How did a Recruitment Chatbot boost VBZ's hiring process?

Catherine Munnelly Oct. 26, 2020

Recruitment processes are not always as simple as we’d like them to be. External factors such as requirements by law for specific benchmarks to be met or an internal resistance to change can frustrate recruiters who value building a successful candidate experience. Thankfully, there are ways to work around this. Such is the case for Florian Schrodt, Employer Branding leader at Verkehrsbetriebe Zurich (VBZ).

When joining the VBZ team in 2018, Florian’s goal was to remove the corporate perspective from their candidate experience and make it 100% candidate-focused. In order to keep 1 million commuters a day moving across Zurich; there is a business need to hire bus and tram pilots. But this was no easy task.

“It’s a really nice job because you are driving along the wonderful city all day long. But it can be tough because of the shifts. Especially because we are looking for job changers. Also, people do not have a typical education as a tram pilot on the market. 

So we have to educate the tram pilots ourselves. And the test is not easy, because it’s a cognitive test. So this means we need to have around 1500 applications in order to hire 70 tram pilots a year." - Florian Schrodt. 

The 5% conversion rate from applicant to hire aligns with the strict application process for the tram pilot position which involves four stages: 

  1. Application

  2. F.E.D test (cognitive test)

  3. Recruitment interview

  4. Medical and psychological assessment

How Can A Chatbot Improve A Strict Recruitment Process?

However, as Florian could not change the recruitment process, he set his goal on increasing the volume of quality applicants. These are applicants that understand the expectations of the role before applying, and to deter any applicants who would likely drop out of the recruitment process. 

“We wanted the people a better picture of their opportunity within the jobs. We tried to improve the information on an emotional level and we tried to improve the touchpoints.”

The ideology of implementing a candidate contextual experience, meant that everything outside of the recruitment process had to benefit prospective candidates. One of the most notable steps in achieving this for Florian was redesigning the careers website. Which gained momentum through successful recruitment campaigns. 

How Does A Contextual Candidate Experience Impact Hiring?

However even though the volume of website visitors coming to the website was increasing, the level of engagement did not increase enough. This is when the idea of using a chatbot to engage and satisfy candidates with instant communication came to the forefront. 

“What we experienced at VBZ is that for job changers, like tram pilots, they have many questions, and many similar questions, asked again and again and again.” 

Responding to everyone's questions, and doing a great job of it, contributes significantly to a great candidate experience. But it’s a huge task that occupies a large portion of the recruiters time. As a solution, implementing a chatbot with a FAQ Automation feature on the website gave Florian’s team 4 ways to improve their strict recruitment process.

1. VBZ speaks with talent 24/7 How Can A Chatbot Improve A Strict Recruitment Process?

Before implementing a recruitment chatbot there were only two ways a candidate could ask a question to a recruiter; through email or phone. Both channels offered a low response rate or in some cases some candidates' inquiries were not responded to, as this was time-consuming for the busy VBZ recruitment team.

Now a candidate coming to the careers website can engage with VBZ instantly through TramBot. Over 74% of all questions are answered by the chatbot, while the rest are passed on to the recruitment team. Candidates can also engage with the chatbot 24/7 and get instant responses which helps Florian achieve his candidate-centric mission. 

2. Recruiters could focus on building relationships with candidates further along the pipeline

As TramBot handles 74% of incoming questions, recruiters are able to utilise their time doing more valuable tasks. Instead of spending hours replying to repetitive questions, they can focus on building better relationships with candidates further along the pipeline. 

3. The recruitment team could gain insights into what candidates wanted to know and improve their overall communication strategy

“It's amazing how good you get to know the target groups because of their input and the possibilities to improve the answers in real time. Especially through the Corona crisis it was a great plus.”

Young graduates who are in their early-twenties used to be the focus target group for recruiting, before TramBot. In the first few months of the chatbot going live the VBZ recruitment team saw that amongst the most popular questions coming from candidates (salary and shift questions), questions around age were reoccurring.

It became clear that potential candidates were actually job changers, people who were looking for an interim job whilst they study or retrain. As a result, Florian and his team adjusted their marketing campaigns to capture this new target group. Their recruitment marketing team created stories directly from their staff and also advertised the chatbot on their trams, so commuters could engage on the go. 

In the future Florian and his team are continuing to improve their candidate touchpoints, including the chatbot. 

"The bot is a single point of contact for ALL initial questions relating to the profession of trampilot. We have established a contextual information management team that answers questions that the bot cannot answer as quickly and individually as possible. 

In addition, we are strategically expanding the bot so that we can offer contextually appropriate entries into the bot throughout the entire process."

If you want to learn more about how VBZ is using a recruitment chatbot and talent acquisition automation to hire tram and bus pilots you can watch the replay of the Q&A webinar. If you want to see how a chatbot could improve your recruitment process you can send an email to

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