Screened out by a computer? What job interviews are like without human beings
Experts predict “asynchronous” one-way interviews will outlast the COVID-19 pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, job-seekers expect to attend employment interviews online. But increasingly, the employers and recruiters looking to hire are sitting those same interviews out.
Instead of asking candidates questions face-to-face, many hiring managers are now relying on asynchronous video interview (AVI) platforms that have candidates record answers to questions under a countdown timer.
AVIs, which are also called one-way or on-demand interviews, have been around for years but their use has surged during the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the American company HireVue, one of the larger companies operating in the market, said the company has seen a 24 per cent increase for its on-demand video interviews during the past year.
In the same time period, Toronto-based Knockri quadrupled its customers, and Moncton-based VidCruiter doubled its staff.
A representative with VidCruiter told CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living it used to earn 99 per cent of its revenue from clients outside Canada, but that has changed in the past three years. The company said its clients include the CBC, Canadian universities, big corporations — such as Lowe’s — and the federal government.
Candidates may find one-way interviews uncomfortable, and some experts pose questions over fairness, privacy, bias and the use of artificial intelligence. Despite these concerns, industrial-organizational psychologists predict the one-way job interview format is not going away.
Why hiring managers like the one-way interview
Using AVIs can eliminate having to navigate complicated and conflicting schedules, because candidates complete them on their own time. They can also cut travel costs if candidates are screened out before having to meet a potential employer in person.
One of the reasons why a lot of companies are turning to this technology is because of efficiency.– Edwin Torres, University of Central Florida
Timed questions also force candidates to be more succinct with their answers than they might be in traditional interviews.
Edwin Torres, a professor in the Rosen College of Hospitality management at the University of Central Florida, has interviewed hiring managers from hospitality companies using AVIs.
“One of the reasons why a lot of companies are turning to this technology is because of efficiency,” he said.
In addition, video recordings mean employers can re-watch interviews and share them with colleagues.
Job-seekers are not as keen on them
Companies claim AVIs can level the playing field by standardizing job interviews, but some candidates have expressed mixed feelings about the format.
Beatriz Gascon, a student majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, struggled during an AVI interview for an internship at genetic sequencing company Illumina, based in the United Kingdom.
Gascon said she appreciated being able to re-record answers on the HireVue platform, but she froze during her second attempt answering a difficult question.
The platform submitted her second attempt, but she did not get the internship.
Gascon said she prefers face-to-face interviews because talking to a person calms her nerves and the format is more forgiving.
“Usually you have time to make small talk or repeat the question back to yourself,” she said but was frustrated that during her timed, one-way interview there was no way to do that, and no time to waste at even going over a question a second time.
Experts find some won’t complete AVIs
According to researchers at the University of Calgary, some candidates are so against one-way interviews in this format, they refuse to complete them.
“There are a number of people who feel very passionately negative,” said Joshua Bourdage, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Calgary.
According to Bourdage, many job-seekers are interpreting this as a signal of what it would be like to work at a company that uses an AVI process.
How are the videos and recordings judged?
Since companies’ algorithms are proprietary and not shared publicly, neither candidates nor academics can fully understand how the recorded videos are evaluated.
Many companies use AVIs as a screening tool before scheduling face-to-face interviews with short-listed candidates, and some use artificial intelligence to rate what candidates say and how they say it.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, can scan for keywords as well as analyze body language and facial expressions.
AI’s advocates claim it can reduce unconscious bias if trained to ignore things like race and gender but this isn’t universally accepted.
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“The problem with that technology is that it has biases built into it,” said Sean Fahey, CEO of VidCruiter.
The company’s own research found speech patterns varied in different regions in the U.S. and Canada. For example, an AI system programmed by someone who lived in one of those regions would automatically have a bias according to Fahey.
VidCruiter decided not to use AI in its product until the technology has been proven not to discriminate.
Researchers agree that artificial intelligence can be biased based on who programs it.
“As long as we train those systems on human ratings, on what the human raters tell us about those interviews, it’s so easy to have biases in this data,” said Markus Langer, a postdoctoral researcher in industrial-organizational psychology at Saarland University in Germany.
Langer, who researches AI and asynchronous interviews, said identifying biases is easier with a large and diverse dataset — something that isn’t always available.
How can candidates prepare?
Though Canadians may be comfortable recording videos in a social context, many are unprepared for AVIs according to Kimberley Black, a researcher who hopes to change that.
“Preparation for asynchronous video interviews needs to be a mandatory part of the curriculum now,” said Black, whose recently-defended masters thesis for Ontario Tech University focused on preparing students for asynchronous and one-way interviews.
Black had college students complete AVIs and critique their peers’ interviews. According to her, the experience led many to realize how much they could improve.
She recommends candidates wear professional clothing, smile, record in front of a neutral background, use hand gestures, and remember to look straight into the camera lens while speaking.
If struggling with that last tip, Black suggests taping a sticky note with a smiley face by the len.
At the University of Calgary, researcher Eden-Raye Lukacik recommends practicing, either by using the interview platform itself where possible or through a practice tool offered by her lab.
Lukacik also said candidates should also present themselves honestly, and pick a time and space that works best for them as they have an edge.
“You kind of get home-court advantage because you’re in your own house.”
“This must feel like machines are taking over the world now with AI so intrinsically involved in recruitment processes. Before you get on the human ethical bandwagon don’t forget it has been around for many years, its just getting smarter and smarter. Look at all the current systems ,job boards and internal databases doing incredible and precise search results, psychometric testing, better visibility and choice selection to name but a few. Think what LinkedIn has done to the landscape.
Ten years ago, it was a greater manual process environment, if you can imagine the volume of applications we receive on a daily basis, it would be impossible without these systems to screen them.
AVI allows recruiters to respond to the applicants applying from every corner of the globe while simultaneously supporting their companies and filling vacant positions. AVI enables machines to both move appropriate candidates forward and minimize all too common human biases during initial interview phases.
With the benefits of AVI and AI looming so large for companies in a post COVID-19 landscape, we as employees and interviewees must educate ourselves on how we can best market ourselves in this new virtual and continue to separate ourselves from the pack regardless if we are being assessed by humans or machines.
Of course there are many questions to consider and people feel uneasy about this kind of process, and fair enough. Ask yourself, where does my data go, how safe is it, who has access to my details, who is programming these machines to make a decision? Are machines now purposefully being biased against me for….. I think we just need more information, clarity and transparency.
And if you “pass” the AVI you speak to someone face to face anyways! It’s more about 1st round interviews then selecting a shortlist for a personal meeting. To speed up the process of filtering. Of course it doesn’t work in all sectors but as time goes by expect to see this more and more in your industry.
Maybe us recruiters will all be out of jobs in a few years!”