Landing a job is not just a matter of mastering the technical skills
required. It’s also about proving you’d be a good fit for the company culture.
That kind of assessment is the reason for the job interview. In the past, these
were all done in-person, with the company representative and the candidate
meeting face-to-face in the same room.
With the advent of video technology, though, it’s become possible to
overcome challenges of distance with virtual face-to-face meetings in live
chat. Now, the next iteration of video interview is done without any live
interaction at all. Instead, candidates record themselves on a video that will
be reviewed by some person they likely will never meet… or perhaps not even by
a person at all, but by an artificial
intelligence (A.I.) agent. The last possibility raises serious concerns.
Possible EPIC Fail
The name in this space that has gained the most notoriety is HireVue,
which conducts video recordings of job applicants for hiring companies. Those
clients may include any number of things in the video assessment, from a test
of soft skills to solving hard problems. However, there are concerns over how
the platform allows A.I. to assess on-camera performances.
EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a Complaint and Request for Investigation, Injunction, and Other Relief against HireVue this past November. It charges that HireVue has failed to substantiate “that its technique meets the minimal standards for AI-based decision-making set out in the OECD AI Principles or the recommended standards set out in the Universal Guidelines for AI.” (The complaint does acknowledge that HireVue denies using facial recognition, though the people at EPIC don’t seem to buy it.)
for the Video Interview
In Asia, meanwhile, consultancies prep people to
deliver what A.I.-powered video interviews are seeking. Reuters spoke with one of the consultants who
does that in South Korea; he had hundreds of clients last year who came to him
for preparation in what he called “the emergence of AI interviews.” These
consultancies assume that the A.I. is reading their facial expressions, leading
to guidance on how to frame a smile, for starters.
In the United States, meanwhile, there isn’t a
prevalent culture of A.I. coaches. But according to a recent Inside Higher Ed article, we really should be
paying more attention to the phenomenon: “Unilever, Atlanta Public Schools, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, and nearly
100 other employers now use HireVue, but little advice concerning HireVue
interviews can be found on university websites.”
The article quotes Miguel Santiago, a senior at
Baruch College: “‘No one is really sure what they look for when it comes to who
moves on and who doesn’t.” All Baruch can offer students who want to prepare
for such interviews is rehearsals via the Symplicity platform, watching their videos
along with people from the school to discover what they need to work on.
Much of the prep involved is not all that
different from what one would do for any interview, whether there is a person present
in the room or at the other end of a video link. The difference is that people
feel a bit put off when they are talking to a camera with no feedback at all.
(Not Necessarily Evil) Intent
The lack of feedback does make the “asynchronous
video experience feel strange,” observes Steve O’Brien, President of Staffing
at Jobs.com. He accepts it as an expedient option when the candidate pool grows
too large and scattered to make in-person interviews feasible. It is not
intended to filter out people on the basis of any legally questionable
criteria, he maintains. Any attempt to program in such biases would,
inevitably, come to light and come at great cost to the company.
He also believes that candidates would do better
if they don’t approach such videos with the view that there is malicious intent
As for the arguments that videos can be used to reinforce bias in hiring, there’s the counter-argument that an A.I. is potentially just as biased as a human interviewer. If anything, an A.I. assessment can be more objective than a human, HireVue pointed out in Inside Higher Ed: “’Each algorithm or assessment model is trained not to ‘notice’ age, gender, ethnicity, and other personal characteristics that are irrelevant to job success, so it helps to level the playing field.’”
Using Video and A.I. in Different Ways
Used constructively, video can enable candidates
to distinguish themselves by sharing their story; the underlying A.I.
technology can filter these candidates to a job that ideally suits them.
In those instances, A.I. can
also focus on résumés,
making what O’Brien calls “contextually smart” job recommendations. That means
that a skill that is not listed explicitly can be inferred from contextual
details within the document. Further contextual analysis can derive the
difference, for example, between “a tech cloud engineer that built up the
infrastructure for a bank versus one who built an ecommerce solution.”
“We look at three things: skills, capability, and
fit,” O’Brien explained. “Skills are what people know how to do. Capability is
what they are born to do.”
To illustrate, he said there could be an engineer
in possession of the skills listed for a corporate job who won’t be happy there
if his own work style makes him better suited to a startup. Candidates can take
an assessment in which they “identify what gives them greater satisfaction and
lower stress.” Job applicants also reveal more about themselves over time in
the way they interact with a platform, which can show if they really are more
amenable to structure and consistency or prefer constant change.
Technology is a tool, and both A.I. and video can
prove to be helpful or harmful, depending on the aims to which it is applied.
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