How to Conduct an AI-Based Interview

The November 14 2019 Business section of the Washington Post featured a report on how AI (artificial intelligence) is central to a hiring system developed by a firm named HireVue, and how AI is playing an increasing role in the job interview process, notably for some very large employers including locally-based company Hilton plus other A list firms including Goldman Sachs, HBO, and Unilever. The AI guided process record interviews conducted remotely and then evaluates responses based on algorithms that analyze what are considered to be key indicators of success. The elements reviewed, such as speech patterns, facial expressions, tone of voice and level of excitement about performing certain tasks are determined by the employer, as are the criteria used to evaluate responses.

Essentially what this system does is to select the most promising candidates for a position based on data that has emerged from the profiles of employees who have demonstrated success in similar roles. It’s, in essence, an upgrade from Myers-Briggs, which made projections of probable job success based on written answers only, without the audio and video inputs.
Succeeding in this kind of a job interview requires even more preparation than usual. The criteria that your potential employer are using and weighting are secret for reasons that are not hard to understand: it helps prevent an interviewee from gaming the system.

But you can stitch together disparate pieces of evidence that will enable you to make a reasonable guess as to what the employer is looking for. Clues will come from the job description, the organization’s website, and conversations with current or former insiders who have knowledge of the position’s requirements and pitfalls. Supplemental input might be found in a GlassDoor review or even in a general Google search. By the way, I encourage anyone for whom I do interview coaching to utilize these inputs. But because AI-based interviewing systems tend to be used more commonly for highly sought positions where competition is fierce it’s extra important to do this forensic (investigative) work.

The advantages to an employer for using this kind of system can be tremendous in time and money saved by automating much of the interview process (think of the HR salaries that can be saved!) but like so many other technological advances this can further tip the scale in the direction of labor and away from management.

The article raises numerous concerns about aspects of HireVue’s (and others’) “success algorithms:” how they might contribute to”…a homogeneous monoculture, assembled by choosing workers with closely aligned characteristics, how interviewees feel alienated and dehumanized by needing to impress a computer before being deemed worthy of a company’s time, how the opacity of the system inevitably engenders ill will among those who are rejected without having any clue as to why.*” But perhaps the most common drawback cited was how this system exaggerated the downside bias against interviewees who tend to be anxious. While no remedy was suggested by the article, I’ve learned that the most effective technique to combat interview anxiety (other than medication) is interview coaching and practice. Formulating a compelling overall narrative, a list of key talking points and rehearsing them with an interview coach will maximize your chance of a conducting successful interview and landing the job you’re going for.

N.B. This ill will, of course, also arises in the old-fashioned submit-a-resume-hear-nothing-back paradigm, but it seems that the direct interaction with a computer in this process makes the lack of feedback even more disturbing.