Digitalisation won’t stop until it reaches into every department of a company – even human resources. In human resources, this conquest is principally being driven by one factor: the huge potential of artificial intelligence (AI). The advantage of AI is that it can support the day-to-day work of recruiters and thus enable a more flexible response to the needs of applicants. Due to the tight labour market, attracting talent and, above all, acting rapidly has become immensely important, which is where AI really comes into its own in iCon’s recruiting strategy.
In 2017, however, the human resources departments of German companies were, for the most part, still oblivious to the topic of AI. Building on the experience and know-how I acquired in previous projects in the field, I knew I just had to help innogy Consulting stand out from the crowd. So, in April 2017 I embarked on our internal Digital HR@iCon project aimed at improving the experience of making applications, facilitating the work of HR staff and demonstrating the innogy Group’s pioneering spirit to our clients.
The birth of iConny – our recruiting chatbot
The first thing we did was to analyse what were the potential benefits of incorporating automation and AI into the candidate journey. We identified 15 possible areas, from which we selected three topics for in-depth evaluation and pilot projects. One of these topics was chatbots.
The next step was to find a suitable supplier with the right technical know-how for our project. The offer that really stood out for us was from jobpal in Berlin, a start-up specialising in recruitment chatbots. At the kick-off meeting with founder Luc Dudler and his team, we established what we wanted in our end product: a 24-hour chatbot capable of answering the most frequent questions asked by candidates.
A chatbot with character
Getting it off the ground took about two months, including a thorough review of each step, data collection, testing, training and integration. The process could actually have gone much faster. But we made a conscious decision to invest a lot of time in the internal testing phase before going live. With hindsight, I believe the effort was worth it.
We were able to develop a chatbot with personality and identify the questions that really interested applicants. The start was to give it a name – iConny – and also a logo based on our corporate identity, but we also worked hard to tailor the impression it made on users. We wanted iConny to convey our corporate culture and, obviously despite not being human, to be friendly, polite and service-oriented.
iConny is a great success and a great complement to the candidate journey at innogy Consulting. Online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the careers web-page, the chatbot won’t take long in replying to questions. International applicants, in particular, can now benefit from our ability to answer their questions at any time. Thanks to our intensive testing phase, we can boast a response rate of 70 per cent – topping the field. iConny gives us the ability to answer a variety of questions concerning the company, its corporate culture, locations and vacancies. Not only that, iConny also answers those sticky questions many people initially find it difficult to answer. The response rate does, however, show that no technology is infallible. However, just like a human, chatbots can learn with every conversation. And the better they are fed, the better the result. Any queries pushing the bot beyond its limits are forwarded to the recruiting team and answered from there. So just what is the most popular question? More than 30 per cent are related to salary. Pretty interesting, right?
All in all, we’re really enthusiastic about iConny and are actively looking for other areas in which we can deploy jobpal technology, for instance the onboarding process.
Our candidate journey is now supported by other Digital HR@iCon project initiatives, including an online reservation tool for interviews, which can match the availability of applicants and recruiters, schedule appointments, send reminders and allow applicants to reschedule. Quick and easy and fully automated.
Despite all this, we’re always mindful that chatbots are merely an additional aid. Human interactions and our personal experiences aren’t going anywhere!