Have Chatbot, Will Hire
Using ever-improving chatbots to discover and engage potential recruits through social media, Talkpush is pioneering a new path in recruitment.
16 August 2018
By connecting employers with candidates via social media and using chatbots, Talkpush is changing the way firms recruit staff. Founded in 2014 in Hong Kong, the start-up was on the Cyberport incubation programme and received funding from 500 Startups, Seedcamp and Cocoon. Talkpush has needed to do some recruitment itself due to rapid expansion, having increased staff numbers from 20 to 50 over the past 12 months.
The first conversation-driven candidate relationship management system, Talkpush initiates thousands of conversations between recruiters and candidates via Facebook Messenger or WeChat, among other social media platforms, to build a pre-qualified talent pool. In less than five minutes, candidates can apply, complete a first screening and be told if they are shortlisted.
Chatbots can be used in the recruitment process at several key stages, from welcoming and qualification-screening candidates to preparing them for interview, and providing tips to successful candidates on the first day on the job. The bots’ capabilities constantly improve and it is only scratching the surface in terms of what can be achieved conversationally, says founder and CEO Max Armbruster.
With clients including Starwood, Alorica and AIA, the company is investing heavily in research and development to adapt its technology for more channels. By uniting job boards, career sites and career fairs, Talkpush aims to offer a more unified experience for users, says the CEO. “We’re doing a lot of integration with HR’s and employer referral programmes, and turning employees into brand ambassadors.”
Industries hiring at high volume and those employing a lot of young people have been particularly receptive to Talkpush, he says. “Millennials respond better to us, as we make the recruitment process faster; we definitely appeal to the younger generation.”
For executive-level hire, or highly technical roles, it is more difficult to automate recruitment processes, Mr Armbruster admits. This means the days of interviewing people face-to-face or on the phone are not numbered, even as chatbots become more prevalent. “For really qualified candidates, people need to sell them on the company’s values. Nobody wants to be hired by a robot – they want to be hired by real people, and you still need that human touch.”
Welcoming More Staff
With fast sales comes fast growth, and one of the challenges for Mr Armbruster has been ensuring his new recruits all work to the same goals. “For the first couple of years it was just two of us; now we’re a global team of 50 operating out of five different countries. We’re working to increase efficiencies and have a standardised approach as well as investing in the management structure and information systems,” he says.
The CEO is trying to figure out a consistent company culture, he says. “We have staff in Costa Rica and the Philippines, and we want them all to feel they are part of the same human adventure. Social media enables us to communicate internally, but it’s also about spending time together to build a strong connection.”
Mr Armbruster describes Talkpush as a metric-driven company. “We want to give staff freedom so they can find amazing solutions to problems.” Using enterprise collaboration tools and video conferencing applications such as Zoom helps staff communicate faster, he adds.
Talkpush is the fourth company Mr Armbruster has either founded or co-founded. As a serial entrepreneur, he finds it hard to imagine professional life without this entrepreneurial journey. Nevertheless, operations can become more formalised, with greater emphasis on reporting to investors as companies expand. “Initially, the challenges were limited resources and finding a core engineering team. We’re playing catch-up now, as we have a lot more resources,” he says.
The CEO says 60% of its business comes from Asia and 40% from the United States and Latin America. The company opened an office in Mexico several months ago and plans to open another in Brazil by the end of the year, when Australia is another possibility.
Mr Armbruster’s strategy is to secure two to three customers in a region and then seek local representation. He is in the process of approaching global consultancy firms such as Deloitte and McKinsey to bring his innovation to the largest employers in the world. “It can be disruptive to bring AI [artificial intelligence] into a company, so it’s good to be aligned with these firms,” says the CEO.
Doing business in Hong Kong has plenty of advantages, says Mr Armbruster. After being selected as a Cyberport incubatee, which gave the start-up help with launch costs and initial investments in marketing and engineering, the process of setting up the business was very fast, he says. Now Talkpush is up and running. One of the biggest advantages of being located in Hong Kong for a recruitment firm is being strategically sited next to some of the biggest labour markets in the world. Southeast Asia, Chinese mainland cities and India are all within a day’s flight. “We have a good relationship with the Philippines, as we signed our first customer there and a big part of the development team is located there,” says Mr Armbruster. Hong Kong also provides access to investors and financial markets. “There’s lots of other entrepreneurs here too, plus different languages being spoken and different phone systems being used. If you’re building mobile experiences, then you have a good testing ground in Hong Kong,” he says.
Talkpush is launching a mobile version of its platform so recruiters can talk to candidates directly on their mobile phones, something Mr Armbruster describes as “the WhatsApp for recruiters”. Slated for release in August or September, Mr Armbruster hopes it can further improve the recruitment process for candidates and recruitment teams.
- Information Technology
- Hong Kong