Candidate Experience Recruiting Automation

What Are Candidates Asking Recruiting Chatbots During Coronavirus?

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Profile photo of Lori Sylvia
Written by Lori Sylvia

There’s a lot we can learn about job seekers’ needs and concerns from recruiting chatbots. Rally turned to leading HR technology vendors to find out what questions candidates and employees are asking chatbots during the coronavirus, and how you can be ready with answers.

What Are Candidates Asking Recruiting Chatbots During Coronavirus?
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Many employers now have recruiting chatbots on their careers site that are available to answer candidate and employee questions 24/7. These recruiting chatbots provide valuable insights into the candidate experience and employee mindset: what people want to know about an employer, what their pain points are when searching for a job or accessing company resources and what they value in an employment opportunity.

So what are candidates and employees asking recruiting chatbots during the coronavirus? We were curious, so we turned to some of the leading HR technology vendors in this space to share what they’re seeing.

We learned that in addition to the typical use cases for recruiting chatbots, many employers are using them in innovative ways to respond to the crisis: from virtual hiring events, to mass screenings when hiring essential workers to responding to a candidate’s health concerns.

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Here’s what we learned from interviewing recruiting chatbot experts about how this technology is being used by both candidates and employers amid COVID-19. Whether you use a chatbot or not, these insights into the questions that candidates and employees are asking can help you to be ready with answers for your organization.

What Candidates Are Asking Recruiting Chatbots During the Coronavirus

 

Joe Essenfeld, Vice President Strategy at iCIMSQ&A with Joe Essenfeld, Vice President Strategy at iCIMS

Rally: What questions are candidates asking right now via your clients’ chatbots? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Joe: The most common questions that candidates ask our chatbot, ARI, are about how to apply to a job, specifics about a position, salary and the status of their application. Now, additionally, candidates are increasingly asking questions about remote and work from home policies, COVID preparedness and medical and personal leave paid benefits.  

We’re also seeing an increased reliance on chatbot tools from our users. When looking at our own platform and community of more than 2 million users worldwide, we saw a 9.5x growth in virtual interview scheduling with ARI in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the first quarter in 2019. Looking at just the past two months, nearly 1 million people applied for jobs with our chatbot. 

We saw a 9.5x growth in virtual interview scheduling with ARI in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the first quarter in 2019. Looking at just the past two months, nearly 1 million people applied for jobs with our chatbot. 

Rally: How are employers adapting their recruiting chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Joe: A big shift we’re seeing – both with our own talent acquisition team and our customers – is in event strategies. More recruiters are relying on chatbots to help them host virtual career fairs and help to keep attendees engaged by answering questions or conducting pre-screening. 

We’re also seeing: 

  • Some clients are automating outreach into talent pools and with their furloughed workers to keep them engaged and primed for when hiring picks up again. 
  • For essential businesses that are seeing spikes in hiring, recruiting chatbots are being used to automate the application, screening and in some cases, the preboarding process. 
  • Clients are also experimenting with chatbots to keep employees informed of emergency preparedness, internal mobility opportunities and surveying for wellness check-ins. 

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward?

Joe: We’re learning that business continuity planning and having the right systems and processes in place are key to remaining productive. The use of recruiting chatbots along with intelligent task and process automation will continue to be deployed. In fact both IDC and Deloitte report that organizations are redesigning existing processes to maximize AI benefits and build efficiencies.  

Economic pressures will force companies to have to do more with less. Chatbots and AI enable continuous agility and can help talent acquisition leaders readily address the starts and stops in hiring that they’re facing now and into the future. 

 

Recruiting chatbot

Candidates are asking recruiting chatbots about safety measures that employers are taking to keep employees safe during the coronavirus. Image courtesy of XOR.

 

Ali Hackett Director Co-Founder of Meet and EngageQ&A with Ali Hackett, Director & Co-Founder of Meet & Engage 

Rally: What questions are candidates asking your customers via your chatbot? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Ali: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve seen a continuation of the most pressing questions that candidates want answered. This typically includes questions like:

  • How long until I hear back about my job application?
  • I’ve missed the deadline for a role, will you be releasing any more positions in the future?
  • What do I need to bring or prepare for the assessment?
  • How does your onboarding process work?

In addition, we’ve also seen an increasing number of questions related to the COVID-19 crisis, such as:

  • Are you prioritizing internal moves due to COVID-19?
  • Has COVID-19 had a serious effect on your company?
  • Will my new role still go ahead given the current situation?

At a time of fear and uncertainty, candidates prioritize emotions of security and stability. Clearly, we can see that talent is seeking reassurance from employers, particularly around how the COVID-19 crisis will affect existing offers or start dates and whether or not interviews and open positions will go ahead as planned.

Rally: How are employers adapting their chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Ali: Our clients have adapted to this situation incredibly well. Because recruiting chatbots are user-friendly, tech-driven solutions that are easy to navigate, our clients have been able to modify the bots at any given moment.

One of our clients, a large managed services provider, was initially using a bot strategy to support contractors through the IR35 UK tax changes. With the rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this tax change was pushed back by the government for 12 months, which obviously rendered that bot content out of sync and no longer relevant. Our client revisited their strategy and, in a matter of days, rebuilt the bot to support contractors through a number of more pressing processes: onboarding, pay and timesheets, finding new roles and further ongoing support.

Having the flexibility to pivot and quickly adapt has opened up a completely new bot strategy for the client, who will now continue to use the general FAQ style chatbot and incorporate additional ad-hoc subjects such as COVID-19 and IR35 policy changes as and when they are required. It has been an excellent opportunity for the client to offer all around support to their contractors, as opposed to focusing on only one subject area.

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward? 

Ali: Recruiting chatbots have an incredibly important role to play in the future of talent acquisition. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the importance of investing in digital candidate experience solutions, and we expect to see this trend increase as candidates become more digitally native and tech-demanding.

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the importance of investing in digital candidate experience solutions, and we expect to see this trend increase as candidates become more digitally native and tech-demanding.

Chatbots are able to provide candidates with instant answers to pressing questions, promote relevant employer brand content and enhance the candidate experience by streamlining the application process. They can even reduce renege rates for existing applicants.

They also allow for top of the funnel tasks (pre-screening, responding to inbox Q&As, sharing policies and procedures forms, etc.) to be automated, which provides candidates with immediate answers and saves recruiters from unnecessary “busy work”. This means more focus can be applied to overall talent strategy, planning and data, so you can take a more proactive approach to your talent acquisition function.

Ameya Deshmukh, Marketing Manager at Mya SystemsQ&A with Ameya Deshmukh, Marketing Manager at Mya Systems

Rally: What questions are candidates asking employers right now via your chatbot? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Ameya: We’re seeing increases in candidate interest in 3 areas:

  1. In healthcare roles, we’ve seen an increase in questions around compensation. We’ve found that clients who allow Mya to share compensation figures with candidates are more successful in rapidly building a talent pipeline, especially in healthcare.
  2. Health care benefits.
  3. Personal protective equipment: candidates want to know if the company will provide PPE, allow them to bring their own and allow them to wear it. 

Mya is currently providing information about all 3 areas to candidates, and in Mya conversations for essential roles we’re seeing strong candidate satisfaction scores consistent with our platform average of 9.7/10.

Rally: How are employers adapting their chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Ameya: Mya has dedicated teams of linguists, conversation designers and AI engineers who are constantly evaluating and updating Mya conversations. We’ve built in capabilities for Mya to answer the questions that come up when hiring for essential roles.

We have a proprietary conversation template library called the Conversation Cloud. It’s a library of Mya conversation templates spanning many industries, job families and job profiles. Each conversation has been used thousands of times and been put through a rigorous internal optimization process to ensure it’s free from unconscious bias and is highly engaging. Through the conversation library, our clients gain incredible flexibility and can respond dynamically to market changes. 

For example, one of our clients had Mya engage in over 100,000 conversations with essential workers in a single day. Another one of our clients used Mya to engage 300-500 healthcare professionals a week and was able to fill 100 open reqs for ICU Nurses in just under a month.

One of our clients had Mya engage in over 100,000 conversations with essential workers in a single day. Another one of our clients used Mya to engage 300-500 healthcare professionals a week and was able to fill 100 open reqs for ICU Nurses in just under a month.

We’ve seen an increase in the usage of Mya as well. There are several reasons for this. First, the high unemployment rate means open roles are getting hundreds of more applications. Remember, even during record unemployment rate lows the average job opening received 250 resumes. Now, our clients are reporting figures multiples greater.

Our clients are using AI to increase the capacity of their recruiting teams, create speed and efficiency in hiring and to respond in more dynamic ways to changing marketplace conditions. With our conversational AI platform, it’s possible for our clients to get a req, launch a campaign and have an engaged and qualified candidate pipeline ready in just a few hours.

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward? 

Ameya: The talent acquisition landscape has been changing dramatically over the last few years, and even more so in the last few months. Some businesses in essential industries have had to dramatically increase the volume of hiring to keep up with demand, while other industries have seen unprecedented amounts of layoffs. Recruiting chatbots can help companies in both situations moving forward.

Companies that have survived layoffs may not be prioritizing re-hiring at this point, but it is something they will have to think about once the economy is up and running again. We are likely to see a massive increase in hiring volume as companies will compete to re-hire the high-end talent lost at the beginning of 2020. This is where recruiting chatbots can help, as their ability to help onboard and organize thousands of applicants at once will allow recruiters to highlight top-tier applicants and keep them engaged throughout the hiring process. The constant contact of a chatbot lets the candidate know the company is interested in them and their skills and ensures they will not be ghosted.

On the employer side, chatbots free up recruiters’ time in the early stages of the candidate life-cycle by collecting the preliminary data for the candidate. This leaves human recruiters with more time to handle building out relationships with these candidates, which will be more important than ever moving forward. Candidates who were laid off at the start of the year may find it difficult to trust employers quickly, so giving your recruiters more time to build that trust will only increase a company’s hiring ability.

 Josh Zywien, Chief Marketing Officer at Paradox.ai

Q&A with Josh Zywien, Chief Marketing Officer at Paradox.ai

Rally: What questions are candidates asking right now via your clients’ chatbots? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Josh: We’ve seen a massive uptick in questions about each company’s policies around COVID-19 and remote work. We’re seeing lots of questions you’d expect from candidates — like what shelter in place means for a previously scheduled interview or whether the company is still hiring (and which jobs they’re hiring for). 

We’re also seeing lots of what you might expect from employees — like what it means to be furloughed or how an employee who is still going to work (think hospitals or pharmacies) needs to prepare and protect themselves. 

The general themes though are around clearing up any uncertainty and empowering teams to adapt on a dime. 

Rally: How are employers adapting their chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Josh: I’ve been super proud of how our technology has handled use cases none of us saw coming. Here are a few specific examples:

  • Clients have built out custom knowledge bases to answer questions about remote work policies, healthcare benefits for anyone impacted by COVID-19 and guidance for virtual or video interviews, etc. 
  • One of our clients used our chatbot, Olivia, to accelerate its screening and scheduling processes — shaving off more than a week to speed things up and hire an additional 50,000+ people in less than a month. 
  • One Fortune 100 client used Olivia to automatically reschedule thousands of pre-scheduled in-person interviews. 
  • Another client shifted Olivia to capture info from furloughed employees about their interest in moving to a different role in the company or relocating to a city with open jobs — helping them shift talent to new jobs and avoid layoffs in some cases. 
  • Several other clients who’ve paused hiring have used Olivia to continue capturing candidate information during the shutdown. When the country begins to open up, they can use Olivia to re-engage those people and encourage them to apply.   

One of our clients used our chatbot, Olivia, to accelerate its screening and scheduling processes — shaving off more than a week to speed things up and hire an additional 50,000+ people in less than a month. 

We’ve also seen a big move toward virtual recruiting and hiring events, and assistants can play a big role there — making it easy for candidates to register for events, reminding them about the event as it approaches, answering questions about what to expect when they talk to a recruiter and facilitating an intro to the recruiter when the event begins. 

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward?

Josh: I’m clearly biased, but I think they’ll become more important than ever. We’ve been talking about “digital transformation” and “the future of work” for years, but we’ve now reached a point where both are very real. Sadly, a lot of recruiters and recruiting teams have been significantly impacted by this. The talent teams left behind are already being asked to do more with less and they’re going to have to find a way to automate some of their work. We’ve always believed that an assistant can help absorb that burden and free humans up to do what they do best. 

Ultimately, I think the best organizations will start to see the strategic value that talent professionals can bring to the company and they’ll start to think of their recruiters and HR teams as “talent advisors” — people who can deeply analyze talent inside and outside the org, and create paths for them that go beyond traditional roles and titles. If COVID’s taught us nothing else, it’s that all of us must be more flexible and adaptable. We’ve seen organizations sharing talent, redistributing workers on a dime and finding creative ways to repurpose talent internally. The only way that can happen at scale is if talent teams are freed from the burden of repetitive administrative work. I’m very confident that conversational AI will play a key role in helping do that.

Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and Co-Founder of Phenom PeopleQ&A with Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and Co-Founder of Phenom People

Rally: What questions are candidates asking right now to employers using your chatbot? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Mahe: Candidates are most curious to know about the status of their application if they’ve already applied for a position. Other common questions for the recruiting chatbot include: 

  • Are you still hiring?
  • How is your business adapting?
  • What changes are you implementing to keep workers safe?
  • Are you offering remote work options? 

Rally: How are employers adapting their chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Mahe:  We implemented a COVID-19 FAQ template that allows our clients to quickly present their strategy and response to the pandemic directly within the chatbot. We’re also seeing clients leverage the recruiting chatbot to facilitate automated scheduling for phone or Zoom interviews since remote interviewing has become the norm for many. 

We implemented a COVID-19 FAQ template that allows our clients to quickly present their strategy and response to the pandemic directly within the chatbot.

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward?

Mahe: Recruiting chatbots will continue to grow as a valuable tool for facilitating scheduling, regardless of whether interviews are virtual or in-person. In addition, a chatbot’s ability to answer common job questions at scale will become even more important as companies grapple with rapidly-changing information and the need to keep their candidates up to date.

Aida Fazylova, Founder and CEO at XORQ&A with Aida Fazylova, Founder and CEO at XOR

Rally: What questions are candidates asking your clients right now using your chatbot? Are there any key themes emerging in these questions in light of everything that has happened since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Aida: Candidates are asking our chatbots a lot of questions about how prospective employers are responding to the pandemic. We used to see questions about health insurance and paid time off as the biggest priorities, but in recent months COVID-19 issues are clearly the most critical for candidates.

These questions are getting even more complex as candidates and employers are dealing with conflicting guidance at the federal, state and local levels about when it’s safe to return to the workplace. But, more than anything, candidates want to know that they are joining an employer whose values align with theirs and that the employer will protect them in moments of crisis.

More than anything, candidates want to know that they are joining an employer whose values align with theirs and that the employer will protect them in moments of crisis.

Rally: How are employers adapting their chatbot strategy given the current crisis? 

Aida: Our clients are preparing their recruiting chatbots to give detailed and thoughtful answers to candidates’ questions around COVID-19 issues. When it comes to workplace health measures, sick leave and working from home, one-word answers of “yes”, “no” and “sometimes” just aren’t sufficient anymore. 

We are also seeing chatbots implemented throughout the entire candidate and employee lifecycle to support a completely virtual hiring process. That means in addition to applying, screening and scheduling workflows, we are seeing increased demand for chatbots to take on onboarding, pulse surveys and rehiring.

Rally: What role will chatbots play in talent acquisition strategy going forward?

Aida: Chatbots’ role in TA strategies will only increase in the coming months. Candidates are going to have more questions about employee safety and working remotely, and employers will want to be able to provide quick and consistent responses to these questions.

Most importantly, employers are going to see a very large number of applicants for their job openings soon with many analysts predicting that unemployment will hit 25%. Our clients are preparing by building chatbots to automate the screening and scheduling of large volumes of candidates. Chatbot automation will allow their recruiters to make hires quickly while also replying to candidates in a timely manner to create a great candidate experience.

We hope these interviews with a range of chatbot experts have provided you with more insight about the candidate mindset and how HR technology is rising up to meet the response to the coronavirus. 

If you’d like to learn more about using recruiting chatbots to support your recruiting efforts, here are some additional Rally resources to help you:

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What Are Candidates Asking Recruiting Chatbots During Coronavirus?
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About the Author

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Lori Sylvia

Recruitment Marketing evangelist and community builder. Founder of Rally.

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