Are voice assistants going to disrupt hiring?

By Dr. Malini Sathappan

Since voice assistants are fast becoming integrated into everyday life – with plenty of demonstrations at consumer electronics shows focusing heavily on them – is it likely that we will start seeing such artificial intelligence (AI) tools disrupting traditional human resource (HR) processes?

Incorporating voice assistants in HR

Voice search technology is a comparatively simple development for users. A ‘wake world’ is used – such as “Alexa” – and users can then ask questions or instruct it to carry out certain actions that have previously been set up. Gartner has predicted that by 2020, 30 per cent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. The research company explained that “by eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, vocal interactions extend the web experience to multiple activities such as driving, cooking, waking, socialising, exercising, operating machinery, etc.”.

In this way, voice-based assistants can be seen as a driver of productivity, enabling workers to carry out their duties while simultaneously obtaining the information they need. Within HR departments, they will allow people to focus their energy on the more complicated and creative aspects of the job that technology cannot take care of. Since AI lacks the emotions necessary to pick up on unspoken cues, humans will still need to establish aspects like culture fit, ambition and personality type.

Voice technology in recruitment chatbots

 New software and automation built from AI can also help companies identify the most appropriate candidates. Programmes like Mya and Wade & Wendy are capable of conducting initial chat interviews to shortlist the most qualified applicants, as well as boosting engagement with them. Systems such as these can recommend certain candidates based on machine learning and established algorithms, as well as schedule interviews. This eliminates some of the more time-consuming elements of HR for professionals.

These chatbots can incorporate voice-based technology in order to make them more convenient for job seekers. Talkpush has developed one such system, calling it the ‘first conversation-driven Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system’. According to Talkpush, its solution will enable recruiters to spend more time talking to qualified candidates, resulting in ‘a better candidate experience and huge reductions in cost per hire and time to fill’.

More communication from recruiters would be welcomed by most job seekers, with the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2016 report finding that one of the biggest roadblocks candidates face when switching jobs is not hearing back after applying to a company. A voice-assisted chatbot that can get in touch with an applicant will potentially go a long way toward improving their experience with companies.

Maintaining the human touch

It is important not to let technology overwhelm recruitment processes, though. Our own research found that 87 per cent of job seekers agree technology has made the job search process more impersonal, with 82 per cent of workers agreeing that the ideal interaction with a company is one where innovative technologies are behind the scenes and second to personalised human interaction.

This highlights the need for companies to balance automation with a personal touch. Ensuring that humans are still heavily involved in the recruitment process is crucial to keeping candidate engagement levels high, as well as making informed decisions on whether candidates will fit in at the companies.

According to the LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, new interviewing tools, many powered by artificial intelligence, now sift through resumes and automatically weed out candidates so that HR teams can invest more in connecting with and closing the best ones’.

When it comes to voice assistants, this is the key message – AI can assist your hiring team, but it cannot replace it. Although it is certain to disrupt a number of HR processes and offer huge time-saving benefits to companies, job seekers are always going to want the human touch.

Dr. Malini Sathappan is a lecturer in the Department of Management at Curtin Malaysia’s Faculty of Business. She holds a PhD in Human Resource Development, a Masters in Human Resource Management and a BSc. in Human Science Development. Her research interests include HRM practices, employee attitudes, work life balance and ethics in the workplace. She has authored and co-authored a number of journal articles, as well as conference proceedings, on human resource related subjects. Dr. Malini can be contacted by email at