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What does Robotic Process Automation (RPA) mean for Recruitment?

Among the innovations and new features in HR Tech, Automation, AI and Machine Learning are catching up like wildfire. Although recruitment automation is not a new concept, it is complementing the HR transformation initiatives leveraging Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

We address the underlying technologies in play, how to deploy recruitment automation in an organisation, and what the expected benefits of deploying recruitment automation technology are.

WHAT IS ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION (RPA)?

For businesses, Robotic Process Automation is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.

RPA tools perform “if, then, else” statements on structured data, typically using a combination of user interface (UI) interactions, or by connecting to APIs to drive client servers, mainframes or HTML code. An RPA tool operates by mapping a process in the RPA tool language for the software “robot” to follow, with runtime allocated to execute the script by a control dashboard.

Just as industrial robots are remaking the manufacturing industry by creating higher production rates and improved quality, RPA bots are transforming the way we think about administrative processes, IT support processes, workflow processes and even engagement processes. According to Forrester Research, the global RPA market will grow to $22 Billion by 2025. Some of the core features found in many RPA platforms include application control, optical character recognition (OCR), surface automation, and central management.

It’s not a question of if RPA and intelligent bots will be part of companies’ business workflows but when your company will adopt this new technology. As before the early adopters will have gained a huge competitive advantage over lagging followers.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION?

Accuracy

Extreme accuracy and uniformity – much less prone to error

Low Technical Barrier

You don’t need programming skills to configure a bot

Non-invasive technology

No disruption to underlying legacy systems, reducing the burden on IT

Compliance

Bots follow regulatory compliance rules and provide an audit trail history

Consistency

Routine tasks are performed the same way each and every time

Productivity

Process cycles times are much faster compared to the manual approach

Reliability

Bots tirelessly work 24/7

Improved Employee Morale

People can allocate more time for engaging, interesting work

REAPING THE BEST VALUE OUT OF RPA?

If you are an initial adopter of RPA – this early phase should be focused on “simple” processes with the Three Fives:
Find the tasks that have high transaction volume – this will guarantee maximum return on time invested. AI will not replace RPA according to most experts, though it is understood that RPA tools that use AI will replace “normal” RPA tools that do not. These are the critical applications of AI in RPA to gain maximum value:

Text mining applied to unstructured data

Text analytics enhances the strategic value of RPA. In the context of recruitment and communications between the different HR stakeholders, this means emails: Unstructured text fields are scattered throughout such documents. Before these text fields can become actionable in RPA, a process must extract structures – simple ones like names, times, locations, and complex ones like sentiment, effort, and intent.

Process management

Using advanced analytics, broader process management improvements are possible – this combines process mining data with desktop analytics to create heat maps to guide bot design and bot behaviour. This can be applied to map candidate experience journey analytics, identify the gaps, and design intelligent RPA to close these gaps in critical areas of the journey process (e.g. information gathering vs a certain degree of bantering, helpful in putting candidates at ease).

Better analytics to reduce bots maintenance costs

Bot maintenance is currently the biggest cost and pain point for RPA tools – in some cases, the maintenance costs due to application or behaviour changes can exceed the overall license and infrastructure costs. To mitigate these costs, several approaches are possible. An effective approach relies on connecting the bots to the application through labels or objects. In either case, there is an alert system to quickly gather the requisite info and hints on how to fix issues.

WHAT IS RECRUITMENT AUTOMATION?

Recruitment Automation was born from the need for streamlining and maximising recruiters’ productivity. There are many monotonous and repetitive tasks a recruiter has to do on a daily basis, such as resume screening, acknowledging and rejecting applicants, scheduling interviews, etc. As mentioned above, there is an increase in the volume of resumes recruiters now need to work with (due mainly to the multiplication of channels where for sourcing candidates and applicants: career sites, social media platforms, job boards, etc). A recruiter’s ability to select, pick, engage and communicate with top hires and highly qualified candidates shrinks with these mounting challenges. According to Jobvite research in 2018, 80% of the time spent in the upper part of the recruitment funnel could be automated. Ideal boasted in 2017 of their ability to reduce the cost per hire by 71% for their clients using recruitment automation tools.

Recruitment Automation technology is able to screen thousands of CVs using advanced algorithms, select the best or best-fit candidates for specific roles, send emails, texts or arrange calls with pre-employments tests and questions to eliminate unqualified or not-best-fit candidates for the recruiters and hiring managers. The direct involvement of recruitment consultants starts only after a shortlist of candidates is made available.

Recruitment Automation technology can increase the overall efficacy of the recruitment process while improving the recruiters’ productivity and the candidates’ experience.

WHAT IS THE STATE OF RECRUITMENT AUTOMATION TODAY?

Automation in recruitment is not a new concept. During the 1990s, recruiters and HR professionals began using technology to track applicants. Nowadays the technology is widespread within Applicant Tracking Systems and Candidates Relationship Management systems. This comes in many key features such as recruitment Chatbots.

Replacing some of the tasks done by humans with automated “bots” has some risks, and some of the benefits can be elusive both for the candidates/applicants or recruiters. There is a wide acceptance that automation should be applied to three categories of the recruitment process: Candidate Discovery (Sourcing and processing), Candidate Engagement and Outreach. The most successful talent teams have effectively put to use recruitment automation to solve some of the biggest recruitment challenges of today:

Finding the right-fit talent

Although surprising, one of the most important challenges facing recruiters recently has been about finding high-quality candidates for specific roles. The latest labour statistics have shown a widening skills gap within some markets’ labour markets – as is the case in the US, European labour markets see a growing demand for highly-skilled professionals that far exceeds the supply. By automating the most time-consuming and cumbersome tasks of talent discovery – which has been identified as the screening and reviewing of resumes to find the proper match against often-times fuzzy job descriptions – recruiters have quicker access to a pipeline of pre-qualified candidates and are thus able to devote much more time in the engagement and outreach part of the recruitment funnel.

Communicating with candidates throughout the recruitment process

Based on research from REC 2018, email is still the dominant means of outreach for both the candidates and recruiters, followed by phone/text and the receding LinkedIn InMails. A software developer blogger recounted the painful experience of receiving 3 to 4 InMails inquests daily in his skills-shortage FinTech services industry. The persistent feedback from the candidates with the recruitment process experience has been the abysmal quality of that experience, with lack of information and recruiters’ responsiveness being at the top of the list of grievances. Automation brings a solution in a multi-layered, sequential automated communication across email, phone, text and InMail/social which solves the issue of persistent communication throughout the recruitment process with the added benefit of giving the candidates the choice of the communication channel.

Gender Bias, diversity and inclusion

Forbes observed that unconscious bias can be a major setback to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation. McKinsey & Company showed in a 2015 report how more racial and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The Peterson Institute For International Economics also showed that gender diversity in management positions actually increases profitability even more. Using AI in automation when it comes to some of the engagement Bots (as previously detailed in the RPA section) to select candidates based on data-based criteria would significantly reduce the risk of unconscious bias during the recruitment process.

WHAT IS THE RISK & REWARD OF USING RECRUITMENT AUTOMATION?

As detailed above, the expectations placed on Recruitment Automation are clear in terms of automating some of the most labour-intensive, monotonous and repetitive tasks recruiters have to do. The rewards of using Recruitment Automation technology are very well defined:

Time and money

Probably the strongest selling point of recruitment automation is that it saves time, and consequently money. This means that recruiters can spend less time finding a good candidate for each open position, which makes recruitment more cost-efficient.

Efficiency Increase

The key performance indicators used to measure the efficiency of the recruitment process deal with costs, time, and quality. Automation can affect all three. While it can definitely save time and money, it can also increase the quality of recruitment by allowing recruiters to quickly search databases of applicants according to very specific criteria, ensuring a good fit. The universal search feature can itself be automated and customised per each recruiter’s profile.

Applicants/Employees Engagement Improvement

Applicants and employee engagement have always been a sore spot for recruiters and HR teams. The introduction of Chatbots is aiming to revolutionise the way recruiters and applicants interact as well as enable a 24-7-365 open channel of communication to employees. The level of engagement post-roll-out of these RPA tools has consistently increased across all organisations according to the Forrester Research 2018 RPA Report.

Improves at a faster rate than non-automated recruitment

The latest advancements in recruitment are not coming from human recruiters but from the automation field. A decade or so ago, application tracking software was little more than just a depository for job applications. Now it comes with advanced search and grading options. Communication with candidates was always a problem, but new tools are created to handle it.
The rewards of any new technology also come with some inevitable risks and criticisms. Even with the latest advancements in terms of AI, Machine learning and Data, recruitment automation also has to tackle clearly identified challenges:

Issues with accuracy and reliability

Automation tools are still far from perfect. Applicant tracking systems have a major fault – they are easily confused by non-standard formatting options. Some applicant tracking systems might fail to scan applications simply due to an unorthodox style of bullet points used in the application. An applicant can follow a very good guide on writing resumes, like the one published by HandMadeWritings, but be disqualified by a tracking system for no good reason.

Preference for formulaic resumes

Applicants can have atypical work experience and still be a great fit for a position. However, it would take a human recruiter to make that decision, and it’s very unlikely that such a resume would pass through an ATS gauntlet and appear in front of a recruiter. This can greatly reduce the diversity of hires.

Keyword dependence has inherited problems

Applicants who know how ATS works can easily include keywords and trick the system into seeing them as a good fit for a position, even if they’re not. At the same time, applicants who would be a good fit can be dismissed because they either aren’t aware of how keywords work, or the keywords themselves were poorly set.

Conclusion

Recruitment automation presents an enormous opportunity for recruiters, HR teams and organisations in general. As is the case in other industries, automation will create a massive competitive advantage for those companies willing to lead the way and be first. Savvy organisations should be on the lookout for new software that fixes some of the mistakes and shortcomings of currently available automation tools. As more advances are made, using legacy automation software will become increasingly damaging to recruiters’ efforts in finding good talent in a timely and cost-effective manner. As start-ups offer the most dynamic and future-proof solutions in this area, EVA.ai is combining RPA, machine learning and strong analytics with recruitment automation while keeping the platform open and highly flexible to integrate third-party solutions or work with existing ATS/CRM systems.
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EVA team helps organisations achieve both growth and sustainability with HR 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution applied to Talent Acquisition & Talent Management.

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