Two toy robots are talking to each other against a pale orange background, symbolising conversational AI.
Image: © besjunior/

Conversational AI: Will chatty robots revolutionse how we recruit?

21 Sep 2020

Paradox’s Aaron Matos explains how conversational AI can help recruiters and HR teams move away from ‘the boring stuff’ in favour of ‘the people stuff’.

How we recruit is one of the areas filled with opportunities to transform as technology continues to advance. As Accenture’s global employee experience director, Susanne Jeffery, says, everyday tasks are becoming easier and more transparent with the help of innovations in automation and advanced analytics.

At recruitment company Paradox, conversational AI is front and centre. The company was founded by Aaron Matos, an entrepreneur passionate about technology and recruitment who saw a gap in the HR market for ‘assistive intelligence’. So, what exactly is it?

“The easiest analogy that everyone knows is Siri or Alexa,” Matos explains. “They’re conversational AI tools we control with our voice and they’re designed to be fluid and flexible enough to understand our intent. They can’t answer or do everything (yet). But their value is in their utility. If you want to turn on your lights, turn up your heat, order groceries or play music, those tools can help you with those tasks instantly.”

It works the same way for HR, Matos continues. On the candidate side, people want “fast answers to common questions” in order to apply, such as the location, the compensation and the benefits. According to Matos, conversational AI can make getting the answers to these questions “effortless”.

He says: “It can instantly screen candidates for job requirements as the conversation is happening. It can automatically schedule interviews. It can ask candidates for feedback on their experience. All of these things can be automated, which saves recruiting teams an enormous amount of time and creates a better experience for everyone. It really eliminates the ‘black hole’ that everyone who has ever applied to a job hates so much.”

Ultimately, the technology can automate “the boring stuff”, Matos says, which typically includes “administrative tasks that no recruiter got into recruiting to do”.

Olivia, the conversational AI concierge

Unilever is an example of an organisation drawing on conversational AI. Paradox works with the global consumer goods company to improve the application experience for experienced hires “that need to be sold on why they should work at the company”.

“They won’t tolerate clunky experiences or 40-minute job applications unless you give them a good reason,” Matos explains. “In that environment, our AI assistant Olivia can act as a concierge for every candidate who walks through the door, automating interview scheduling and reminders and helping with onboarding communications when someone’s hired.”

Another business embracing the technology is McDonald’s. Here, recruiting challenges are “a little different”, Matos says. “In their case, recruiting is all about speed. How do you get to the best applicants faster than anyone else and hire them on the spot if they’re qualified?”

Implementing conversational AI at McDonald’s helped the company shrink its hiring time from 14 days down to two, he says.

“A big part of that was shortening the application process to less than five minutes and moving all communications, including the application, completely to the candidate’s mobile device.”

‘Efficiency and experience’

The biggest benefits conversational AI brings are “efficiency and experience,” Matos says. “Getting work done faster with less and ensuring you provide a fair, transparent, respectful experience to candidates. Even the ones you don’t hire.”

Automating the admin-based elements of recruiting, such as pre-screening candidates and scheduling interviews, he says, “frees recruiters and recruiting teams up to focus on people stuff,” such as coaching hiring managers and writing thoughtful dispositions.

“All of those things are jobs only humans can do, but recruiters struggle to find time to do them because they’re so bogged down by administrative tasks,” he says. “That’s the problem we’re out to solve.”

Aaron Matos is standing outside in a suit and smiling into the camera.

Aaron Matos. Image: Paradox

But, like any technology, there are challenges that users need to be mindful of. According to Matos, the biggest one is “understanding the problems you’re trying to solve”.

“You can buy a cheap chatbot to handle basic candidate questions and answers, but if a candidate wants help with something that chatbot isn’t programmed to do – like rescheduling interviews or checking on application status – then the experience kind of breaks,” he says.

“It’s super important to look at the experience holistically, for candidates and recruiters. Where are things broken today? How can conversational AI and automation relieve some of the bottlenecks? If you do that, you’ll start to see all the places where this technology can add value, and you start to understand why the flexibility of conversational AI is so critical.

“Unless the technology is flexible enough to respond to someone’s natural language and all the different things they might need help with, it’s not creating much better of an experience.”

Some extra reading

For companies curious about conversational AI and how it could fit into their processes, there are a couple of sources Matos recommends checking out.

MIT’s Media Lab publishes a lot of fantastic, in-depth content on how the technology is evolving,” he says. “But it’s pretty heavy and technical.

“For recruiting and talent acquisition teams, I’d highly recommend Aptitude Research’s Conversational AI report, which was published earlier this year. Madeline Laurano surveyed 300-plus global companies about how they’re using the technology, the value they’ve seen from it and where it fits into the recruiting lifecycle.

“It’s amazing research with practical tips if you’re considering how to use it at your company,” he said.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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