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.)

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.

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.”Vera goes along the recruitment chain, from search and selection of potential employees across the largest recruitment sites, to calls and invitation of suitable applicants, to a video or face-to-face interview.

Thus, Vera has learned to recognize emotions during video interviews. “This capacity will help HR managers analyze applicants’ emotional state, for example when they react to the mention of the company’s brand,” says Kostarev.

Stafory claims that, thanks to Vera, recruiters can find candidates “ten times faster than a human.”

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.

This past spring Vera debuted in the US market under the Wendy brand.

All user scenarios were translated into English. Vera’s performance is similar in the US and Russia.

Vera plans to land in China in 2018.


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