The Russian Robot That’s Hiring Humans
A Russian startup is using Robot Vera, artificial intelligence software designed for recruiting, to help its 300-odd clients—including PepsiCo, Ikea, and L’Oréal—fill vacant jobs. (Yes, with humans.)
Vera speeds the vetting of high-turnover service and blue-collar positions (clerks, waiters, construction workers), cutting the time and cost of recruitment by as much as a third, according to its creators. The software can interview hundreds of applicants simultaneously via video or voice calls, narrowing the field to the most suitable 10 percent of candidates.
Vladimir Sveshnikov (28) and Alexander Uraksin (30), co-founders of Stafory, a 50-person startup in St. Petersburg
The co-founders, with a background in human resources, two years ago found themselves making hundreds of calls to candidates who’d lost interest in the given job or couldn’t be located. “We felt like robots ourselves, so we figured it was better to automate the task,” Uraksin says.
Vera, named after Sveshnikov’s mother, combines speech recognition technologies from Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Russia’s Yandex. Programmers fed 13 billion examples of syntax and speech from TV, Wikipedia, and job listings to expand the software’s vocabulary and help it speak more naturally and understand responses.
The robot started working in Russia in December 2016, and Stafory has since added clients in the Middle East and pilot projects in Europe and the U.S. The company says its revenue will top $1 million this year.
Human recruiters still vet the candidates cleared by Vera. Sveshnikov and Uraksin are working to teach the bot to recognize anger, pleasure, and disappointment, but even if it can gauge emotions, Vera shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for traditional HR departments, says Mikhail Chernomordikov, a Microsoft Corp. strategist in Dubai. “Final decisions on hiring,” he says, “are reserved for humans.”