HR Sans Humans

This week I found myself moving my table and all its chairs, adjusting the positioning of the living room lamps, and trying to find a blank wall backdrop in my tiny apartment. Was it just a spot of tidying and rearranging furniture? Nope. These actions had a very specific task- I was on the quest for a summer internship and I was about to have my first ever virtual interview.  So instead of traveling to the career center or a company headquarters ready to shake hands and talk with recruiters, I was cleaning my living room and testing my laptop’s webcam capabilities.

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New virtual technology is changing how companies hire new employees. The recruitment process has gone digital. If anyone (like me before this week) has never experienced a one-way virtual interview it goes something like this:

The person being interviewed is prompted with a question, behavioral or industry-specific, and given 30 seconds to prepare an answer. After the preparation period, the camera starts recording and the interviewee has anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to answer, depending on the company’s settings.

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This method is currently being employed by many major companies as part of their recruitment process and the number is only growing. HireVue, a Salt Lake City-based company, says it hosted “nearly three million interviews last year, up from 13,000 five years ago.” HireVue is only one example of a company (others include InterviewStream and WePow) in the now $2 billion industry of startups creating questionnaires, interviewing software, and algorithms to shake up the way companies hire employees. HireVue alone serves big names like Goldman Sachs, Under Armour, Unilever, Vodafone, and 600 other firms.

Some of the benefits of virtual interviews are clear, like efficiency. Employing such technology greatly expedites the complex process of hiring, allowing human recruiters to view more and more applicants. Recruiters can cast their nets wider to consider applicants they might have ruled out before because the marginal cost of interviewing another person is so low. It also reduces travel costs for companies because digital interviews can be conducted from the comfort of the applicant’s home.

Once AI and algorithms become involved, even more responsibility is taken out of human hands. The process is sped up to really optimize hiring.  HireVue Insights is a software offered by HireVue that scans virtual interviews for the most desirable candidates. The program is capable of extracting more than 25,000 data points including verbal and facial clues and measuring everything from a person’s vocabulary to their ability to empathize.  It then ranks the top 100 applicants for closer review by the company’s recruiters. Because all the applicants are asked the same standardized questions, the interviews are easily comparable and are said to emphasize substance over flattery.

Mya Systems has taken it even a step further by using AI to develop an intelligent chatbot programmed “to ask objective, performance-based questions and avoid the subconscious judgments that a human might make.” Many, including the founder of Mya Systems, Eyal Grayevsky, are excited about the change this technology could bring. Grayevsky believes that the biggest impact of using AI in hiring is to assure fairness. Mya evaluates a candidate without human bias, ignoring factors such as appearance, gender, and name.  The company believes there is a real opportunity for creating more diverse work environments once these components are not considered in the recruitment process but recognizes that it is really hard for humans to completely ignore them. The objectivity of an artificial third party can be the missing link to assist in leveling the playing field. 

However, there are definitely downsides to revolutionizing the way companies interview applicants and eventually hire them. For the applicant, a digital format can take some getting used to. Take it from someone who just experienced it, it’s unsettling to watch yourself talk to a screen. And for employers, one-sided virtual interviews offer less flexibility in that they can’t ask follow-up questions or further engage the applicant.

And while AI and algorithms might offer the chance to dictate fairness while hiring, these technologies are only as good as the data and work put behind them. That data and work happen to be generated and curated by humans that are full of bias. In fact, these individual biases, when planted intentionally or unintentionally in this technology, can have an even greater impact than one individual recruiter could. Because these technologies are being used on such a large scale, any biases are applied to much larger applicant pools and cause much greater disruption. Such potential for disaster is why lots of time and care needs to be put into the development of these algorithms and interviewing chatbots. It is also why human recruiters are not going extinct just yet.

Technology is not only digitalizing our jobs but how we acquire our jobs. New interviewing technology, algorithms, and AI are changing how talent acquisition and human resources departments function to perform their duties. All future managers need to be aware of this shift because it might not only help you secure your job but help you add more talent to your company if utilized properly and responsibly.

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9 comments

  1. Interesting post !

  2. As someone who has spent many a days and nights preparing for job interviews, I found this post very relatable. I think your commentary on the transition to digitized job was intriguing. I think that making the job hunt more digital is taking away the personality aspect of the interview. Although there are algorithms that can tell whether or not you had a happy childhood, they cannot tell whether or not you will get a long with your coworkers. Synergy in the work place is crucial in order to work effectively and efficiently. Due to this factor I think that companies should be wary and proceed with online interviews with caution.

    1. That was one of the downsides I read about while researching this topic- while they might be able to predict which personalities will work well together, they can’t say for sure that the group will click.

  3. I have also had some experience with this kind of interview and it definitely takes a lot of getting used to / is very different from the traditional interview. While I do see the potential benefits of this kind of interview like the time and money saved, I am really not a fan. Personally, when doing a digital interview I find myself focusing on so many different things at once that I have trouble answering the question at hand. Is the lighting for the video okay? Is the wall behind me free of distracting decor? Am I remembering to look into the camera to simulate eye contact?

  4. I hate these online interviews! I definitely can relate to trying to find a blank wall and having to tell my roommates to be quiet while I record myself talking to a camera. I understand that they definitely make the hiring process more efficient for employers and allow them to see you beyond your resume. I must say though, I feel like it allows employers to offer everyone “the next round” even if they have no intention of it simply because it requires little to no effort on their part. I had no idea that HireVue also offers a service that allows them to weed out candidates for them. I just feel like some of them end up being a waste of time because they offer them to so many candidates when they really aren’t a great fit for the job.

  5. Although these AI’s are able to scan for certain personality traits i.e. empathy, what’s interesting to note is what exactly they are scanning for. Are they trying to find people that have similar traits to those who wrote the AI? A better example of this is creating robots that have human personalities. Are these being coded to have similar personalities of the programmers?

  6. Never had to do one of these myself but my roommate did a couple last year. I wonder if some top candidates will end up slipping through the cracks after the resume scan and interview process are automatized. If someone doesn’t use a key word or show enough emotion when answering a question, they can be completely overlooked.

  7. Really nice post. We’ll get deeper into some of these issues during the AI module in class, so I wont’ get too deeply into them here. Suffice it to say that AI can be biased in its own ways, and even more unaware of those biases than the human recruiters…even with good data. But I do think this is certainly the direction recruiting is heading.

  8. As someone who’s done a lot of hiring, I don’t love the video interview concept. Sure, it’s easier in terms of pure time that the hiring manager spends interacting with each candidate, but I get a lot out of follow-up questions, people’s ability to think on their feet, and tone and reaction. I think I’d prefer a phone interview even to watching a recording of someone answering stock questions. I also ask different questions for different candidates based on their experiences, and this makes interviewing seem like a one size fits all. I don’t see it catching on in any major way.

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