How chatbots improved Yodel’s candidate experience

Introducing chatbots for recruitment has helped slash candidate drop-off rates and average time to hire at Yodel. The delivery firm tells Ashleigh Webber about automating parts of its recruitment process has helped improve the candidate experience.

It’s no secret that offering a positive recruitment experience can do wonders for an employer’s brand – especially in an age where disgruntled candidates often take to social media to share a bad experience. But as delivery company Yodel has discovered, embracing technology that makes the recruitment process more convenient for candidates can also have a huge effect on cost, efficiency and the quality of talent recruited.

Yodel receives thousands of applications for its driver positions every year, especially ahead of the Christmas “peak” when it ramps up recruitment to satisfy consumers’ appetite for home delivery. On average it receives 1,200 applications per week for both employed drivers and self-employed courier roles, but this figure increases to 5,500 in the autumn.

Such interest in its driving roles – for which it recruits around 4,500 every year – placed huge pressure on Yodel’s talent acquisition team, who were forced to focus their attention on handling the volume of applications and getting successful candidates into the organisation ahead of the busy period, rather than creating a positive recruitment experience.

With demand for drivers increasing, last year it revamped its recruitment process to free-up resources and tackle applicant drop-out rates. The result was a series of chatbots on its careers website for the three types of driving role on offer – neighbourhood courier, owner driver and employed driver – as well as candidate experience bots deployed to screen candidates once they have completed their application on its ATS.

Each bot was developed by candidate engagement tech firm Meet & Engage and went live in October – at a time when hundreds of applicants were waiting for their telephone screening to take place.

While the bots have helped Yodel see a reduction in drop-off rates – now only 8% of applicants decide not to proceed further with their application, compared with 50-60% before – the main aim of the project was to create a helpful, less time-consuming process for applicants, explains head of resourcing Ben Gledhill.

“In talent acquisition we’ve been stuck on process for years, thinking ‘you must have a CV, you must have a telephone screen’. This is the first time we’ve designed something solely around the experience,” he tells Personnel Today.

Candidate screening

“It’s amazing that in 2019, as a profession, we’re still not focusing on candidate experience – which probably means a lot of the processes out there are shocking.”

Once they have submitted their application, Yodel’s candidates are sent a link to an online screening system – also delivered by a bot. Candidate screening was previously done over the phone, which many applicants had to wait weeks for, but this is now completed in their own time.

Gledhill believes it is important to offer candidates the ability to complete the process “in their own time and on their own terms” – particularly as their schedules rarely align with recruitment teams’ 9-5 operations.

Yodel says the majority of screening interactions now occur mid-afternoon, but a growing amount are completed in the evenings. Around 10,000 applicants have been screened.

The careers site bots also offer helpful information for driver applicants. For example, many of Yodel’s applicants have never had a courier role or have never been a self-employed contractor before, so the bots provide them with text, image and video-based information around the kind of van they will need or how to complete a VAT return.

It took just four months for Yodel and Meet & Engage to launch the bots, which completely align with the delivery firm’s branding.

“We worked with Yodel to curate a dialogue and the tone of voice we’ve used is very conversational,” explains Ali Hackett, director at Meet & Engage.

“People are engaging with the bots round the clock, which might revolutionise recruitment for other professions that don’t have a 9-5 schedule, like nursing.”

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One month after the chatbots were introduced, Yodel saw a 38% reduction in average time to hire and 97% of candidates rated their experience as highly positive. This benefit is still being seen six months after launch, with candidate feedback indicating a net promoter score that ranges between 95-98.

The increased automation has also had a positive effect on the workloads of staff in Yodel’s recruitment team. Without having to answer questions from candidates or carry out telephone screening, time has been freed-up to assess hiring managers’ requirements and make them feel “special”, Gledhill explains.

Organisations thinking of introducing chatbots or other technologies into their recruitment process should get leadership buy-in early in the process and take time to consider whether it is right for them and the candidates they wish to attract, Gledhill warns.

“It probably won’t work for every industry. Will chatbots help you hire accountants, for example? I don’t think so,” he says.

It’s amazing that in 2019, as a profession, we’re still not focusing on candidate experience – which probably means a lot of the processes out there are shocking,” – Ben Gledhill

“It’s often not candidates who are scared of the technology – its recruiters. They sometimes don’t understand that there are new ways of doing things and might be fearful that it shows their processes are out of date.”

Gledhill says the success of the chatbots has surpassed Yodel’s expectations and the company is considering introducing them to handle other people processes, such as onboarding.

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