The reality of automated interviewing and AI recruitment

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The pandemic era has changed the way people handle many aspects of their daily lives, notably when it comes to the workplace. A major dilemma that social distancing posited is maintaining a workflow, and many have found that videoconferencing could keep the interaction with team members alive.

Nevertheless, that was insufficient, since the number of tasks that came with the remote work mode has multiplied. As a result, many employees, notably, human resources staff, found that the working pace was beyond their capacities. That is why some HR departments have opted for AI-based tools in order to ease the handling of staff needs and recruiting new employees.

More than interviewing candidates via videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, HR staff have found that automated video interviews (AVI), especially those that are AI-based, could be a cost-saving and time-efficient tool for them to carry out the recruitment process faster.

With the massive wave of layoffs that took place in many companies around the world, there was an urgent need for creating a balance between the number of employees quitting, and those recruited in the shortest time possible, hence the reliance on AVIs. But, are these interviews error-free, or would there always be a need for human intervention?

The magic of AVIs

Automated interviews could simply be defined as “job interviews that are conducted without human interference, and where the machine replaces the hiring committee.” Candidates are asked a set of questions that they should answer. The Harvard Business Review identified five types of interviews that fall under what they described as the “depersonalization spectrum”.

The first two types are traditional interviews that involve human presence, whether physically or via videoconferencing. The three other types are automated interviews: one with standardized, pre-recorded questions, to be answered by all candidates, and another where candidates are required to respond to AI-supported questions. Their attitude—facial expressions, and voice, among other elements—would determine the subsequent questions. This data would be later retrieved through a report which the hiring team would consider upon deciding on the suitable candidate for the position. The fifth type is entirely held by AI, even when it comes to the final decision on candidates.

AVIs and recruitment efficiency 

Still, some wonder how AVIs can practically enhance recruitment. Automated interviews mean that more interviews would be held on a daily basis, with fast and detailed feedback, and that will help HR departments make faster decisions in the hiring process which would allow them to get back to candidates in a short period of time and inform them of the outcome.

“We have always had the recurrent complaint that the recruitment process proceeds slowly and that we don’t show candidates proper respect by informing them about the hiring decision. With the automated option of interviews, we can move faster and let candidates know how the process works,” said Hala Hussein, an HR specialist at a real estate developer located in the neighborhood of Maadi.

An article by the University of Southern California suggested that with AI-aided interviewing and hiring, a candidate’s resume would no longer be the sole factor in determining their aptitudes. Their competencies would be better assessed during AVIs, providing interviewers with tangible indicators of the suitability of each candidate.

Shortcomings of AVIs for HR staff and job seekers

While there are promising advantages for automated interviews, the concerns job seekers and HR staff have are remarkably alike when it comes to the fairness of such a method.

“While we have not yet sought to adopt automated interviews, I would be keen on meeting candidates in a second face-to-face interview, following an automated interview, to make sure that s/he is the best fit,” implied Nashwa Ahmed, HR manager at a PR agency. “I recall hiring a candidate based on an online interview, and as he started his job, I figured out that he wasn’t the right fit for the position. I had interviewed him myself, let alone if he was interviewed by AI? What would it be like if I trusted algorithms to tell me who the right candidate for a role is?” added Ahmed.

She stressed that since this incident, she’s been recommending that all hiring managers meet the candidates they hire in person to have better a understanding of their non-verbal competencies. In a report by the Pew Research Center that analyzed key findings on US public opinion regarding AI impact on the workplace, 71 percent of the respondents were found to be against AI intervention in the final hiring decision.

In a study published in Computer in Human Behavior’s journal, researchers found that candidates would be more likely to trust automated interviews that are AI-supported, as they guarantee more “tangibility, reliability, and transparency.”

Ahmed Nashed, a graduate of economics, described his experience with an automated interview as catastrophic. “I hadn’t received clear instructions before the interview, and during the interview itself, I found myself to be somewhat intimated by the fact that I was responding to a robot’s questions, even though I thought that having no direct human contact might help me perform better,” he said.

While some job seekers wish to hear back quickly from companies, some candidates become skeptical, especially when an interview is automated. “I was extremely surprised to receive an email few hours after I had finished my interview, only to find that I was disqualified. I felt that the process was unfair since my qualifications were suitable for the job description,” asserted Amina Hashem, accountant at a private legal firm.

She also expressed her concern over having her personal information processed and conserved by a machine, deeming it “risky at a time when data misuse has never been easier.”

A study published by the Iowa Legal Review recommends that legislation play a key role in regulating such issues. This can be done through a binding framework where applicants express their “consent” in writing, and agree to participate in an automated interview, knowing that their data might be processed by AI.

Towards a glass box approach

Becoming an undeniable part of the professional world, automated interviews should be optimized such that the human factor would have the upper hand in terms of recruitment.

Forbes recommends that AI be used in the early recruitment steps; however, the final recruitment decision should be subject to the human judgment of HR managers.

Before it starts, the process of an automated interview must be made clear to all applicants. They should be provided with manuals and/or tutorials to help them prepare beforehand.

The Harvard Business Review also deems transparent feedback crucial for candidates who didn’t qualify to the next level of a recruitment process to understand the areas where they were less competent. In the same respect, a policy brief published by the University of Sussex encourages companies that resort to AVIs to adopt a glass box approach—a holistic methodology where the entire recruitment process is mutually understandable, preferably mastered in advance by both recruiters and applicants, interpretable, void of any ambiguities, and transparent.

That means that candidates would know the extent and the time when AVI/AI-led tools take over during the entire hiring process. This can guarantee that human interaction would be part of the recruitment process, and that job seekers are familiarized with the company’s culture by the time they’re selected for the position.

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