Just when you thought that the interviewing process was tough enough, here comes soulless artificial intelligence, one-sided videos, and chat bots

By Jack J. Kelly

 

One of my IT guys asked me if I was interested in using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program for interviewing candidates. While I pride myself on being up-to-date with the latest trends in recruiting, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about it. The IT guy said, “It’s easy; a candidate just sits in front of their computer, turns on the video and an app, and they’ll be given a series of interview questions to answer.” I turned to a couple of my younger employees, as that’s what middle-aged guys start doing when it comes to new technology trends and asked their opinions. Without missing a beat, they informed me that almost all their interviews before joining my company were held via this online method. They also looked at me kind of funny that I didn’t know this.  This prompted them to throw out names of popular current rappers and celebrities to see if I knew about them; I failed the test miserably.

As I looked further into it (the AI stuff and not the rappers), this seems to be a rapidly growing trend as global corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (division of BofA), Barclays Bank, Tiffany & Co., Intel, Nike, and Unilever have adopted this new interviewing technology method to find top candidates.

The typical interview is as follows: a candidate sits in front of her phone, iPad, or computer, downloads an app, and opens up a webcam. The video is one-sided. The candidate is a real-live person, but the interviewer is not. The thing doing the interviewing is a computer-generated person asking pre-scripted questions. The questions could also pop-up on the screen without the fake pretense of a human involved. The job applicant will then look into the camera – with nobody behind it- and awkwardly answer the series of questions. There is no warmth or emotions. It is an uncomfortable, cold, and clinical process. The allure of using AI is that it promises companies a cheap, efficient, and quick way to interview a large number of job applicants. For candidates, it’s a humiliation that they are forced to endure.

So, now we have driverless cars, which may ultimately replace truck, Uber, and Taxi drivers, ATM machines and online banking apps doing away with bank tellers, computer-programmed algorithms displacing Wall Street traders, AI kicking out active portfolio managers, Robo-Advisors instead of Stock Brokers, tech kiosks replacing fast food workers, and the list is getting endless. Technology is great, but what will happen when everyone is ultimately replaced?

Companies utilize the help of psychologists, data scientists, and other professionals to program in the questions and what they would like to find in an ideal candidate. The webcam interviews are scanned by algorithms, which then formulates sophisticated analyses built upon thousands of data points collected by the technology. The AI factors in everything including micro-expressions, such as how often an interviewee blinks, smiles, frowns, demonstrates anger, disgust, or happiness. The technology analyzes your vocabulary to determine how confident you seem, as well as your body language.

AI job technology also offers an “AI-recruiter” Chabot, which will automate the pre-screening interviewing process. The tasks – scheduling interviews and onboarding an employee- are automated and driven by machine learning.

The people selling these services claim the technology removes unconscious bias and improves diversity since robots supposedly don’t judge on appearances.  This is ironic since they are actually programed to make decisions based largely on your appearance and speech patterns. How could we be sure that the programs will not value one group’s looks and the manner in which they speak over others?

The interview process has already been sliding into a cold and clinical task. The humanity is being sucked out of human resources and interviewing. Almost all companies have job portals and software which screen and scrub for certain buzzwords and academic schooling. A job applicant will be blocked if their resume doesn’t present the right terms. The ubiquity of job sites and the ability to submit resumes overwhelms hiring managers, which forces companies to rely heavily on these portals. Since people are taken out of the equation, candidates are not sure if their resume just disappeared in a black hole of tech bureaucracy, they were not selected because whey weren’t the right fit, or simply lacked the needed code words on the resume to get it past the robots, so an actual human can read it.

The process is already rude and dismissive to candidates. They need to complete lengthy (and redundant) applications that are often buggy and glitchy, causing the sites to crash midway through completion and force the candidate to start all over again. Job seekers are forced to share all sorts of personal information into an online application without any regard to their privacy.  At best, they will receive a curt canned response generated by a computer.

Adding the video conducted without a human on the other end is dehumanizing and insulting. It reflects that the company can’t be bothered wasting their time on you. A chatbot is all we feel you are worth. Without a real live interviewer, you can’t bond with the person, develop a rapport, and forge a connection. These are all important parts of finding the right fit. Maybe the people who write these codes are devoid of emotions and personalities and have little connection with others, so they don’t truly understand how important the human process is in interview. Maybe the companies don’t really care. It takes fewer and junior, which means cheaper employees, reviewing the videos and making decisions on the input from the algorithms. If they have the cool new tech, they will fire thousands of experienced human resource professionals involved with the hiring process.

We also know that eventually people will game the technology. They’ll find ways to say the right things, look a certain way, comport themselves in the correct manner and ace the interview.  Consulting firms will sell their services to help candidates beat the system. Other job seekers without the means to enlist their help will be left behind.

It’s a frightening prospect that the advancements in technology is making actual humans unnecessary. We’ll become products to be scanned and itemized and given a price tag of a salary.  Then they will get a cubicle with a smart phone that they can never ignore, tied to emails and texts, and our ability to connect – for real, not online – will keep diminishing.

Nobody seems to ask, just because we can do cool sounding stuff with technology, should we do it? It’s an important question to ask, as these advancements could end up being ruinous for all of us in the long run.

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