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All hail Recruitertron: the prospect of AI interview software

Posted by Alex Perryman on 11th September 2017

Every so often, even for pretty tech-savvy people, something comes along that you just *know* is going to be your generation’s equivalent of digital music streaming, or the Smart TV; a technology that we, as the older generation, simply refuse to accept, even though it makes perfect sense, and younger generations welcome it with open arms.

I’ve already had a taste of this with eBooks. eBooks are good, objectively speaking. They’re convenient, they’re lightweight, they’re eco-friendly. But, while I was happy to throw out all of my CDs and DVDs years ago in favour of streamed and downloaded media, I’m not going to stop buying physical books in favour of eBooks.

A book, to me, is an object of beauty and comfort, something with which to fill and decorate your house. This puts me at odds with many of the younger generation, for whom reading eBooks is more normalised.

Today, I felt the shadow of my own obsolescence cresting over the hill once again as I read an article about a relatively new, AI-screening system for job applicants, HireVue.

The premise behind HireVue is simple: applicants answer a series of questions via a video interview. The software then applies ‘a combination of proprietary voice recognition software and licensed facial recognition software, in tandem with a ranking algorithm to determine which candidates most closely resemble the ideal candidate. The ideal candidate is a composite of traits triggered by body language, tone, and key words gathered from analyses of the existing best members of a particular role.’ (BusinessInsider).

Pre-emptively dismissing technology is known to be a mug’s game. To be honest I see the worth of some degree of AI filtering when it comes to application letters and perhaps even CVs. After all, what is a grammar and spellchecker if not a tool to more quickly tell us ‘this person hasn’t put the requisite amount of effort into their application’?

And large companies have been using psychometrics for years, with great success. But using AI to analyse their facial movements, tone of voice, mannerisms, etc.? I’m not so sure…

Admittedly, huge organisations can’t hope to screen all applicants manually. You could argue that applying AI to a pre-recorded interview gives applicants a better chance of being judged on their merits.

There’s no doubt that such a system can save huge amounts of time and resource. We can also assume AI can apply filtration criteria with an impartial eye; it won’t suffer from moods or apply prejudice (unless of course, you feed it your own, as noted in this article).

AI won’t turn up tired or hungover. It won’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead… Wait… No… Forget the last bit.

However, even if we can rely on AI to accurately flag ‘desirable’ traits (as defined by the company in advance), it’s rare that an interviewer can accurately define these traits up-front. Nor do I think any list of ‘desirable’ characteristics can remain constant across the interviewing process.

Yes, interviewers should be objective, within reason. But I don’t think that objectivity should be absolute. Interviewing has to be, to some small degree, subject to some of the whims of human judgement.

One candidate might, for example, make a negative impression that is later outweighed by a positive impression elsewhere. Other times, the interviewer might see something positively in a candidate they hadn’t considered as a positive for the position previously. Interviewing has to maintain some degree of fluidity. Not to mention a bit of the human touch.

And pre-recorded interviews? Digital screening? For an HR department, AI screening has a touch of the impersonal about it. And I can’t help but wonder what kind of first impression it would create if a company refused to put you in front of a person in the first instance.

Perhaps I’m a luddite, but I can’t help but feel that large HR departments can be mechanical and process oriented enough already. Do we really want to remove the human element entirely?

Alex Perryman

Alex joined Wildfire in 2007. He is renowned for his ability to pick up complex technologies and new industries extremely quickly.