell if a person is lying now by analyzing facial expressions,” Sullivan said. “AI at some point it will take over, but managers will still resist.”

Brar, Grayevsky and Morton see it differently: They believe artificial intelligence will augment but not replace human recruiters and managers.

Where they agree: Text-message interviews and artificial intelligence are best suited for hiring low-skilled workers, not screening candidates for positions where a human’s sense of where a person might fit in a group is key.

Still, Cuniffe said, automation has changed his company. Though he is wary of talk that someday bots may replace his job, for now they are welcome in his company.

“I’m confident we won’t lose anything,” he said. “It’s the relationships we build that gives us the edge.”

 

Original article here.