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RoboRecruiter helps get jabs into arms of Londoners

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman August 12, 2021
When London’s COVID-19 vaccination centers needed to staff up at speed, a recruitment chatbot built on top of Twilio’s enterprise communication platform was the best way to accelerate the hiring process


Job candidates are like thoroughbred racehorses: they spook easily. If their job application doesn’t receive a fast and friendly response from an employer, it’s likely they’ll bolt.

That’s the view of Steve Lewis, global president of RoboRecruiter, the three-year-old company behind a chatbot system that automates many of the steps involved in engaging with skittish jobseekers, so that they all get the time, attention and updates they deserve.

These steps typically include sourcing candidates, posing screening questions, assessing suitability, answering frequently asked questions, scheduling job interviews and gathering references, typically by SMS or email. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes a lot of sense, says Lewis, a former LinkedIn executive – especially in scenarios where employers need to recruit a large number of new employees and where applications may arrive on a massive scale:

Nobody likes to feel overlooked or like they don’t matter. And yet lots of employers inadvertently give that impression, which isn’t good for anyone. It certainly doesn’t do their employer brand any favours. So from the start, RoboRecruiter’s goal has been to make their recruitment more effective, more efficient and far less impersonal.

That certainly could have wide appeal - but how did a service more typically used in hiring warehouse operatives for soon-to-open distribution hubs, or retail workers in the run-up to Christmas get involved in the race to get Londoners vaccinated against COVID-19?

Vaccine drive

As Lewis describes it, RoboRecruiter had already cut its teeth on work alongside healthcare staffing specialist the Acacium Group, providing medical staff for NHS hospitals. During that time, it had proved its ability to cope with the many compliance requirements that this work involves.

But in the face of a global public healthcare crisis, it was clear that traditional NHS screening and interview processes wouldn’t work for getting vaccination centres fully staffed up. RoboRecruiter represented a smart way to accelerate the process, he says:

In this particular project, around 7,000 people had come forward in late 2020, offering their services as vaccinators, in response to an NHS advertising campaign. But back then, it was early days, and the vaccines weren’t fully rolled out at that point. So the first step for us in early 2021 was to go back to these people who had registered their interest and re-engage with them. That very much played to our strengths, because we’re about keeping people informed and interested in opportunities, through regular updates and engaging interactions. Even so, we were chuffed to bits when around 80% of them responded in 12 to 24 hours, because that was a key piece for us - getting these vital conversations restarted and then making sure they progressed quickly and efficiently.

The results were impressive. Some 5,000 Covid vaccinators and other vaccination site workers were screened by RoboRecruiter in just 24 hours, via SMS alone. Around four out of five of those who were successful progressed to an in-person interview or hiring in a single day, instead of several weeks.

Technology foundations

RoboRecruiter’s service is based on enterprise communications platform Twilio, and more specifically, its Twilio SMS and Twilio SendGrid products. Says Lewis:

Twilio’s very proud of its innovation and it likes to challenge the companies that use it to figure out what they’ll build next - and I like to think we’ve really risen to that challenge. Obviously, given the frontline needs of the NHS during a pandemic, it was hugely beneficial to us that we had a robust platform as the foundation to our service, which we know will be robust and not fall over, even when faced by big, rigorous needs and heavy traffic flows. When you’ve got a ton of candidates trying to squeeze through a small door and you want to make sure you fast track the ones who are absolutely on point in terms of skills and qualifications, you need to have faith that this backbone will hold up.

Twilio also provides firm foundations for integration of RoboRecruiter with the back-end HR systems and the applicant tracking systems (ATSs) that its customers use in their hiring processes. And in June, RoboRecruiter announced it is adding WhatsApp as a third outbound channel to its service, alongside email and SMS.

But it’s not just about hiring new job candidates, either. RoboRecruiter was also used by London-based NHS Trusts to register patients, assess their vaccine eligibility and schedule appointments.

Other healthcare organisations worldwide are using Twilio in similar use cases, including the VaccinateCA system in California and MaineHealth, the largest health system in Northern New England. In fact, Twilio estimated in March that one billion people would receive Covid-19 communications powered by its platform over the following 12 to 24 months, precisely because its technology is being used so extensively in this urgent outreach effort. 

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