I’ve been told once again that to be considered for a real job interview I have to first do a solo AI job interview via video with a robot called HireVue. I’m really fed up having to invest my time with nothing invested by the employer! They don’t even give you your results. Just a rejection colder than those little postcards HR used to send out! (Remember those? I’ve been around a while.) After the robot “interviews” you, they use software algorithms to “watch” your video and more algorithms to score your facial expressions and voice. Am I just unschooled in AI or is this a racket?

Nick’s Reply

I’ve been writing about the likes of HireVue and other vendors of AI job interview robots since they came on the scene. I predicted they’d die a quick death. I was wrong.

ai-job-interviewToday these highly questionable — but apparently profitable — HR technology systems proliferate. They purport to interview and assess job applicants, search social media to measure employee loyalty, and score people’s personality — all without ever meeting anyone. Among these companies: HireVue, IBM, Humantic AI, Fama, Arctic Shores, Good Egg, Ferretly, Intelligo, Predictim and many more. They are taking over HR.

Does anybody know how the AI job interview works?

These vendors have supplanted real job interviews and legitimate assessments of job applicants and employees, substituting AI and extreme automation. They have infected Human Resources departments everywhere.

Critical review of this phenomenon has been sporadic and scattered, and HR’s role in the pain you suffer when job hunting has been sketchy.

If you’re a regular in this community, you know I very rarely recommend books about job hunting and hiring. So I’ll get to my advice: Read Hilke Schellmann’s new book. Before you consent to one more job interview by a robot, before you sit and video-record yourself “talking to the hand” while unaccountable algorithms “assess you,” get this book and take notes while you read it:

The Algorithm: How AI decides who gets hired, monitored,
promoted and fired and why we need to fight back now

Schellmann reveals what’s going on, and you’d better strap on a rubber apron because it’s gonna get messy.

HireVue and HR’s other AI fantasies exposed

Hilke Schellmann, an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism professor at NYU, has delivered a stunning survey of what’s wrong with using AI to judge people. Somebody’s responsible for this growing blob of inscrutable fake intelligence, and we must follow the money. The purchase orders originate in Human Resources — they own it.

In The Algorithm Schellmann skins HR alive, revealing the flaccid underbelly of AI-based HR technology in what seems to be the biggest rip-off ever of job seekers, employees and employers alike.

Rather than hold forth myself on the evils AI is visiting on your career, I’m going to show you what Schellmann has discovered and revealed about a phony technology propped up by PR, marketing and double-talk.


If you believe AI is still a relatively small component of hiring, consider that HireVue alone announced that by the end of 2022 its software had conducted 33 million “one way” job interviews. Schellmann reports that over 60 Fortune 100 companies use HireVue to conduct AI job interviews. One employer used HireVue to interview 50,000 applicants over just one weekend for 1,500 locations.

What this tells us is there is no Human in HR anymore. It’s called “Artificial” Intelligence for a reason — it’s Fake Intelligence. The only humans involved are job seekers suckered into “talking to the hand.” I read one account after another in this book about how these vendors misrepresent — or, if we want to be generous, misunderstand — the science behind their products. I believe any job hunter could save thousands of dollars and untold amounts of time and anguish in their job search by understanding that algorithms cannot judge your personality, analyze your facial expressions, fathom your character from how you move your head or predict from your voice whether you’d be good at a job.

Digging deep into the artificial HR

There’s nothing human about HR anymore. The profession has metamorphosed into a piggy bank for AI start-ups. To get to the bottom of it all, Schellmann played job seeker and used these AI tools herself, then cornered their developers with tough questions.

She interviewed at length the entrepreneurs behind the vendors. She consulted with psychologists, computer scientists and attorneys who evaluated the legitimacy of the “science” behind the tests, games and robots involved. She spoke with hiring managers and studied the experiences of job seekers who were subjected to AI assessments.

I’ve been waiting for Schellman to come along for a long time.

No single article can begin to portray the breadth of Schellmann’s findings, so I won’t try. I’ll give you some examples and I’ll hope you read her book.

Microseconds of deep thinking, or gas? Or a load of crap?

In its video AI job interviews, HireVue uses “facial expression analysis” to identify and measure emotions. Emotions are then scored and those scores are used to judge your “thinking style” and predict whether or not you would do a job well. Schellmann suggests compellingly that none of this has been shown to predict how well you’d do a job.

While discussing the “results” of a video interview, HireVue executive Nathan Mondragon tells Schellmann: “Your eye went like this and down and you went ‘umm.’ So two seconds of video capture, two seconds of data, but every microsecond of the video frame is frozen and your eye movement went down and your head tilted and you went into an alternative thinking style. A lot of times ‘eye going down’ means a deeper thinking style, and going up can be a creativity thinking style.” (p. 107)

After reviewing the facial recognition metrics and discussing the “science” of personality that HireVue’s algorithms rely on, an independent psychologist points out that “The face is not a window into the mind.” HireVue claims its algorithms determine your thinking style, but the psychologist points out that “thinking styles” are not supported by sound science. “We just don’t know what the meaning is of someone looking up or down… the movements don’t have inherent meaning… People scowl when they’re angry… when the are really focused, when they have gas.” (p. 113)

The theory behind their technology is “hugely problematic”

Much of the basis for the facial analysis algorithms rests on the (questionable, it turns out) assumption that if your best current employees display certain expressions during HireVue’s testing, then job applicants with the same expressions will be successful hires.

But Schellmann’s experts explain that to use facial expressions to identify emotions you must assume that ”emotions are indicated by roughly the same facial expressions that almost every human can recognize, and therefore computers could detect too.” (p. 112)

But bias creeps into the selection of “best employees” who represent the baseline.

“It could be that facial expressions… are just as random as hair color. If you look at high performers in video interviews and most people have brown hair, an unsupervised algorithm could pick up on that and choose only people with brown hair.”

Furthermore, the theory of universal emotions the technology is based on is outdated. “That’s what they’ve built their whole science around and it’s hugely problematic.”

We can’t check whether candidates can do the job!

This bit really warmed my heart because it proves effective marketing distracts us from crappy products.

Schellmann gets this little gem from Lindsey Zuloaga, the chief data scientist at HireVue: “What’s interesting with any job interview — if it’s scored by humans or by AI – is that a candidate only talks about their experiences. We are not seeing the candidate in action at their jobs. There is just a limitation of how do you know if someone’s going to do well at a job. The best way to know would be to let them do the job for a while and see how they do.” [Emphasis added.]

Duh, right? Now wait for it, because here it comes… “And obviously, you can’t do that,” said Zuloaga. “So assessing people is, in nature, kind of a proxy to getting to the actual job and the performance in the job.” (p. 101)

I can see this guy asking the seller of a used car to fill out a checklist about how well the car works but sees no reason to take it for a test drive. Zuloaga is so lost in his data that he has no concept of how people actually work “in nature”… by actually showing they can do the job! Better to use a proxy!

Skinning HR alive

These selected quotes are straight out of the book and speak for themselves. Memo to CEOs and boards of directors: Is this where your HR operation is spending your money?

“The problem exists when the data that underlies some of this is filled with errors or the design of the algorithms is filled with errors,” [said assessment tools expert John Scott] about Humantic AI’s and Crystal’s software. “It’s this going after the latest technologies that has resulted in a commercialization of these assessment tools that exist at the expense of sound, professional practice and good science.” (pp. 48-49)

[AI vendor] Crystal acknowledged that there are no independent studies verifying that its method works. (p. 48)

When we ran Humantic’s AI [which analyzes social media postings] separately over participants’ Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, the software returned different personality predictions for many of the people in our study. (p. 49)

[Harvard business professor] Joe Fuller’s report calls it ironic that company leaders keep complaining about not having enough qualified candidates for jobs, when they know that their own hiring processes are broken and actively excluding the very applicants they claim to so desperately want: “Employers almost universally acknowledge that these negative filters cause them to inadvertently exclude qualified candidates some, if not most of the time.” (p. 25)

There is a company that predicts personality traits based on users’ social media feeds — with or without users’ consent…. Humantic AI advertised that with just an email address the company’s algorithm can scan social feeds of job candidates and give hiring managers hidden insights into job candidates: “Get to know their real persona, not just the persona they want you to see. Let DeepSense predict their culture fit, personality and behavior for you.” (p. 30)

One job seeker whose uses the pronoun they… was able to see the report [compiled by Fama]. It contained more than three hundred pages analyzing all their tweets, retweets and likes. They were not amused by what they saw. (p. 36)

I spoke to a lot of hiring managers. Most pointed to one main problem they were hoping AI would solve: they are overwhelmed by the number of job applications they receive. AI promises a quick fix. One hiring manager, who started using an  AI-based resume screener… told me that his people are not checking whether the algorithm works, since artificial intelligence never makes mistakes. (p. 46)

[Uh, if the company stopped soliciting so many applications via fire hose, its managers would have time to screen the resumes? Now we’ll close with the most embarrassing quote in the book. –Nick

Book: The Algorithm8.
Safe Hammad, the chief technology officer, and cofounder of game-based assessment provider Arctic Shores said… “For me, it’s magic. I understand the science a little bit underneath. I certainly understand the mathematics, but it’s like magic.” p. 56)

These quotes barely scratch the surface of  Schellmann’s findings and analysis. There’s so much more, and I so admire both the depth and breadth of her research. Some of her interviews with AI firm managers made me crack up — they seem as clueless about being exposed as they are about the missing scientific underpinnings of their slap-dash “products.”

My hat is off to Hilke Schellman. A fine job of delivering a valuable public service!

Join the book club!

I’m not even done reading the book. I spent as much time writing in the margins and highlighting as I’ve spent reading! This is a remarkable book. A downright scary analysis, expose and general all-around skinning of HR — the good folks that fund these AI companies and make you talk to a screen. (I haven’t even brought up the parts of the book about withholding the files these firms create about you…)

What do you think? Is it like magic? Are you already aware of the scope of AI (FI?) being inflicted on job seekers, employees, employers, managers and, well, the entire economy? How much of “the jobs numbers” do these AI dealers and their HR junkies affect? Have you been subjected to the magic? Is Hilke Schellmann serious? Do “we need to fight back now?” How?

Let’s start a book club. Get the book (from your library or buy it so you can mark it up!), post your comments, questions, analysis and, uh, intelligent banter. That’s what we’re here for. (This website earns a small commission from Amazon on books you buy from links you find here. I use the funds to pay for the servers and maintenance. Thanks for your support.)

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  1. Hi Nick, Thank you for all that you do and continue to do especially fostering our Resilient Spirit. I read a recent Financial Times article, Unethical online experiments risk real world harm
    Undisclosed digital trials can affect workers, users, and society in ways that are ill-understood, academics warn — and thought to share:

  2. Too often, as it is, HR is the tail that wags the dog. Now they want to automate the wag?
    There should be a public Wall of Shame for companies who conduct robot interviews. I hope my fellow ATH readers would call out their own employers who subject job candidates to a process like this. I would be mortified if I recommended someone for a role and they had to participate in something like this. It would be the last recommendation I’d make.

  3. Does anyone remember (or for those of you NOT GEN X or older, the BOOK 1984? You will own nothing, and be happy. You will think how we think, and you will be happy. 2 plus 2 is 5.

    Pretty easy to avoid this. I have refused interviews over the phone, remote, and in groups. This is another to refuse. I don’t care how good the job is, if you as the hiring manager can’t interview me then,GOLF FOXTROT YANKEE.

    This is not AI, we are decades from that. This is another higher tech ATS, which also sucks.

    Refuse to do the dance, get others to refuse the dance. If there are no applicants the company either goes belly up or back to the old ways.

    Yes, applicants would have to actually get involved, like organizing protests or boycotting PEACEFULLY. Hate to say it, talk to the city/state rep and try to get a bill that makes the use of automated hiring prohibited………(government never fixes anything, but sometimes it can help)

    Another thing for all you younger folk, GOLF TANGO FOXTROT OSCAR of “social media” big brother is watching you.

    It is all about respect, using HR and programs to hire shows no respect to the worker, and here companies wonder why there is no job loyalty. It is a 2way street.

  4. I applied for a position with Edward Jones and the HR person sent an invitation repeatedly to do an AI interview. I never responded nor did the fake interview. I figured if they won’t take the time to meet with me, why should I spend time with a machine.

    • Good response. This is not a company with much credibility per my personal experience with them.

  5. Question:

    If an applicant is neurodiverse and their facial expressions or speaking styles do not conform to what neurotypical people do, could this be a form of discrimination?

    • @Molly: Schellmann covers discrimination extensively. The answer is yes. I see lawsuits. This “AI” technology is Fake Intelligence and, according to experts Schellmann talks with, it’s nowhere near ready for prime time. It’s crap.

      Best parts of the book: AI company psychologists, data scientists and execs (even one VC) provide very serious commentary about their products — and admit it’s all crap under the guise of “technology the rest of you people do not understand.” Schellmann skewers them all.

  6. How stupid can senior management in a firm be, that they allow this mindless drivel? I get it that they need
    folks to make sure that legal compliance and necessary paperwork is taken care of; but to devolve what is
    arguably the most important role of HR to an outsourced, mindless, machine? Boggles the mind.

    As my science friends like to say, “entropy increases”.

    If humans write the code, the result is no less flawed than the humans who wrote it. All the machine does is add horsepower.
    i.e. more errors, faster.

    Which leads one to mindless media, wherein the AI hype is regurgitated, much like their reliance on political polling.
    Flawed results conditioned by sampling techniques and questions asked, but repeatedly reported without question.

    • It doesn’t matter how many university degrees you have, how high up you are in the board room, common sense can’t be taught. Either you have that gut instinct and common sense or you don’t.

  7. Holy crap!

    Not four weeks ago, I applied for a consulting role I am highly qualified for.

    I wrote a detailed cover letter explaining my unique qualifications for the specialized consulting business they are starting.

    My missive was answered by a mail asking me to prepare and mail to them a three minute video introduction.

    I politely responded that I was happy to spend as much time as they desired with the hiring manager, but that I do not participate in anonymous screening “hurdles.”

    Their response was a perfunctory “we will not be moving forward with your application.”

    After reading your article, I wonder if this was an automated screening system. If so, it was dishonest not to declare it out front.

    Candidates have simply got to get smart and decline these screening systems which separate the employer from the candidate. I have done so several times, saying “I am happy to assist with whatever effectiveness evaluations you wish to use, as soon as we have an offer contingent upon those evaluations.”

    If the prospective employer isn’t willing to invest the time and their expertise in a potential relationship, why should I subject myself to evaluations which I have no control over? Naturally, that has always resulted in termination of the interview process.

    But until enough qualified applicants say “screw this,” the practice will proliferate.

    • @Sleepless: My column doesn’t begin to touch on practices that would shock you. I think I’ve seen almost everything in the employment world. I’m shocked.

    • “But until enough qualified applicants say ‘screw this,’ the practice will proliferate.”

      Hopefully enough applicants will grow a backbone instead of just mumbling lip service.

      Unfortunately, as we saw with the COVID debacle, too many people will happily submit like sheep to this AI overlord.

      I found it quite amusing to learn that after firing thousands of good military personnel for not taking the “jab” (COVID), the government just recently was trying to woo these people back – several years after the fact. And don’t forget the hospitals that worked the hell out of nurses during the heat of the COVID scare then fired them for not taking the “jab” when patient count leveled off about a year later – how convenient.

      Maybe this application of AI will be put on the back burner – but I’m not betting on it given HR’s history which included embracing job boards that are still around.

    • (I want to make it clear that what follows is tongue in cheek, and not a serious suggestion.)

      Surely someone could gin up a script to create a deep fake video to send in response to these requests. You could submit the job description to ChatGPT to get the dialogue for the video, then use MidJourney to create an attractive, mature but not old, white male face. Then use some deep fake tech to animate the face and make it look like it’s speaking the dialogue.

      Fight AI with AI! It’s an infinite loop of wasted processor time. Good thing there’s nothing better we could be using this computing power for, like protein folding in pursuit of a cure for human diseases.

  8. Nick, thanks for the article. I’ve just requested the book via ILL at my library, and look forward to reading it.

    What a racket. Anything to avoid actually meeting with, talking to candidates. I agree–any company that expects you to do all the investing (time, energy, etc.) to interact with a database or with a video isn’t worth it. So they’re going to analyze you without actually meeting you in person. How does this work for people who don’t come across well on camera, or to whom the camera isn’t kind but who are otherwise well qualified for the job? These companies are missing out while they’re crying into their beer about “lazy people” not wanting to work or how they can’t find any good candidates.

    Time to eliminate HR from the process until it is time for on-boarding. HR can make sure that the paperwork is completed, that the necessary taxes are deducted and the benefits accrue. Other than that, save for job vacancies in HR, they shouldn’t be involved at all.

    • @Marybeth: Employers claim to want people who “think outside the box.” How outside the box is “I don’t talk to the hand”?

      • @Nick: So they say, but I have to conclude that they really DON’T want people who think outside the box. I think they want people who will do as they’re told and not challenge anything. If you have audacity to say “no” to “talking to the hand” or refusing to do any HR screening before talking to the hiring manager, you’re suddenly no longer being considered. Why? What could an HR lackey possibly tell me about any job in any dept. besides HR? They can’t tell me about the job, what the hiring manager wants, the problems to be solved, etc. Even more disrespectful is being required to do these video presentations where there’s no conversation, no back and forth, and then to add insult to injury, to be analyzed and judged based on facial expressions. My blinking might not mean anything other than there’s a stray eyelash in my eye, or I might be looking down to refer to my notes. Just when I think I’ve heard/read it all when it comes to stupid employer tricks, I learn about a new low.

        • @Marybeth:

          “If you have audacity to say “no” to “talking to the hand” or refusing to do any HR screening before talking to the hiring manager, you’re suddenly no longer being considered. Why?”

          Because you don’t belong there. Trust me. It’s nowhere to work if they treat you like this before they even meet you.

          Could it be the company is great and just HR sucks? Is there anything you can do? I’d send a link to this article along with your resume to the CEO, CFO and each member of the board of directors – including a brief note:

          “I believe your HR folks just missed a very good bet because they rely on silly technology to hire workers. BTW, this e-mail was not automated. I cared enough to send it myself. Seems like you have a pretty good company. I wish you lots of luck. [signed].”

          • @Nick: Thanks for the reminder. I shouldn’t need it, but when you’re job hunting, it is easy to forget.

            And yes, it is possible that it could be that the company is great and just HR that sucks, but I have come to view HR as representative of a company or agency, especially if they’re the dept. candidates are funneled into. If HR behaves unprofessionally, then I tend to think that is how the whole company is. Maybe that’s unfair of me, but the old adage about first impressions applies.

            I like your idea re sending an email to the CEO, CFO, and Board of Directors. But shouldn’t a CEO, CFO, Board of Directors know what is going on in their own company? Maybe not the nit-picky details at the lowest levels, but I would hope that they know how people are hired. If there are job vacancies and it is affecting work and the bottom line (profits) or the mission, then I would hope that they’d take an interest and not just accept the “lazy people who don’t want to work” line.

            Several weeks I was chatting with a woman who claimed that her company desperately needed help, and yet when I asked her about it, she said that if you want to get hired, you have to apply online. No phone calls, no meetings until you’ve been screened. Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why they “can’t find anyone”. Earlier this week, when she asked me why I didn’t apply, I politely informed her that I don’t deal with computerized screenings. If the hiring manager is interested, I’d be happy to meet with him for 15 minutes; otherwise, I’m not going to waste my time.

  9. It would be interesting to know if the founders or initial teams that developed these AI Interview systems were ever tested with their own systems after the systems were up & running (since they’d all have been onboarded before) and what the results are.

    • @Tyrone: Ah, do they eat their own dogfood? Good question.

  10. Hiring manager here. If I happen to know you and want to hire you I still have to create a requisition whether you are internal or external. Then I talk to talent acquisition and let them know I want to see your name under available candidates. At that point I go through the applications and decide who we want to interview. I like to be decisive and quickly make a decision after that. I do warn candidates that if someone happens to apply who is more qualified, that person may get hired. You still have to interview with talent acquisition. That said, since I am looking out for your application, yours will get special attention. As far as I know we do not have ai interviews. Also, the company could be liable for ai gone wrong.

  11. I’m currently job hunting and just this week (before I read this newsletter about AI job interviews) I completed my first-ever one-way video interview. The email stated that a human would be reviewing the video recording, so that made me feel a little bit better about submitting a video recording of myself. However…after reading the newsletter and the comments, I will be more discerning about participating in this type of HR screening going forward.

    I don’t like the direction the job search process has been going over the years. It feels demeaning and cold.

    Before I was laid off in 2022, I used to work in Human Resources as a data analyst, so I got to see up close how the “talent acquisition” process worked and how it evolved over time. I have decided to pursue future jobs outside of HR.

    • Agreed. Applying and interviewing for a job shouldn’t be a degrading experience. But for me, it often has been.

  12. I’m 60 years old and am a claimant in the first EEOC AI age discrimination class action. The first of many, I’m sure. I was blissfully unaware until I was contacted by the attorney. It was in reference to a position I had applied for a few years ago, that I wasn’t hired for.

    I’ve been once again in job-seeking mode, for the past several months, and have been rejected from every single position in my field that I’ve applied for. There were a handful of what seemed like auto-rejections, and there were a few Hirevue videos where I was also rejected. I have the qualifications and the credentials. I’m watching other people, who have way less to offer than I do, get these jobs. The glaring fact is that they are younger. Or they are diversity hires but that’s a story for another day.

  13. Judging from the name, as a woman misogyny is pervasive. I’m in the pac. NW where many still think it’s 1952 in the biz world. That can be added to the list of biases proudly and smugly employed by these knuckleheads. Good luck on this legal pursuit.

    • Hi Marilyn! Thank you for your kind words! Yes, indeed…*proudly and smugly.* Blech.

      All the luck to us both! These are crazy times. I’m looking so forward to reading this book.

  14. Nick,

    Thank you for coming through once again. This is amazing stuff and seriously dangerous. You’ve been in the hiring business a long time, and I believe you would agree it has degraded shamefully over those years. I know people will say, “But I need a job, and all these companies are using this method.” But if all of us (maybe 75%?) refused to participate, it would be a very different matter.

    Solidarity, brothers and sisters!

    I’m eight weeks from retirement after 46 years in the trenches and delighted to be missing out on this latest trend.

    • Congratulations, Larry!

    • @Larry: There have always been “rackets” in the employment biz. selling/renting personal information when that was still a new idea. CareerBuilding claiming with a straight face that it was responsible for filling 57% of all jobs (“But we can’t show you the data”). Bernard Haldane and others claiming that for a fee of $5k-$15k they’d find you a job. One racketeer sold access to PE jobs for $2,500 until it was revealed the “PE managers” doing the interviews at the PE firms were actually the crooks themselves and that they had created dozens of fake websites to prop up the scam (the FTC shut them down). HR departments that intentionally solicit tens of thousands of applicants for a job then complain they cannot possibly review them all fairly. Jobs posted and never removed after they’re filled. It just goes on and on.

      I believe the Employment System is a trillion dollar market that has never been investigated for fraud — it’s long overdue.

  15. Are there any websites out there who will let you do a practice AI interview and share the results with you? This might help potential employees to level the playing field.

  16. @Don: Not that I know of. I love it when an industry is so corrupt you have to pay for a special service so you can have the privilege of being abused by the industry itself. E.g., SAT testing, resume writing, etc.

    Please step back. If you have to find one service to help you “beat” another service, the real answer is to tell them all where to get off.

    Don’t apply for jobs where you’re required to waste your time with games. Apply only at companies that respect applicants. If you read Hilke’s book, you’ll see it’s the only way.