robot interview
Forget Skype, these interviews won't have any human interaction at all. Source: Shutterstock.

Worried about wardrobe malfunctions and sweaty palms during handshakes at your graduate job interviews?

Turns out that might not be a problem any longer with many prestigious graduate schemes reportedly using robots to conduct interviews.

This doesn’t mean a life-sized humanoid is going to be shaking your hand and showing you around the office – we’re not quite there yet – rather, it simply means that computer programmes using artificial intelligence (AI) will be monitoring videos of you.

So instead of sitting face to face with a real human, either digitally or in person, students are asked to record themselves answering questions which pop up on the screen, putting them on the spot just like if there were a person there.

The videos are then scanned using algorithms which can detect the kinds of words and phrases you use, as well as how confident your tone of voice is, how concise your answers are and even your body language.

The AI can register how often you blink, smile, frown, fiddle or fidget and other “micro-expressions”.

And, apparently, this isn’t a brand new notion either, although its use is increasing, and its development is advancing.

Former Head of Graduate Recruitment at Merrill Lynch and Barclays Bank Derek Walker told The Telegraph the majority of large companies have been using similar automated online tests for the last 10 years.

“What we are seeing now is the rollout of a much more sophisticated set of tools, including interviews delivered by a computer,” Walker said.

“They might have an actor or a graphic asking questions, or a pre-recorded voice, but they are not there listening to you. You have no ability to build a rapport with a machine and this can really throw people.”

University of Bristol graduate Joshua Pauk is one of these people. He told The Telegraph,“you’re just talking into a blank screen, it’s really unnerving.”

The 21-year-old found when applying for banking graduate schemes recently, around 10 different companies required him to record interviews in this manner using his webcam.

“They ask very traditional interview questions, like why do you want to work here, and what are your strengths and weaknesses.”

What’s its purpose?

It all sounds a little odd, but it could save companies a lot of time sifting through applications.

Usually, the AI interviews are used near the beginning of the application process to weed out the weaker applicants and make it easier for employers to consider the smaller selection who make it past the software for in-person interviews or trials.

“Your answers are being analysed against a set of quality and criteria determined by the employer,” Walker explained.

“It is more sophisticated than throwing in certain words. It can be the ability to articulate in a concise way, there can be an assessment of body language,” he continued, explaining companies may have desired qualities in candidates which often can be built from current employee’s profiles and then sought after through the AI software.

Using technology in this manner not only saves on costs and time but also often presents companies with a wider range of applicants than they may usually look at by removing “unconscious bias.”

“The reason most companies give as a reason for doing this is that it improves the diversity of applicants,” Walker claimed.

Where did it come from?

The Telegraph reported many of the companies use AI interview technology developed by US firm HireVue which was “set up 13 years ago by a university student who couldn’t get an interview and couldn’t get a job,” HireVue’s Chairman and CEO Kevin Parke said.

The student “wanted to democratise interviews to make the process fairer and more consistent” after he was unable to get an interview for his dream graduate job at Goldman Sachs as employers didn’t visit his college campus, Parke added.

“Now Goldman Sachs are one of our biggest clients,” Parke said, and HireVue’s software is used for hiring in prestigious companies near and far.

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