MONDAY 3 DEC 2018 1:03 PM


At the Employer Brand Management conference 2019 on 4 December, Chatter Communications will share its insights into best practice in employer branding

We were first to market. It was a great concept and generated a lot of PR – but as a central part of what we do in recruitment, there’s a lot we’ve learned and a long way to go.

As far as we know, Jeff was the first recruitment chatbot to market in the UK. The vision was to develop a fun and engaging way for candidates to get in touch 24/7 and get instant responses about life at Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG). It would free recruiters from answering day to day questions around process, letting them focus on what they do best, all while still giving a great candidate experience.

It would also boost the SBG employer brand in a range of ways: by offering a consistent candidate experience, instant responses regardless of working hours and engaging with the SBG target audience of software developers on their own terms. We wanted to create a buzz about the SBG talent brand. We learned plenty along the way. Some bits were great, but looking back now, there’s plenty more to do to make sure Jeff has more impact as part of the process.

Sitting on the Facebook Messenger platform, and built on, Jeff made use of machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to learn from discussions with people, improve his ability to recognise phrases and questions and to give the right answers.

It meant we were able to create a bot with an engaging personality that was also credible enough to deliver essential recruitment information on all kinds of topics. The aim was for Ask Jeff to offer an interactive, responsive and thoroughly innovative experience from the moment a chat begins, right up to a candidate’s first day at work. With a strong brand identity and the real-life Jeff Stelling on board, it allowed the bot to stand out from a lot of other characterless alternatives. And being first to market with something that stood out in the space helped us get a lot of positive attention, showing SBG as a forward-thinking, innovative employer.

By monitoring the responses after launch, we continually mapped in extra conversation paths and topics that we saw candidates were interested in. This meant that the bot was always learning and improving. We did come up against integration and process issues. It was stuck on one platform – Facebook, where the corporate page had a relatively small number of followers. As most of SBG’s recruitment traffic goes through their careers website, people were being directed away from where we ultimately wanted them to go to apply for roles.

Inevitably, we were caught in the hype cycle, where technology is exciting, but there isn’t clarity on how to use it productively. We were focused on the innovation of the tool – the wow factor, and the PR boost – and made it work even though we couldn’t fully integrate it into our candidate journey at that time. We know we have something that works with the brand. Now, it’s about making it more practical, an integral part of what we do day to day with our candidates, whether that’s integration into the ATS, allowing candidates to search and apply for a vacancy without having to see an application form, or sending ‘push’ messages to engage with candidates updating them on the status of their application,

What comes next for AI technology and employer branding? For us, we see AI and ML being about automating all the things that humans don’t want to do, freeing people at work to solve creative problems, build relationships and make changes faster. All of this will improve interactions with your brand for employees and candidates. AI will make it easier to find and identify talent. But ultimately we’re recruiting people. Use the extra time to really embed your culture and brand with candidates who are coming on board.

Use this as a chance to upgrade your candidate experience and employer brand; don’t forget that human touch.

James Walker is the business development director at Chatter Communications

Tickets for the conference are still available here.