Soon, you may be interviewed by a robot for your next job

Jake Rosen, a recent graduate of UCLA, was taken aback when he was interviewed by a webcam, on a laptop instead of a human being while he was applying for a job at NBC. He recorded his answers and returned them to a hiring manager at NBC for evaluation at the company’s convenience.

So, how does this robo-interview work? You are given a question on the screen for which you have a limited amount of time to answer. You talk to your computer, record the responses, and send them back to the company. At times, prospective employees get a practice question to get used to talking to a camera, while at times they may not. However, most often you get a chance to re-record your answer at the end.

This kind of interview may end up being a boon for those people who are introvert, who need not go through formal greetings or be audible enough while answering a question. However, it may be a little awkward for many wherein you are compelled to stare at your big, nervous face as you wax on about why you want to work at the company. Essentially speaking it is more like performing for an invisible audience rather than having a conversation. Rosen felt nervous from the first question, as he was not used to being on camera. As a result, he was nervous for the rest of his interview, he said.

“I’m not a YouTube star, obviously,” he said. “It’s such a weird experience talking to a camera. It honestly was pretty horrible.” Jamie Black, who suffered through the video interview experience for a job at a school, said it felt “more like a game show than an interview.”

With the human-free video job interview is on the rise, it seems that this experience will soon become unavoidable for many of us.

HireVue, one of the handful of companies making video interview software, works with 600 large organizations, including JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte, Under Armour, and most of the major U.S. airlines. The company is expected to do 2.5 million interviews this year, which is an increase from 13,000 five years ago. Almost 90% of those are “on demand” interviews, with nobody live at the other end.

The attraction of the video interview for a hiring manager is primarily efficiency.

“Companies want to get to know way more people,” said Mark Newman, the founder of HireVue. In a day, a recruiter can only get through so many 30-minute conversations. Further, this doesn’t include the time lost to schedule or on bad candidates.

Human resources staff members with a video interview have to only evaluate the answers, which they can do as per their own schedule and without travelling for on-campus recruiting. Hilton got down its hiring process to 4.5 days, which is almost 20 days shorter than the average interview process by using HireVue. This process helps companies save money. Cigna has cut travel expenses for recruiters from $1 million a year, in some cases, to under $100,000.

On the other hand, the advantage of robo-recruiting for a job candidate is convenience. Normally, a company will give an interviewee a day or two to complete the interview, which can happen anywhere. While this may sound like another advantage, but for Rosen it only added to his stress.

“You start to think about things you wouldn’t normally think about in interviews. I started thinking about my surroundings,” Rosen said. “I had to find a blank wall to sit in front of. … Should I put a bookshelf behind me? A plant?”

Recruiters say they don’t judge candidates on their performance, appearance, or location. “Judging is an interesting word,” said Heidi Soltis-Berner, the managing director for talent at Deloitte. “I would say the on-demand interview is truly for fact sharing.” Other recruiters said they do assess people on their eye contact and communication abilities.

The entire setup can be a bit trying even if hiring managers are instructed not to make decisions on how well a probable new employee can perform in front of a camera.

“You just see yourself and a stopwatch ticking down,” said Black, who said his answers often got cut off by the timer.

Black said that if and when he has to do it again, he would practice in front of a mirror with a stopwatch before the interview. When the interview is taking place, it may help to have someone sit behind the computer, Rosen said, as it would be like conversing with a person instead of a screen. Just stare at the camera so that you are not distracted.

However, the best advice might be to just relax.

Scott Mitchell, a recruiter for American Wedding Group, which uses video interviews to pre-screen the 1,900 independent contractors it works, said, “It’s OK to come across as uncomfortable in front of the camera, because everyone is. We all assume you’re going to be uncomfortable. We’re putting you in an uncomfortable position.”

Human interaction hasn’t be entirely replaced by the robo-interview. It is often used as a replacement for first-round screening interviews by many companies, which is later followed by more traditional one-on-ones.

However, this kind of interview might not be happening for interviewees who would prefer the traditional way of interview. With the video interviews, organizations can look at more people and a more varied set of people, and also additionally save money.

“Candidates will generally say, ‘I would have preferred an in-person interview to this,’ but that’s not the right comparison,” HireVue’s Newman said. “The alternative is no interview at all.”

Do you think the future of job interviews is here? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: Bloomberg

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