We’ve all looked for a job at some point in our lives. We’ve gone to lots of interviews and answered silly questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Or “What was the most rewarding professional experience you’ve ever had?”
Why Are Those Interview Questions Silly?
Because you know that the employer expects you to give a specific type of answer to a specific question. You’re not supposed to say something like “In five years, I would like to be part of a great company, but in the meantime I’ll have to work for yours.” Or “My most rewarding experience was when I got a big bonus on a contract where the customer had no idea what he was buying.” In other words, during interviews, you are not supposed to be honest, but “appropriate.”
Another thing you are supposed to do is sell yourself—so they say. And that starts with the resume: the better it looks, the more chances you have to be selected. Between two people with the same experience and similar profiles, often the better-looking resume will be selected—yes, the resume, not the person.
The selling-yourself part continues during the interview as well, when you’re supposed to not only give the right answers, but also be enthusiastic, optimistic, and even excited about the potential job opportunity. But let’s face it, many people just need a job—or maybe there’s simply nothing about the job that evokes enthusiasm. How excited can you be about being a clerk? “Oh, I just love filing documents and sending letters and faxes. It has always been my passion!”
In my opinion, and in most cases, there is no need for recruiters, HR personnel, or face-to-face interviews—at least not in the first phase of the recruitment process. What can be used successfully is artificial intelligence (AI): people can answer prerecorded questions over the phone or via the Internet. This is what HRMC is offering as part of its Acclaim product. The system is intelligent enough to know what question to ask next, depending on the answer the respondent supplies for the previous questions.
What Are the Advantages of Using Artificial Intelligence?
First, candidates feel more comfortable when doing the interview from home. Second, the machine they talk to does not notice or care about a sarcastic smile caused by any of the questions mentioned above—questions that the candidate has heard a hundred times before.
For the employer, the obvious advantage to an AI system is that it reduces costs. Such a system can be easily deployed and maintained, and the recordings of the interviews can be kept for future use. Finally, it will allow employers to interview people from all over the world without having to ask them to travel.
There are advantages for HR professionals too: less work, greater productivity, and more time to concentrate on other HR-related activities. I have the feeling that they’re not happy asking those questions over and over again and getting different variations of the same answer.
So Why Isn’t This Widely Used?
Frankly, I don’t have an answer for that at the moment. But this reminds me of the movie The Man in the White Suit—if you want to know why, stay tuned for an upcoming post about enterprise software and its surprising collusion with popular culture.
What are your thoughts on this subject? I’ll elaborate on the results of the poll below in an upcoming blog post.
READERS’ POLL: AI–Would you use it for HR?
Interviews are all about weighing someone’s personality and determining if they’d be a good fit to the office team and culture. Can AI understand chemistry? Can a candidate shine when speaking to a machine?
Nice post, Gabriel - looking forward to the follow-up.
Linda: I think “chemistry” is not always the dominant consideration when assessing candidates. Certainly it plays a role, but it’s a factor that increases in importance as the required skill level of the position goes down. Far more important to be able to efficiently evaluate complex talents and skill sets. Also, consider that an effective DSS (such as the kind of AI system Gabriel is referring to) may well be able to incorporate qualitative criteria.
@T.U. Rin - thank you for your comment!
@Linda - as mentioned in the blog post, i think that AI should be used for certain types of jobs (e.g.: clerk) and in the first phase of the recruiting process, when candidates do not need to shine to get the interview.
Interesting idea, but for me it stops there. An inexperienced interviewer may well step through a series of one way, standard questions, and this idea could provide that service.
My company trains recruiting managers in selection techniques, and if interviewing is part of that, we continually re=inforce the need to conduct follow up questions and drill down into suspect answers. This is an iterative process, which I find difficult to see how AI could do it.
I would also agree that chemistry between the recruiting manager and interviewee is a real factor, although likely at this stage to be influenced by behaviour in the interview (not necesarily personality). This why selection should be a multiple process to get as close as posible to candidate’s knowledge, skills, attitudes.
Sorry to go on about this, but interviews are a 2 way process, and in candidate driven markets there is a selling process to the candidate. How can this mechanised approach encourage a sujitable candidate to go on to the next stage in the process?
@Henry Noteman - thank you for your comment! I agree that it should stop here - for now. And it should be used mostly for mass recruiting.
I suspect there’s another point that should be raised.
More and more organizations look at candidates personal behavioral traitss and their under the water line displayed behavioral competencies, both operational and leadership, before they even start to check details of GPA, actual areas of specific knowledge and specific skills.
If the questions in ‘the machine’ can be progammed to look deeply at such behavioral areas then I’d be interested to see more.
This would be an excellent way for quality candidates to eliminate some companies for consideration. In the technology field it is bad enough that you have non-technical HR staff examining a resume for keywords they don’t understand, now we have an interviewer who can’t possibly know the human element of career aspiration.
If you run a soul-less company and want employees who contribute that corporate character this sounds like an excellent idea.
AI is a brilliant idea. I have high hopes that someday it will totally work to reduce psychological error that is most eminent in organizations. Especially in developing countries were nepotism, bribery and others factors are ripe in many organizations.as i always belief human beings are naturally subjected to psychological error.