In the news last week was a recruiter named Vera. What made Vera newsworthy is that she's a robot. A Russian startup developed Vera, and big-names like PepsiCo, Ikea and L'Oréal are listed among the 300 or so clients already using the artificially intelligent software to help vet for open positions.

Artificial intelligence is a buzzword in a lot of industries at the moment, and recruiting is no different. But some claim technology is taking the human out of human resources — at a time when it could use a more human, not less.

Ask many job seekers, and they'll tell you technology has ruined the candidate experience. Can AI change that?

The importance of candidate experience

In a job market as hot as the current one, it's important for organizations to provide a quality candidate experience. This blog post cited several studies noting, among other things, that 42 percent of job seekers who have a bad experience would never again apply to that company. Furthermore, 22 percent said they would tell other candidates to avoid working for that company.

CareerArc research found 60 percent of job seekers have suffered a bad candidate experience, with 72 percent of those claiming to have shared the experience on social media, with colleagues or on an employer review site (think Glassdoor).

Perhaps not surprisingly, organizations think they're doing a much better job at serving candidates than the candidates say they are. A bullhorn poll found 86 percent of companies say they're excellent or good at candidate engagement. However, less than half actually measure that.

One major company, Virgin Media, recognized it wasn't providing a quality candidate experience and decided to study it. The resulting inquiry decided it was costing the business $5 million per year.

What do the candidates want?

Recruiting tools firm Software Advice found candidates primarily want five things:

  • more communication
  • a notification if they're passed over
  • a timeline of the hiring process
  • human contact after application
  • timeliness on replies

Among the things candidates do not want are:

  • unclear application instructions
  • extremely long applications
  • minimal job descriptions
  • no confirmation emails
  • no notice when the position is filled
  • being unable to contact a recruiter

What can AI do to help?

Recruiters have been using software and technology, such as applicant tracking systems, for years now. While they're supposed to make life easier for HR, is isn't always the case for the candidates.

And some recruiters confess it has its drawbacks for the organization as well. In fact, according to CareerArc, nearly 40 percent of employers rely on technology that prescreens or preselects candidates based on the data they've submitted, and 62 percent admit it's likely this tool overlooked a qualified candidate.

From the job seeker's perspective, 85 percent said when they don't hear back from a potential employer, they assume the application was never reviewed by a human.

Furthermore, 80 percent of job seekers said they would be discouraged to consider other relevant job openings at a company that failed to notify them of their application status, but would be 3.5 times more likely to reapply to a company if they were notified. Fewer than half of employers said they re-engage declined candidates, yet nearly all believe re-engaging would help build their talent community and protect their employer brand.

And this is where AI and bots, possibly like Vera, can help.

Candidates crave response and interaction through the application process. While a recruiting bot may not be human, artificially intelligent software can at least engage the applicants, answering questions they may have along the way. When a human isn't available to answer a question, a bot can be.

"After all, automated communication is better for the candidate experience than no communication at all," Bryan Chaney, Director of Employer Brand at Indeed, said.

CareerBuilder found that 40 percent of candidates said the application process has become increasingly difficult, brought on by clunky ATS systems and long or confusing applications. Artificially intelligent bots can speed them through this process.

Hung Lee, CEO of, believes AI recruitment bots can "finally kill the CV black hole." Among the most mentioned problems with the application process is the lack of feedback on application status. In the past, this had to be done by a human with limited time. Systems with AI can offer candidates real-time updates on where they stand in the process.

Which brings us back to Vera, who can interview dozens or even hundreds of candidates at one time, whereas a human could need weeks to accomplish the same. Vera doesn't make the call on who to hire, mind you. She vets the applicant pool down to about 10 percent, which are then passed on to humans for the final decisions. At this point, the software has shown promise in "service and blue collar" positions, like construction, waiters and clerks.

Technology, which in many ways is responsible for the disconnect in the candidate experience, might also be the way out of the hole. As AI increases its presence in recruiting and HR, smart firms will be those taking advantage of its benefits, for their sake and the applicants.