Now Interviewing: Robots

Are you on the hunt for a new job? Be prepared to get past a new kind of gatekeeper in the interview process: robots. 

Since Covid-19 hit, companies have increasingly been turning to virtual interviews to find the best candidates — and they are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology as part of the hiring process. 

“The technology looks at the unique patterns of how individuals communicate, the actual content of their message and their communication patterns exhibited during the interview process,” said Nathan Mondragon, chief industrial and organizational (IO) psychologist at video interviewing software firm HireVue. “They provide key insights into a candidate’s personality and work style, how they communicate and interact with others, and their ability to effectively leverage information to generate solutions and solve problems.” 

Research has demonstrated this type of technology can help reduce biases in the hiring process. A survey by HireVue showed that 36% of respondents found this method increased the diversity of candidates.  

“In-person interviews and certain types of assessments carry their own built-in biases,” said Mondragon. “In-person interviews are also dependent on the interviewer’s mood, personality and circumstances which can affect their impartiality and judgment on a candidate’s suitability for the role. Human interviewers are far more likely to negatively judge a candidate based on emotions or speech — attributes that we know do not make a difference to job performance.”  

When companies use unstructured interviews or an interview that is not based on a specific set of questions that everyone is asked, biases can increase. This can make it difficult to judge applicants consistently as there are no set benchmarks to follow. It can also affect how teams work together on a project. If all members of a team are hired because of a person’s built-in biases, groupthink can occur. It could ultimately limit a team’s ability to critically reason or evaluate a decision.  

These biases can start long before the interview stage. In 2003, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research sent out more than 50,000 resumes to open jobs. They uncovered that resumes with typically white names like Emily and Greg were 50% more likely to receive a callback than resumes with typically black names like Lakisha and Jamal. 

Although some firms have introduced bias training for hiring teams, research that looked at more than 492 studies on unconscious bias training, found over the long term they did little to change the behaviors in organizations. 

The AI Interview Process

AI job interviews are typically modeled upon a traditional interview structure in which the same interviewing methods and questions are used to assess each candidate. If someone was applying for a project manager position, questions would be designed around the core competencies of what makes a person successful in the role. During the interview, the AI system would then score the candidate at the same level as an expert in the field, but without unconscious biases. 

Game-based psychometric tests can also be used in the AI interview process to discover what hard or soft skills they might have early in the interview process, for example, leadership skills.  

“By combining structured interviews with game-based assessments, a company can measure job fit for the ideal project manager,” said Mondragon. 

The technology can measure the ability of a candidate to empathize and build strong relationships with others and to motivate and influence them. If the applicant had special requirements such as they were dyslexia, the system can accommodate them by giving them extra time or the games could be adapted for people with color blindness.  

Understanding the Potential of AI

There has been a significant demand for AI to be used in the hiring process. HireVue has more than 700 companies on its customer books, including big names such as Cathay Pacific and Unilever. To make sure they are providing organizations with a diverse talent pool, the technology undergoes independent audits. In early 2021, an audit undertaken by O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing (ORCAA) found the job analysis processes gave employers a clear and quantifiable result to assist selection decisions.  

Recruiting isn’t the only place where AI can play a role in hiring and employee training and advancement. According to Mondrago, it can also help “identify the skill-set of current employees and match them with any relevant internal vacancies,” he says. “It gives an accurate understanding of an employees’ current skill set and encourages organizations to reward loyalty and good performance by hiring from within. 

AI can also play an important role in helping recruiters match candidates with opportunities that are uniquely suited to their skillset.  

“This will have implications for the talent identification process and will minimize the time candidates have to spend applying for multiple roles,” he said.