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How one company is using AI to help people with their job searches

One of the big fears about AI is that it could take people's jobs. But it may also help job seekers find new employment. Sonara CEO Victor Schwartz tells Yahoo Finance Live what job hunters need to know about using AI for the search.

Video Transcript

- More people are looking for jobs. Recent data from recruiting software maker ICIMS found that job application activity is up 31% over the past 15 months. And for those looking to land their dream job, well, artificial intelligence may be one way to help you stick out from the crowd. For more on this, we want to bring in Victor Schwartz, CEO of Sonara,SS which is an AI job search platform.

Victor, it's great to see you here. So lots of talk about AI how it could be taking people's jobs. Let's talk about how it could be potentially help someone find their dream job. What do you do and why does this make sense for job applicants to use?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: Yeah, so AI has historically been part of the narrative of taking away jobs. That's no surprise. Of course, with things moving faster than ever, I think that talk has been at an all time high. What I'm really focused on is using AI to really empower seekers to be successful in the job search by giving them a tool that fundamentally transforms how they think about it.

So the way it works is we use AI to operate almost like a talent agent would for a movie star. We understand you understand who you are and what you're looking for. Then our search engine looks at 10 million job listings posted online, identifies the most relevant ones every single day, and automates filling out the applications on your behalf using generative AI. So it's constantly operating in the background and really empowering seekers to start the job search from getting an interview in their inbox, rather than needing to spend all that time just sending out applications.

- But Victor, OK, to your point, sometimes this generative AI-- I mean, we're in the early stages of this-- can make mistakes. Like we had something earlier this week that we talked about like a legal case where there were all these errors found in it. So how do you deal with it? How do you address the potential for mistakes with something like this?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: So it's a problem that's been around since the dawn of machine learning and really software systems. Any time you're learning behavior, you're not always necessarily learning the right things. And so of course, you see errors coming out and how generative AI is producing content. And we're not immune to that.

What we've had to do, and the reason I've been working on this for several years, not several months, is in order to get this right, you really need to deeply understand the use case, understand the intentions and goals of the customers, and build in the right guardrails in order for them to be successful. So we've used AI broadly across our system to really be very smart around what is being asked, how do we interpret, what I need to know about you as a job seeker in order to answer it, and then actually producing high quality answers that are true to your experience with the right guardrails in place to catch errors, giving the right transparency and control to job seekers to essentially be an amplifier for their desires in this job search and representing them as well as they would like to be.

- Victor is this a case maybe for someone just across the board no matter what their experience is. Clearly, I think it would give someone an advantage if they're just coming out of college. But what about someone who has 10 or 15 years of experience, does it help them as well?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: So what I recommend is-- the same when people are going to college, you might work with a college counselor and they're going to help you put together a strategy. You have the dream schools, and you have the safety schools and the ones in between. What I recommend is regardless of where you are in your career, you need to have a balanced strategy of filling out old job applications online, networking, upskilling, reaching out to people.

There is a series of activities you need to do. And applying online, regardless of where you are in your career, is a critical aspect. What I've found is people spend more than 80% of their time job searching just going on LinkedIn and Indeed and applying to as many jobs as they can. And that prevents them from spending time on other higher value activities, like you mentioned, like networking and leveraging your network.

People are spending so much of their time and critically not just time but energy in this process of putting yourself out there over and over again and feeling demoralized. Because when you're sending out hundreds of apps, you're getting rejected or ghosted by most of them. That can really lead to a very painful process. What we're really trying to do is hone in on that part of the process and free you up regardless of who you are or what your background is to spend time on those other higher value activities.

- So to your point, yeah, Victor, it can be a grind when you're going through that application process. I've done that. And so I kind of have a two pronged question for you. Why can't I just use LinkedIn? And also talk to me about the numbers that you have that support your case for incorporating AI more in your job search. Like how much more efficient is this going to make me?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: So AI fundamentally adds new capabilities to humanity, right? And there's a reason you're seeing it transform every single industry, and it will continue to accelerate. AI can be used in so many different ways in the job search, whether it's helping you understand how to optimize your resume, helping you figure out even which jobs to apply for, helping you write a cover letter, whatever it is.

One aspect that it hasn't yet reached is this process of actually filling out the applications. And I think that's the fundamental shift here. And the reason it's different is we are removing this emotional skin in the game from the process. So it's the difference between LinkedIn. One click apply and zero click apply. You don't need to spend time laboring over researching a company and figuring out whether you perfectly fit the skill set if 99% of the time you're never even get a response.

What we're doing is figuring out how to operate on your behalf and enable you to do more in the job search, thereby essentially increasing your leverage and giving you the best chance of success.

- Hey, Victor, what do you think that this could potentially do just for HR departments, anyone that's in that job placement industry out there, just in terms of potentially replacing their jobs? Is that a risk given the fact that I could really just streamline the process that currently takes many people to sift through those applications?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: Yeah, so the way I think about it is it does fundamentally change the role. The same way that we are essentially becoming the agent for job seekers that's constantly operating in the background, finding and applying to jobs for them. HR departments will continue to leverage AI tools more and more to remove a lot of the grunt work that they have to do.

Most of the time in my experience in talking to those people in HR departments is filtering through resumes, just trying to do a lot of grunt work. And if they can spend more of their time on actually speaking to more qualified candidates and actually not spending their time just doing that grunt work of reading resumes and all the other work associated with that job, they're going to be able to get a lot more leverage in their career and be able to do a lot more. It's a traditional answer to automation and AI. But I think it holds true here.

And I think it, yes, it will absolutely change their job. And yes, they need to be aware and on top of how it's changing. But I think it creates an opportunity for people to go much further and become super recruiters, the same way they're talking about everyone becoming a 10x engineer, everyone could become a 10x recruiter just by leveraging AI.

- Or how about a 10x candidate I suppose? But Victor, I got to ask you a question. You said-- you talked about removing some of the emotional skin in the game. I understand removing the grunt piece. Neither side really likes that. Whether you're a candidate or on the recruiting side, that's just annoying.

But the emotional piece of it is kind of often how you connect and can be that piece that takes you through the door versus someone else. How do you do that? Like, if you're looking for a customized cover letter or something like that, how do you keep that as a part of the equation when you're talking about AI?

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: Yeah, so historically, the industry at large here, as I've gone to conferences and really understood how people think about it, people have used lengthy job applications as a way to essentially qualify candidate interest. They said, hey, if I can get this person to spend 30 minutes or an hour on this job and answer 10 custom questions, then I'm going to get to know them. And that means that they care enough to really be serious here.

I'm challenging that. I'm saying, you-- actually what happens is you fill out an application. You spend a lot of time on it. You send it out. That company is going to get 10,000 or more resumes. They're going to filter out 99 and a half percent of them. And then they're going to spend time on a few that they're going to actually call in for an interview.

I don't understand why this industry thinks that job seekers should be wasting all that time up front, let alone the emotional aspect of it. It's just a lot of wasted time. Like, you're just filling out the same information over and over again. That doesn't have to be. And in my experience, one doesn't differentiate really in the application almost ever because that's just not how the industry is set up. You differentiate once you actually get an interview.

And yes, there are things you can do to maximize response rates. We're building that into our process. But that's the point. People shouldn't have to have a master's degree in job searching to be successful in their career. I've seen some of the smartest people in my life be willing to take anything they can get or get nothing because they don't understand how this process works. We're building in that understanding into our system and raising the tide for all boats. Everyone is going to benefit from this. And yes, it's going to change the industry, but in my opinion, deeply for the better.

- I do like that pitch there, Victor. Victor Schwartz, we're going to have to leave it there. We appreciate you, Sonara Ceo. Thank you so much for joining us this Friday.

VICTOR SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. Appreciate you having--