The world is going through a new wave of automation where machine learning is being used to automate tasks. So, it was inevitable that developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) would lead to new ways to support recruitment processes.

Over the past 12 months we have seen the launch of a number of intelligent recruitment assistants or recruitment chatbots that can automate a large portion of the recruitment process and ease administrative burdens for employers.

Chatbots are well suited to recruiting as candidates expect a conversational structure in their interactions with employers. These chatbots can fulfill useful administrative functions such as screening candidates, scheduling interviews, responding to frequently asked questions, providing an application progress update, alerting candidates when a position is filled and even helping with onboarding.

Essentially, a chatbot is a computer program that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods in such a way as to convincingly simulate how a human would interact. If you’ve ever had a customer service experience online, chances are that you’re already very familiar with chatbots. While the reality is that their imitation of a proper human interaction is quite superficial, they can certainly make it a bit easier for you to book a flight, get technical support or get information on a product.

Recruitment is a prime area for automation. For a start, there are a high volume of candidates to process and many of the tasks are highly repetitive. There needs to be both rigor and a lack of bias used in filtering and screening candidates and, here, automated processes can be programmed to do this more effectively than their unreliably emotional and prejudiced human counterparts. Recruitment chatbots can help with one of the most destructive parts of the recruitment process — failing to respond to job candidates once they have submitted their CV. This can be highly damaging to your employer brand — if you choose to ignore someone’s interest in working for your company, they are likely to treat your products and services with equal disdain.

Using a recruitment chatbot doesn’t eliminate human interaction from recruitment. But if used properly, it can take the pressure off recruiters by performing the more mundane administrative tasks and enabling the recruiter to focus on the parts of the hiring process that humans excel in. While parts of the recruitment process can be better performed by a computer algorithm, there are undoubtedly other parts that benefit from human intuition — showing empathy, developing a rapport, responding to emotion and handling objections.

Perhaps the best known of these new recruitment chatbots is Mya, which was launched by job board, Firstjob, in June 2016. The company claims that Mya automates as much as 75% of the recruiting process. After a candidate submits a job application, Mya works natively in FirstJob, as well as in Facebook Messenger, Skype, email, and SMS to interact with the candidate. Once Mya finishes asking questions and screening for qualifications, it will deliver updates to the candidate until, ultimately, a live person from the company will inform the candidate whether they move on to an interview. The company claims that Mya improves recruiter efficiency by 38% and increases candidate engagement by more than 150%.

Rivalling Mya is a formidable army of chattering start-ups such as Job Pal, Karen, Talla, Xor and Stanley. And should you think that this new array of technology just addresses the recruitment of employees, TARA (Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Automation) automates the hiring of contractors and project management.

In the past, jobseekers have been coached on how to succeed in interviews. The new generation of jobseekers will need to be trained to impress a chatbot before they even make it to the interview stage. But if these developments seem to provide benefits to employers and make the hiring challenge even more difficult for the jobseeker, have no fear — EstherBot is a chatbot that will speak to hiring managers on a jobseeker’s behalf enabling them to deal with multiple job applications at the same time. And then there’s Yodas which acts as an agent and advisor for the casual jobseeker.

It seems a future job search is likely to be an activity where virtual chatbots initially engage with each other on behalf of employers and jobseekers before their human masters jump in to conclude the deal.