L'Oréal boosts candidate experience with recruitment chatbots

L'Oréal deployed chatbots to help its 145 recruiters process some 2 million applications annually. It also put to rest concerns that automation might replace recruiters.

L'Oréal recently deployed recruitment chatbots to improve its candidate experience. But before this AI in HR deployment happened, Niilesh Bhoite, chief digital officer in L'Oréal's global HR department, had to make a business case. He also had to address concerns among the company's recruiters that chatbots may be a job killer. Bhoite successfully tackled both goals.

This global cosmetics maker receives about 2 million job applications annually and hires 5,000 people a year. The firm knew from social media that some job applicants complained that they never heard back after applying. It believed that many of these applicants were also customers, so it developed a goal to improve the candidate experience and make its 145 recruiters more efficient. "Candidates are customers," Bhoite said, but the firm decided to test that belief. In an interview and at a presentation at the 2018 HR Tech Conference & Expo, he explained how that approach happened.

Recruitment chatbots' potential to boost sales

To make an AI business case, Bhoite compared email addresses of job applicants in the U.K. with their brand customer relationship management (CRM) databases and found that 17% of those candidates were already registered with their different brands.

Bhoite then cross-referenced that CRM database with the sales database and discovered that this U.K. applicant group was responsible for more than $2.6 million in annual sales -- just in the U.K. This hard data was a starting point for bringing business managers onboard with an AI in HR technology upgrade. They wanted to create a better experience for those applicants and one that left them with a favorable impression of the company and its technological capability. An applicant, for instance, may be responding to a specific job, but the system may recommend to a candidate other jobs that they might be a fit for as well. Another major incentive was improving the ability of the recruiters to sort through these applications.

Spotlight remains on AI at HR Tech Conference

The impact of AI in HR was a persistent theme at the HR Tech Conference -- especially how it might change employment.

In a session at the event, Ben Eubanks, analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, argued that, because automation is taking over routine, repetitive work, the remaining tasks become "more human" for workers.

Meanwhile, a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) said that nearly half of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforces by 2022. But growth in emerging professions will increase employment overall. In total, WEF estimated that 75 million jobs may be displaced by the use of machines, but 133 million new roles may emerge as a result of new products and services.

There were also questions about whether conversational agents would replace some of the recruiters, Bhoite said. The company downplayed those fears to recruiters, explaining to them that the chatbot was designed to augment their efforts, not replace them, he said.

We feel very strongly that the recruiter is at the center of process and always will be.
Niilesh BhoiteChief digital officer in global HR, L'Oréal

"We feel very strongly that the recruiter is at the center of process and always will be," Bhoite said.

The customized approach to recruitment chatbots

L'Oréal is using chatbot technology developed by Mya Systems, a San Francisco-based firm that developed its own AI technology. Some AI in HR vendors use chatbot technology platforms developed by Google, IBM, Microsoft and others. But Mya decided against commercial licensing a third-party system in favor of building its own AI chatbot platform, said Eyal Grayevsky, co-founder and CEO of this firm. He said its conversational AI system was purpose-built for recruiting.

Bhoite said L'Oréal decided to use a smaller firm for its AI in HR approach "because companies their size are much more open and flexible to the way we want the solution designed."

The Mya chatbot answers questions from people who apply for jobs, and the transcript becomes part of the applicant tracking systems. Mya assesses the candidate application against the hard requirements, such as ability to work in a certain country, and then tags them. This tagging and initial vetting by Mya saves the recruiters time and helps them to focus on those candidates that are more likely to meet the job requirements. This vetting by Mya improves the efficiency of recruiters to process applications by giving them a better list of people who are more likely to be a good fit for a job, Bhoite said.

The recruitment chatbots that L'Oréal uses are being adapted to handle multiple languages. English was the first, and French-speaking chatbots are now being deployed. German and Spanish are next on tap, and Mandarin is expected early next year.

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