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I applied to McDonald's and 4 other fast food jobs, but the chatbots and automated process made it impossible for me to get hired

Amanda Claypool   

I applied to McDonald's and 4 other fast food jobs, but the chatbots and automated process made it impossible for me to get hired
  • Amanda Claypool applied for a job at Waffle House, Crumbl Cookies, McDonald's, Wendy's, and Hardee's.
  • She said Waffle House was the only one with a human point of contact for scheduling an interview.

Businesses are struggling to attract talent and wages are a part of the problem. But pay isn't the only reason employers are finding it hard to retain workers. Artificial intelligence may be another factor.

Over the past few months, I've applied to five fast food jobs: Crumbl Cookies, McDonald's, Wendy's, Hardee's, and Waffle House. I successfully landed a part-time job as a server at Waffle House and it was the only one with a human point of contact during the application process.

Almost immediately after I applied for a job, using the Waffle House website, I got a call from a hiring manager to schedule an in-person interview. Forty-eight hours after I reported to that interview I was starting my first training shift.

Unfortunately, the jobs that made me apply with AI chatbots left me annoyed and uncertain.

The automated application process at Crumbl Cookies seems short, but it wasn't easy

I applied to be a baker at Crumbl Cookies. Of all the places I applied to, this application was the shortest. It only had three sections and the application portal only asked for my availability and contact information.

Many online job applications are complex, but this was a relief.

Even though it was short it wasn't as simple as I had initially hoped. After I completed the form, I received an email instructing me to text a phone number. When I did that, I was sent a link to fill out another application.

Crumbl, like a lot of the places I applied to, uses a third-party platform for recruiting. The second application asked me to create a general profile and fill out other fields, including a video cover letter for the recruiting platform.

Once the second application was submitted I thought I was done, but I wasn't. I received an email alert that said I had to register my "applicant profile."

The process started out simple, but the further I went the more complicated it became. I was shocked to receive a third email outlining additional conditions, which included working a minimum of 18 hours each week for an hourly rate of $9.50 plus tips.

I wasn't informed of these requirements at any point in the application process and I had to accept the conditions before I could be offered an interview. Had I known the information sooner, I wouldn't have even wasted my time with the application.

After about 30 minutes of applying for the job, I decided not to move forward with the interview.

McDonald's uses AI chatbots to automate its hiring process, but it made things more complicated

I applied to McDonald's and answered the questions the chatbot named Olivia asked me. Most of them were screening questions: "what is your name," "are you legally allowed to work in the United States," and "when are you available to work." Once the chatbot deemed I was qualified it was supposed to schedule me for an interview, but it didn't.

Instead of setting up an interview, the chatbot asked how it could further assist me. This left me confused. I asked it again how to apply for a job at McDonald's and it responded by providing me with a generic corporate email address.

AI chatbots are still in their infancy. Even though they should guide applicants through the process, they're still prone to problems and not everyone understands how to use AI. I can only imagine how an applicant who isn't tech savvy or may not speak English as a first language might feel in a similar situation.

The Wendy's chatbot had no problem scheduling me for an interview

When I arrived at my Wendy's interview, I discovered the chatbot hadn't communicated my availability to the hiring manager. At this particular location, they were only hiring for the breakfast shift on the weekends. I was looking for a shift in the evenings.

The interview was scheduled for 30 minutes. It lasted five. The hiring manager asked me several times if I was sure I couldn't work on Saturday mornings. I was sure. Before I left, he jotted down my number and told me he'd give me a call if anything opened up. He never called.

I applied for a job at Hardee's which uses the same AI chatbot as Wendy's and McDonald's

The Hardee's AI initially scheduled me for an interview on a Friday afternoon. On the day of the interview, I received an automated reminder with an option to reschedule. I wanted to see what that experience would look like so I decided to change my interview time.

I rescheduled the interview for the following Monday which happened to be Memorial Day. I was surprised by the open availability I was given to reschedule an interview — especially on a holiday.

My gut told me a hiring manager probably wouldn't be at the restaurant. I was right.

When I arrived a worker told me the manager wouldn't be back until Wednesday. The worker didn't consult the chatbot's scheduling system — or her manager's availability — she just told me to come back on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.

Aside from the chatbot, I had no one to reach out to and confirm a new interview time. I decided it wasn't worth the effort of returning and hoping the manager would be available.

Automation seems like a good solution for a lot of problems, but that doesn't always mean it's the right solution

The nationwide labor shortage is really a problem of connecting available workers to employers that need them, but AI chatbots don't always fix this.

To be fair, AI chatbots can make it easier to screen applicants and schedule interviews. But the chatbots I encountered made it harder for me to schedule a successful interview, let alone get the job. I was left confused and unsure about the status of three applications at three different restaurants — this doesn't help managers.

Adding more human contact, rather than less, could be one way to solve the problem. Or at the very least, make it easier for applicants to apply for a job.

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