Automated video interviews make the job search even more difficult

Job interviews are rarely fun, especially when you’re young. I’ll never forget the opening question of my first interview for the Financial Times Graduate Internship Program: “So other than the week before your interview, have you ever read the FT?” “

Young people today face a different but no less formidable challenge. They find themselves smiling anxiously into their laptop’s webcams, answering questions as the timer ticks down with no humans to interact with.

Large employers use these “asynchronous video interviews” to narrow applicants down to a smaller pool that they can meet in person. Platforms such as HireVue and Modern Hire register applicants answering predetermined questions, usually with a time limit for each answer.

In some cases, the recordings will be viewed by the employer’s hiring managers. In others, the platform’s algorithms will assess the candidate based on what they have said or even their facial expressions.

AVIs are more and more common. Among employers using video interviews in the UK in 2019/20, 46% did them with an interviewer, 30% used automated video interviews and 24% used a mix of the two, according to the Institute of Student Employers. .

These interviews can be done inexpensively and on a large scale: A grocery chain in the United States was collecting as many as 15,000 a day during the pandemic, according to HireVue. Platforms claim the process is fairer and less biased than human recruiters, which leads to better and more diverse candidates.

Of course, there is a heated debate over whether algorithms could actually reinforce human biases rather than eliminate them. Others argue that some AI products are just digital snake oil lapped up by gullible HR departments.

But in addition to wondering if the technology is working as intended, employers need to pay more attention to how the process affects potential employees. Researchers at the University of Sussex Business School, in association with the Institute for Employment Studies, have warned that young job seekers feel confused, dehumanized and exhausted by automated recruitment systems.

Jimeet Romen Shah, who is in his final year at the University of Sussex, has completed around seven AVIs in the past two years. He tries to “make eye contact” with the camera but finds it difficult not to look at his own face on the screen. “It doesn’t seem natural at all. Mainly because when I’m in a face to face interview I can smile when I’m talking, but when I’m in a video and trying to smile it doesn’t look good.

He is worried that if he looks down or up, he will appear to be reading notes. “It sounds robotic,” he says. In most cases, he was not able to review the videos and was not informed if a human or a machine would judge him. He never received detailed comments after a rejection.

While it is difficult to communicate naturally in such an unnatural situation, the platforms at the same time encourage job seekers to “be authentic” in order to have the best chance of success.

“Be enthusiastic and share your energy with the camera, letting your personality shine,” advises HireVue. On the Reddit discussion forum, contestants share tips for dealing with it, such as sticking a smiley face next to the camera.

Some platforms are making improvements. HireVue told me it was good practice to have “anxiety reduction features” such as the ability for candidates to practice questions and re-record their answers. It always tells applicants if the AI ​​will assess the answers.

Dr Zahira Jaser, assistant professor at the University of Sussex School of Business, says students are tricked into believing the technology is flawless even as they grapple with it. She knows students for whom English is a second language and who find video interviews particularly stressful.

“It’s a recipe for disaster for the self-esteem of the students,” she said. “I am now looking at myself in the mirror at a crucial stage in my life, trying to enter the workforce. . . and then I’m told that all the mistakes are mine because it’s perfect technology.

Employers are also the losers. AVIs are selected for people who can speak into a vacuum, not for people who can interact well with others, although the latter is more important in most jobs. In addition, an interview is the first real interaction a company has with potential employees, some of whom will want to hire. It should be a chance for both parties to learn from each other.

It’s easy to get excited about new technology, but employers should listen to the voices of the so-called “digital natives” who are now subject to it. “If I’m ever on the other side of the table,” Shah told me, “I’ll always at least make a phone call. “- Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021

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