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Using ‘Bots’ to screen for the right talent

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By Brian Yatich

It is the era of analytics, data-based learning and decision-making. The internet is now the go-to medium where everything happens, and it is imperative that businesses stay on par.

The recruitment industry is not left behind. The process of collecting and analyzing job applications has shifted to the digital direction, providing richer insights into candidates and employers now more than ever.

As organizations are slowly adapting to this new recruitment direction to remain competitive, it has slowly transformed the human resource job market.

Just recently Google announced their online job board to the delight of job seekers everywhere. Using advanced machine learning and natural language search algorithms, the search engine behind this latest development has already proven that it gives accurate results.

The new system is meant to help job seekers find job advertisements from various job postings and job boards on the web closely aligned with their unique qualities and backgrounds as it shuffles through CV’s for matching keywords for a specified job for the candidate.

This has proven that the future of job hunting is heavily relied upon artificial intelligence (AI), to simplify the process in connecting employers and candidates.

However, the bigger question remains, how does digitized recruiting operate without losing the vital human element of it?

The co-founder and CEO of Shortlist — a deep tech startup – Paul Breloff

The co-founder and CEO of Shortlist — a deep tech startup – Paul Breloff, realized the potential of digital and data-driven recruiting back in 2016, when those terms were not as famous as they are becoming today. His Kenya-based startup focuses on digitizing the hiring process, making it easier for every company (not just the big, rich ones) to leverage technology to build better teams.

“One of our philosophical points of view is that resumes and CVs are not very good indicators of someone’s potential,” Breloff notes. “They can tell you where someone has come from, what they have done, but they are not good indicators of where this person can go.”

Shortlist was founded on the premise of streamlining and making hiring processes more efficient by automating the manually intensive process of posting jobs to job boards, receiving CV’s, interacting with candidates and clarifying certain details.

“This is where technology can really come in handy,” Breloff says.

Man vs. Bot

“Sifting through multiple job postings has proven to be a cumbersome task for candidates, and finding the right position that fits one’s passions, experience and goals can be a huge task,” he says.

With that in mind, Breloff and his team set up an online recruitment technology platform, Shortlist, with the ambition of streamlining and making hiring a more efficient and objective process for employers.

“What we saw,” he says, “was a lot of companies posting jobs on job boards, getting thousands of CV’s and resumes and having to sit down and review them manually. Many innovators, especially in the e-recruitment space, have resorted to the use of AI and bots, which have made things easier not only the recruitment sector but almost all sectors.”

The Internet Report 2017 by iFreedoms Kenya details the rising trends of bots in Kenya, capable of providing businesses and institutions looking at messaging bots to provide their customers with relatively simple services in convenient ways.

“AI tools are rapidly emerging in the support space, as they can address high-urgency situations quickly, but when it comes to high-emotion scenarios, no AI can replicate human empathy. There’s still a distinct advantage to having a real person help a customer. Some support interactions just require a human element.” Breloff says.

According to Breloff, the Shortlist platform screens candidates using predictive chat-based interviews and online competency-based assessments.

“By digitizing the initial stages of the screening process, we help companies find candidates with the skills they need to succeed on-the-job, while avoid bias and inefficiencies. This objective ‘top of the funnel’ screening, paired with live candidate interaction and support, is how we find the best-fit candidate for each role,” he says.

The tech-based firm has spent a lot of energy in the platform piecing together their business model to have a human touch feel to it as well as blend it with technology. “Getting that balance is really important to us” Breloff says.

“If you are an employer, rather than us selling you the technology, we are selling you the service. You don’t need to understand what happens behind the platform if you don’t want to. Each of our product offerings, ranging from a full-service recruiter to a lighter-touch software option, allows employers to efficiently and objectively identify top talent for junior- to mid-level roles,” he adds.

On the employers side, the firm has built a platform that makes it easy for the company to have all their candidates go through a uniform process, where they avoid perusing through all CV’s and give candidates the opportunity to show what they can do through challenges and answering questions relating to the field.

“We do this by customizing a digital obstacle course and creating a job application where they will be evaluated on whether they are fit for the job or not,” he says.

On the candidate point of view, the job seeker is tested with a bit of work where they go through a digital experience with a chat-based bot that collects different information in a quick easy way.

“The bot screens users based on experience, location, salary expectations among other things. Then the candidate progresses to a skills assessment related to the job they are applying, removing the aspect of bias.” he says.

The assessment performance is then presented to the employer as they keep updating the candidate on the job they have applied for, we intend to create a mindset that will determine the success of the company.

To advise and walk jobseekers through the process, the firm has a set team of 15 people who engage directly with customers.

Bots, according to experts won’t completely eliminate the HR function, but will rather assist highly-skilled professionals to recruit the best talent and provide further leverage to an organization.

“Yet, there will be a continued need for skilled recruiters to facilitate the human aspects of the process – phone calls and in-person interviews retaining that relationship– that technology cannot be replicated,” Breloff says.

Last year the firm merged with Spire Education – a training business workforce that builds worker training programs for East Africa’s leading employers to further leverage their services in a bid to build a bigger platform.

Shortlist has worked with over 160 companies including M-KOPA, UberEats, and Twiga Foods, and has handled over 400,000 job applications on the Shortlist platform.

Looking into the future, the firm is banking on a number of training programs and partnerships that span multiple industries and functions, including finance, sales/marketing, technology, and data science, to further improve Shortlist.

“At Shortlist, we see such a big opportunity beyond just the narrow question of recruiting, we think about how to develop, train and retain that talent once they are hired by building better team cultures and value structures,” he concludes.

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