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Don’t fall for A.I. video interview during COVID crisis

Emotion AI researchers say overblown claims give their work a bad name

A lack of government regulation isn’t just bad for consumers. It’s bad for the field, too.

Source: MIT Technology Review
By Angela Chen and Karen Hao

video interviewPerhaps you’ve heard of AI conducting interviews. Or maybe you’ve been interviewed by one yourself. Companies like HireVue claim their software can analyze video interviews to figure out a candidate’s “employability score.” These assessments could have a big effect on a candidate’s future. But many of these promises are unsupported by scientific consensus. There are no strong, peer-reviewed studies proving that analyzing body posture or facial expressions can help pick the best workers. The hype worries the researchers. Many agree that their work–which uses various methods (like analyzing micro-expressions or voice) to discern and interpret human expressions–is being co-opted and used in commercial applications that have a shaky basis in science.

An Illinois law regulating AI analysis of job interview videos went into effect in January, and the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to investigate HireVue (though there’s no word on whether it intends to do so).

Meredith Whittaker, a research scientist at NYU and co-director of AI Now, emphasizes the difference between research and commercialization.”We are particularly calling out the unregulated, unvalidated, scientifically unfounded deployment of commercial affect recognition technologies. Commercialization is hurting people right now.” (HireVue did not respond to a request for comment.)

Nick’s take

We’ve torn down and examined the video interview before, and HireVue’s version in particular. We keep doing it because it just keeps getting worse. Now, during the time of COVID-19, you’re going to have to do video interviews — no getting around that. But what kind of video interview you subject yourself to is another matter.

If an employer wants to meet over Zoom or Webex, that’s one thing. But if they want you to record a robo-interview video so that an A.I. (artificial intelligence) algorithm can then “analyze” your expressions, tone and body language to judge your “employability,” you need to hit the PAUSE button. The researchers behind this technology say it’s bogus to use it for job interviews and are calling for consumer protections. Maybe you should tell the employer that MIT says so. Then offer to do a Zoom meeting, maybe without video.

Are you willing to be judged by algorithms that A.I. researchers say should not be commercialized for job interviews? How do you say NO? What does it mean that MIT Technology Review, and possibly the Federal Trade Commission, are taking on this $25 billion industry? And what do leading HR executives who rely on  HireVue and other such systems have to say about all this? 



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  1. If a company really wants to hire you, they will not play these silly games. Things like HireVue allow a company to say, “We interviewed 100 people for this position, and included x number of women, and y number of international candidates. It was truly a diverse field.” In the meantime, the prime candidate gets wined and dined and hired while everyone else gets ghosted. The company also gets to comply with the law.

    PS: I just took a new job in April. Both my manager and HR are better than average.

    • @Kevin: That’s an important observation about how such games enable employers to check the equal opportunity boxes at a relatively low cost. I’m waiting for the FTC to do its investigation, if the agency is not intimidated by the size and popularity of its target.

      • A small aside: the EOO checkboxes at the end of these applications state that responses are “voluntary,” and so I put “decline to answer.” But part of me wonders if such answers have a negative impact on interview selection.

  2. Certainly for individual jobs an AI approach is stupid and probably discriminatory. Most readers of Nick’s blog are discussing individual jobs.

    If a company is trying to hire 1,000 cogs, such cubicle service reps, warehouse workers, etc., all with identical requirements and extremely limited need for creativity or drive, I reluctantly see a possible use.

    For example both Walmart and Amazon want to hire well over 100,000 workers in the short term. What tools help them accomplish this?

    • @Ricardo: I can see how you might come to that conclusion, but all the employer would be doing is compounding the problem.

      The article points out that the scientists who are working on these A.I. algorithms make no claims they can be used in the job interview process. In fact, they warn that the algos are immature and may not even do what is expected of them. They warn that commercializing the algos at this time could lead to errors. In other words, the scientists say that a business that uses these algos and claims specific benefits from their use is misrepresenting them.

      The only feature of this A.I. that addresses a company’s need to hire 100,000 workers is that the A.I. works very fast and without involving humans. The A.I. is still not appropriate for the application it’s being put to. In other words, the employer would be making 100,000 errors.

      “It works fast and it’s easy and it’s high-tech” are not sufficients reason to use this “A.I.”. I’m guessing this is why the FTC has been called upon to investigate. I’m also going to guess the FTC will indeed get involved.

    • If all a company is looking for are warm bodies to fill some positions, why bother screening at all? Why not just take the first X who apply, or take a random sample of size X and hire them?

      The results couldn’t be any worse than with all the other “technology” used to sift candidates like wheat, and it’d be a helluva lot cheaper.

  3. Just when I thought employers couldn’t stoop any lower with their bag of tricks, they’ve now gone to a “high tech casting couch”. I get employers wanting to be safe, screen thoroughly, or cover their behinds, but this is just downright creepy and unsettling. I’d flat out refuse to submit to this.

  4. Agree to AI interview. But then make funny faces or weird face twitches.

    • @RC: That could make for a fun, profitable website project!

  5. I would be interested in taking HireVue for my own test drive and seeing how it analyzes me.

    • @Kevin: You and me both!