Building a recruitment chatbot to enhance rather than replace the recruitment process

Behind the scenes on Sky Bet’s “Ask Jeff”

It’s official: Chatbots are the new black. From mobile banking to booking flights, they’re helping customers and consumers alike access the information they need, fast.

But, rewind back to September 2016, when businesses were only just discovering their potential, we spotted a huge gap in the market. We realised that in the realm of recruitment business, there was nowhere for candidates to get instant 24/7 replies to their questions. It was a gap that only a recruitment chatbot could fill. And we had the perfect client partner in mind…

Sky Betting & Gaming think big and act bold. They’re genuine game changers with a huge commitment to customer experiences and wanted to position themselves as an employer of choice to the best tech talent. So, we worked together to build “Ask Jeff”, a true industry first, that was as innovative as their business strategy.

While there were some (and are now many more) businesses utilising chatbots in the recruitment sector to work as a user friendly interface to a clunky application process, we knew that wasn’t the problem we were looking to solve. We wanted our chatbot to be based on great candidate experience. A tool that could enhance and support the experience provided by the recruitment team at SBG and also provide an alternative way to shortcut to vital information either on the SkyBetCareers website or external sites such as google maps or the local coffee shop (so you know where to get lunch on your first day!).

As for personality, Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling was the only man for the job. We worked hard to develop a visual style and tone of voice that captured his cheeky northern character. It meant Ask Jeff had the empathy to talk to unsuccessful candidates, the energy to share in successful candidates’ happiness, and the ability to tell a joke, sing a song, or even just recommend the best spot for a bacon butty.

Programming Jeff

The beauty of Jeff is that we built him on a third party platform, meaning we had to do next to no coding or programming to get him off the ground. After a bit of digging, we settled with a platform that essentially allowed us to drag, drop and connect different modules to build a big complex decision tree that users can flow through in a number of different simple ways.

The platform we chose is really flexible when it comes to hosting the bot too. It has a number of options, such as Slack, SMS or even on a site, but we opted for Facebook Messenger - an app that is enabling users more and more to conduct a lot of their online activity within one place, a big winner for the digital natives that SBG are looking to attract.

But finding the best way to build Jeff on the platform wasn’t straightforward. After initial development and live testing with SBG’s grads, we discovered that a blended approach (natural language processing and specific clickable responses) worked best. This is why we think Ask Jeff really stands out, as a purely button-led bot doesn’t have much opportunity to show their personality.

Once we were happy with the approach, the biggest challenge was structuring the content hierarchically, in the most logical and concise way, so that conversations flowed as naturally as possible and people were able to get the answers they needed, fast.

We bucketed content under 4 key parts of the recruitment process; looking for a job, applying for a job, interview and offer. This meant that wherever you are in the process you can get to the information you need.

People are free to ask questions too. We’ve inputted a number of keywords, for example if you want to know about the tribes at Sky Bet, Jeff will recognise the wording and take you straight there. Also, when it comes to things slipping up (because let's face it, it happens!), rather than just spitting out an error message, Jeff loops back to the 4 buckets. This means that people can still use the more linear button led approach to get to the information they want.

Keeping Jeff on point

Keeping Jeff up to date is dead easy. Because he’s hosted through Facebook messenger, we can keep a close eye on conversations through the back end and flag anything that isn't quite right. So, if we notice Jeff isn’t responding in the right way, we can easily hop into the platform and alter the key wording, and if he doesn't have an answer for something that keeps cropping up, we can add in another module to answer it.

Sometimes candidates do ask very specific bespoke questions that Jeff struggles to answer, so by monitoring in this way we can take over the conversation and manually respond to make sure the user always gets the most relevant information.

Jeff also keeps up to date with topical events such as the world cup to make sure he stays relevant and keeps connecting and engaging with an ever growing audience. He even gets to update his wardrobe for key matches!

So what’s in Jeff’s future?

Since his launch in December 2016, technology has inevitably moved on and so a bit of a spreuce up and refresh is on the cards for Jeff. And with an ever growing emphasis on gender diversity for Sky Betting & Gaming, the time has probably come to develop a female co-presenter for Jeff and allow candidate a choice around who they interact with. So watch this space!

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