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Tell A.I. robo-interviewer where to stick it

robo-interviewerDoes an employer’s chat-bot want you to do a video interview with an AI-based robo-interviewer that will interpret the results with “intelligent” facial recognition and predictive analytics — so an algorithm can “decide” whether you qualify for a real interview with a personnel jockey who knows nothing about the work you do?

Gizmodo’s Brian Merchant reports that Applying for Your Next Job May Be an Automated Nightmare. And he gives you everything you need to tell that employer where to stick it and why.

News I want you to use

Companies like Citibank, l’Oreal, Danone, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are using VCV, a digital recruiting AI bot, to abuse job applicants without the overhead of a personnel jockey’s time. Urban Outfitters, Intel, Honeywell, and Unilever use another bot: HireVue. Those two “AI” firms have $1.7 million and $93 million in venture backing. Another recruiting bot vendor, AllyO, has $19 million in backing.

And they’re all ready to interview you in absentia. And you should consider whether it’s worth wasting your time.

HR explains robo-interviewer hiring

Wonder why HR departments are so screwed up? Because HR consultants tell them they’re in business to save money. Gizmodo reports why HR managers want you to talk to a robo-interviewer:

“’AI in human resources is cost-effective and better for business overall,’ Barbara Van Pay, the CEO of SmartHR Consultancy, writes in Entrepreneur Magazine. Van Pay points to a 2016 Society of Human Resource Management survey that found the average cost-per-hire was $4,129. AI, she reasons, could whittle that figure away. ‘With many of the AI recruitment and Human Resources programs available offering tailor-made packages on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly subscription basis, it’s not hard to see that you can save a pretty hefty penny by transitioning to AI technology solutions.’

The article gives no indication that Van Pay is human.

“Shitty automation”

Gizmodo explains why HR really uses that robo-interviewer, quoting Aaron Rieke, Managing Director of Upturn, a Washington, DC think tank that promotes equity and justice in the design, governance, and use of digital technology:

“But these startups [HireVue, VCV, AllyO, among others] risk offering a prime example of shitty automation—an automated product adopted in the name of saving money, that risks, in the end, just making everybody’s lives worse. In this case, the automation is designed to benefit one side of the equation almost exclusively: the employer.”

This seems to be the latest explanation about Why cattle-call interviewing doesn’t work.

How you can use this news

If an employer suggests you should subject yourself to abuse by its AI HR bots, you can cite Reike — when you tell the employer where to stick it. Just send over a link to Rieke’s stunning expose of automated, AI-based hiring.

He shared some of his concerns with Gizmodo:

“Human biases have long plagued hiring, and any claim that machine learning algorithms alone can fix that is bogus… It has been reported that VCV uses facial recognition to identify candidates’ ‘mood’ and ‘behavior patterns’ to help recruiters assess ‘cultural fit.’ This raises all kind of red flags… Facial recognition technology is often less accurate for women and darker-skinned people. Even assuming companies like VCV can evaluate ‘mood’ or ‘behavior,’ it’s not clear how that should help a recruiter assess candidates… We need a lot more information about how systems like these are designed and tested. Until that happens, I’m extremely skeptical. The hype is way ahead of the facts.”

Just because a top VC firm like Sequoia funds it, and just because HR saves a “hefty penny” using it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell an employer where to stick it.

Read more in Gizmodo. To see how the robo-interview shoe might fit on the other foot, see Interview ON: How to interview for 1,500 jobs.

Have you been subjected to robo-interviews? How’d it go?

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36 Comments
  1. So HR saves a “hefty penny”? Another penny wise pound foolish step by HR.

  2. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: these “video interviews” are not interviews but rather auditions. Real interviews involve give and take, which is not possible if there’s not flesh and blood on the other side.

    I don’t get any interviews, fake or otherwise, but if someone told me I had to subject myself to this process, I’d tell them to take a hike.

    • Right you are. “Inter” means between, right?

  3. So I’m tempted to write a deliberately crappy simulated interview subject AI, with
    random facial expressions and bad speech recognition, to take interviews for people.

    Maybe we can make it an open source project?

    • Ever seen the old Clutch Cargo cartoons that used the Synchro-Vox animation? It’d be a hoot to apply to a company and use that cheap technique during their video “interview”.

      • Or just send Spinner or Paddlefoot to do the “interview” :D

    • I’m in. Click the last link in the column for a scenario. Bet the VC’s would line up, but who needs VC’s?

    • This!

    • Is Max Headroom open source these days? ;)

  4. PricewaterhouseCoopers is being sued for age discrimination, so enough said about how this is working out for them. And I’m surprised the author didn’t bring up the potential for abuse here once these companies have your digitized face (https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/viral-schwarzenegger-deepfake-isn-t-just-entertaining-it-s-warning-n1016851)…

    • Potential for digital ID theft right there. Since China invests in these AI companies and they lead in stealing PII and PHI, where do you think it’s going?

  5. I agree with what everyone has said thus far…this practice can’t be relied upon and can’t be any good, despite its claim to save companies money.

    I’m fortunate to have not yet had the “pleasure” of taking part in any of these kind of interviews. Thanks Nick and all you folks for exposing them and thus, warning me about them in case (i. e., when) I get presented with them.

  6. “Would you pass up a job opportunity if you had to talk to a bot?”

    Yes, I would and I have. In one case, I even told the person who sent me the invite to the recording part of the process to “stick it”–simply by explaining that I don’t get involved with asynchronous, one-sided “interviews.”

    I avoid these like the plague, and perhaps one person won’t make a difference and they’ll keep using these kinds of interviews, that’s fine. But I’ll let others be subjected to them; I’m fortunate to be able to skip them.

  7. I don’t have — and won’t have — a webcam on my computer. That makes it easy for me to be able to ignore the security issues involving those devices. As a result, so I guess I’ll never have to worry about that sort of interview. Well, unless the company insists I do a video phone call. I suppose that’ll be next.

    • I have refused to do video calls from home after one bad experience with a recruiter. Home video is always crappy. Of course I have been told that they are the future, including by one of Nick’s columnists. I counter that it is by phone, in person or you the employer set it up in a high speed professional video equipped office or studio. I’m fairly senior so have gotten away with it, and in my current remote job live on WebEx and Skype without a videocam, so it’s not like I am tech challenged. The difference between human contact and using video for making decisions is a gauge of how you will be treated in the future.

    • Neither do I. And on my laptop I have the camera taped-over. So I am always amused when I get emails from spammers saying they’ve hacked my camera and seen me doing X, Y, or Z and will send that video to my contact.

      “Knock yourself out dude.”

      More to the point. The other day I called directory assistance for a phone number. After saying the name of the company three times it dumped me to a person. And they expect to understand me talking about complex issues from my career???

  8. SHRM seems like one of the most egregiously clueless professional orgs going today. The disconnect seems almost comical at this point. I saw some advice column from them recently where their suggestion for candidate ghosting issues was for the personnel jockey to work the ATS system even harder. Just what any candidate wants, more time interacting with a glorified database. HR just wants to keep rowing in that direction regardless of what candidates want or anyone with a bit of common sense has been trying to tell them for years.

    • @Em: All you have to do is look at the sponsors of their conferences. E.g., https://shrm20.mapyourshow.com/8_0/exhview/index.cfm

      Disclosure: I let GoogleAds select and place any ads on this website to help fund its operation, but you’ll never see content here that endorses any of them, or content produced by any advertiser other than the clearly designated ads. And there are no vendor booths here, either!

  9. Why don’t we also replace the customers and shareholders with AI bots and be done with it?

    And maybe the C-suite at the same time.

    Look, ma: no people!

  10. If they are interested in you, believe me, they will have a human talk to you. The interview bots are for people who will not be getting a job – HR can say they interviewed a whole bunch of diverse people. They will be telling the truth. While I don’t agree with this strategy, in their defense, they are trying to comply with the law. I think there are better ways of being compliant.

  11. Next step.After being hired,mind scans to see if you are a loyal company person.

  12. When a chatbot is unidentified as such going into a brief tire-kicking session, its behavior can result in a negative impression of the company. A human would recognize that the Computer Science major goes by many names and would at least lead to further inquiry to clarify fit. In this particular case the chatbot seemed to be recruiting solely for Tucson; listed openings for other sites didn’t exist.

  13. If anyone wants to spend 54 seconds of viewing Elysium (2013) to see how this would work, go to YouTube and punch in Elysium do you want to speak to a human, or do what I did, enter Matt Damon talking to robot probation officer. It was the only part of the movie I actually enjoyed. Matt should have gotten a mini-Oscar for that scene.

  14. Not really related to this topic, but it fits nicely as a future News You Can Use article. Apparently Illinois now has a new “salary history” ban that takes effect at the end of the month.

    https://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/il-department-labor-prepares-no-salary-history-rollout

    • It won’t make much of a difference when the company that’s interviewing you uses an ATS system (3rd party) that is based in another state where the law doesn’t apply. That’s how these companies get around the EEOC laws.

    • Another reason why it really won’t matter: consider the objective in asking salary history – it’s not so much that they care how much you made previously, but rather the goal is to eliminate you as a candidate. If they are prohibited from asking “salary history,” they just turn around and ask for your “salary requirements.” They’ll use this instead to eliminate candidates.

  15. I received (and politely refused) my first robo-interview very recently. I actually stumbled across this site when doing some research on said company, and the thoughts here as well as on other sites confirmed what I was thinking.

    Now here’s the kicker: it was for a AI/Machine learning related position. I’ll be graduating soon and I know I shouldn’t be too picky, but seriously? I really don’t want to come off as rude, but the lack of logic here is incredible.

    For example, let’s examine the concept of a Generative Adversarial Network, or GAN. Without going into too much technical detail, a GAN is a neural network which is excellent at generating completely new images based off datasets consisting of thousands to millions of images. It can actually create pictures of humans who don’t even exist, with very high quality too I must say. GANs are now being applied to generating videos based off previous data. This specific application is still fairly new, but in 5 years or less I bet it will be very accurate, in 10-15 years to the point where you don’t even know if you are having a video interview with a human or not.

    Now, let’s examine what kind of data these Robo-viewer companies are collecting: video and speech data. While they could pull it from other sources such as YouTube, Facebook et al., those videos typically aren’t in an interview setting are they? I’m fairly certain that these Robo-viewer companies are using a type of network called a convolutional neural network, or CNN, which is excellent at analyzing image, video and audio data. While it can’t generate, it can learn.

    So by combining these two concepts, HR is essentially putting itself out of a job by conducting these roboviews without even knowing it. Once GANs can generate videos to the same quality as talking to a real, human interviewer, then what is the purpose of HR?

  16. The unnecessary hurdles AI “interviews” pose to job hunters is bad enough, but the implied threat to personal privacy is even more worrisome. Between deep fakes, the storing of personal biometric data, and the lack of any statement regarding how long such data would be retained, it’s enough to turn anyone into a conspiracy theorist.

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