Robots are taking over company job interviews

Robots do not step into the same pitfalls as humans, who can judge applicants on attractiveness, the way they dress, shared interests or other factors.

The future has arrived: Robots are now smart enough to judge us. And because some employers have decided that technology is the solution to their recruiting problems, Americans are starting to field generic job questions posed to them by “no one.”

These artificial intelligence and recorded interviews have a lot of positives. They circumvent traditional human limitations such as work hours so interviewees can schedule an interview at their convenience. And when programmed correctly, AI can weed out some of the implicit biases that recruiters have, meaning that companies can recruit a more diverse labor force.

But according to potential candidates, the new interview techniques also have major downsides. It seems across the age spectrum, people find one-sided interviews to be cold, odd and difficult to ace.

Why it’s happening

The U.S. labor market is facing a shortage of qualified candidates for many industries, and a low unemployment rate means there are fewer people actively searching for opportunities. In this environment, companies have identified the need for speed to recruit the best people for their offices.

But businesses are not only looking for great candidates; they’re also eager to diversify their workforce. LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Recruiting Trends report found that “diversity” was the top trend shaping the future of recruiting and hiring. Reasons for the trend include improving culture and company performance and better-representing customers.

With these aims in mind, companies are looking for technology to streamline their application processes while getting rid of implicit biases that often hurt more diverse candidates. One company has experienced “a 5- to 7-day improvement in the time it takes candidates to complete a phone interview” after implementing on-demand voice interviews, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s likely because applicants can choose any time for their interview and are not subject to the same confines of having to speak with a hiring manager during office hours.

Robots are also more inclined to give a less traditional candidate a chance if they’re right for the job. They do not step into the same pitfalls as humans, who can sometimes judge applicants on their attractiveness, the way they dress, shared interests or connections and other factors.

But even robots are not perfectly impartial; after all, people create them. Amazon reportedly had to retire an AI recruiting system in 2015 because the bot was giving women lower scores than their male counterparts after being programmed to identify candidates similar to Amazon’s mostly male hot shots.

So while the new technology may make the recruiting process more efficient and give hiring managers more time to complete important work, it also has its downsides. And that’s before considering the impact on the people who are now being interviewed by robots.

The reaction

It turns out that not everyone’s on board with having their application processed by a non-human.

“It’s highly impersonal,” Jeremy Maffei, 42, told the Wall Street Journal. He said during his automated interview, he “blanked out” and had no way to know whether his answers were resonating.

23-year-old Eden Hoffman was asked to do a video interview with a robot that scored her responses through an algorithm.

“It was very unnatural,” Hoffman told the New York Post. “I’m a big people person; when I’m in front of someone, I’m using my hands and making eye contact. It’s awkward when you’re just doing that for yourself.”

When Darlene Racinelli had an automated phone interview, she hung up before it was over. “I hit 9 and just ended it,” Racinelli told the Journal.

No one knows if new technologies will be the long-term solutions to companies’ fraught recruiting processes, or if they will go out of fashion as candidates complain about how “impersonal” and “unnatural” they are. But for now, they have become part of the job interview process, and it’s time to be ready for a call from a robot.

Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.