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AI Interviews: The Future of Job Recruitment or a Bias Battlefield?

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Amanda Hoover

Your Next Job Interview Could Be Conducted by an Animated AI

Upon starting the interview on your screen, you're met by a youthful-looking animated character, reminiscent of a Harry Potter-like figure, complete with black hair and spectacles. However, if he doesn't suit your preferences, there's the option to select from other virtual interviewers, embodying different ethnicities and genders, with monikers such as Benjamin, Leslie, and Kristin. This AI, dubbed Alex, delves into inquiries regarding your career background, poses hypothetical programming scenarios, and assigns a coding task.

Alex represents an AI-powered interview tool created by micro1, an American firm that identifies as a digital hiring platform for engineers. According to the company's founder, Ali Ansari, in a demonstration video, the technology offers a "fun, game-like, and more equitable selection process."

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in the job search process is on the rise. Employment platforms such as Indeed and LinkedIn have integrated AI-driven tools to assist both job hunters and hiring teams. These platforms offer features like interview practice bots for candidates and chatbots for companies to use during the hiring process. However, the implementation of AI for candidate assessment has received varied feedback. Certain HR software has faced criticism for biases, including unfavorably assessing applicants with names that sound African American, showing a preference for male candidates, or overlooking individuals with gaps in their employment history.

Artificial intelligence applications in recruitment processes reduce expenses and streamline operations for businesses, though the future effects on employees remain uncertain.

Ansari shared with WIRED how this innovation streamlines the recruitment process by enabling companies to evaluate applicants more effectively and accurately. Micro1 has developed a dual approach: Businesses can utilize the tool to conduct interviews for specific positions, allowing them to review countless applicants instead of being limited to a small subset. Alternatively, individuals can independently engage with the system to be considered for inclusion in an engineering talent marketplace. This internal marketplace boasts a selection of skilled engineers hailing from places like India, Argentina, Brazil, and beyond—regions not typically associated with American technology centers. Ansari points out that these engineers are overlooked gems, suggesting that this approach could broaden the range of individuals landing prime tech positions. “We serve as a gateway to Silicon Valley,” claims Ansari.

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Over 100,000 individuals have participated in micro1's evaluation process, aspiring to join its engineering talent pool. The firm has cited several technology enterprises, such as DoNotPay (whose chief executive officer is also an investor in micro1), as users of its platform for assessing or recruiting engineers. According to Ansari, businesses are leveraging micro1's services to evaluate up to 30,000 applicants monthly.

The practice of using asynchronous video interviews, where candidates submit prerecorded responses through automated systems, is on the rise among businesses for initial screening purposes. This approach has gained traction especially after recent rounds of layoffs over the last two years have reduced the number of jobs available, leading to a surge in applications for each posted position. Recruiters advertising jobs on platforms such as LinkedIn often find themselves sifting through hundreds or even thousands of submissions. Compounding this challenge, advanced generative AI technologies now enable job seekers to apply to numerous positions at scale, further inflating the volume of applications, many of which may be poorly matched to the job criteria. While the adoption of AI tools in the recruitment process is increasing, there is a cautious stance among some recruiters regarding the potential biases these technologies may introduce, prompting them to avoid relying on these tools for making hiring decisions.

Ansari acknowledges the existence of bias in AI tools but points out that human bias is also a significant issue. "The aim for AI systems is to significantly reduce the level of bias compared to humans," he states. Ansari further discusses that the AI interviewer on micro1 doesn't make definitive judgments about a candidate's suitability, such as passing or failing them. Instead, it classifies candidates into various levels of experience, such as inexperienced, mid-level, and senior. Ultimately, Ansari notes, the responsibility falls on the hiring manager or recruiter to determine if a candidate is the right match for the position. They have the option to review the audio recordings of candidates' responses, providing an alternative to relying purely on the AI's interpretation.

Zahira Jaser, who holds an associate professorship at the University of Sussex Business School, highlights that there's still much to learn about the effects of AI and asynchronous interviews on applicants, including how this technology influences them. She points out that recording oneself might feel uncomfortable, and the absence of human interaction cues from an AI interviewer adds to the challenge. Candidates, accustomed to human interviews where they've been advised to behave naturally and present themselves in the best possible light, might find it difficult to adapt to interacting with a chatbot. This is especially true given the unclear, inherent biases present within AI systems.

Jaser points out that while bias is inherent in human nature, there are strategies available to mitigate it. He further explains that when it comes to bias embedded within algorithms, it tends to be more structured. He highlights a case in point where AI recruitment technologies, developed based on the data of previously successful hires, have sparked worries about perpetuating previous discriminatory hiring patterns.

Currently, artificial intelligence tools aren't making the ultimate decisions on employment. However, they are progressively influencing which candidates are granted interviews with actual people, significantly affecting the future composition of the workforce.

According to Ansari, there's a different approach on the horizon for conducting interviews: He envisions a scenario where candidates utilize AI-powered avatars to undergo interviews administered by AI, effectively offloading the more grueling and monotonous aspects of the early job hunting process onto machines. Ansari believes that AI has the potential to create highly suitable pairings between applicants and employers. "This way," Ansari suggests, "both the company and the applicant could allocate their real time to more engaging discussions through a Zoom call or a face-to-face meeting."

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