A job interview is often an intimidating experience for a candidate, but it needn’t be this way. There are ways that companies can make interviews a comfortable process for the candidate, more effective at getting the right data to make decisions, and reduce biases that can disadvantage members of under-represented groups.
Interviews need to be structured and ask the same standard questions of everyone, making them applicable to the type of role you’re filling. Questions need to be open-ended that permit more than one answer, providing an opportunity to see how candidates think through problems and solutions. Questions shouldn’t be written to be as “gotchas,” but rather give people an opportunity to be themselves.
We’ve talked at length about bias when doing initial screening, but this is something that traditional style face-to-face first interviews also don’t solve for. It is possible for interviews to be ‘blind’ and free from bias as well.
This requires removing visual biases – those based on what we see – from an interview process. This is made possible through the use of text-chat as the preferred method of interview. It’s something that many successful companies like Automattic (the makers of WordPress) have done for years.
Texting is something that most people are familiar with. Ai-enabled text chat feels very similar to texting a friend. Text chat is how we truly communicate asynchronously – we all do it every day with our friends and family. It needs no acting; we all know how to chat. Empowered by the right AI, text chat can be human and real, it is blind, reduces bias, evens the playing field by giving everyone a fair go and gives them all personalised feedback at scale. It can harness the true power of language to understand the candidate’s personality, language skills, critical thinking and much more.
We know we can get this right because at Sapia where we use chat-enabled Ai we send every candidate who uses our platform feedback on their interview, identify their strengths and weaknesses and help them understand what they might improve on. Thousands of messages a day confirm we are accurate (98%) of the time.
An inclusive interview process doesn’t exclude anyone from having an interview. This is something we are able to offer at Sapia. Everybody gets a chance at interviewing for the job. Everyone gets a fair go.
Last week I had two conversations, one with my partner, the other with Barb Hyman, Sapia’s new CEO.
Both wanted me share my story. To tell you and anyone else who might be interested, or care, about a journey that took me from being a recruiter to working in a business at the cutting edge of a technology, science and people triumvirate.
They wanted me to share my journey of discovery that every single recruiter is going to experience sooner, rather than later.
To begin, we first need to acknowledge that we humans are odd folk. How often do we see examples of people ignoring evidence in favour of something that instead reinforces their pre-set opinions?
AI in HR and Recruitment, it’ll never catch on
I’ve been doing this job for 10 years, I don’t need a machine to tell me how to recruit
I just don’t believe it, to be honest
These are just a few of the comments / opinions I’ve received from Talent professionals when discussing Recruitment AI. (I should also acknowledge that there are many folk who are genuinely curious or are already embracing the technology).
A while ago a recruitment manager posted on LinkedIn, asking their network for advice on Sapia solutions. A contact of mine figured I could help and tagged me.
Someone else in the Rec Manager’s network provided this advice:
“use a common-sense approach to recruitment… software misses the point… Imagine if your Dr used this sort of software to see if you are ‘likely to….’”
I refrained from posting something akin to this BBC article discussing AI accurately identifying skin cancers. As for “common sense recruiting”… well, i’ll come to that in a subsequent post.
Many people have already formed an opinion on AI. They’ve decided it won’t make a difference, it’s not for them nor will it help their company.
Let me tell you why I think they’re ever so wrong.
To find out how to interpret bias in recruitment, we also have a great eBook on inclusive hiring.
It’s the start of the football season in Australia, and I’ve been thinking about how damn hard it must be to coach. Every week you need to revise your game plan, pick the best team to get the match-up right and galvanise your players behind your decisions. You’re constantly adjusting your approach depending on who you are up against, picking different players to counter your opponent’s strengths.
I have heard it said by people who are more football savvy than me that the best coach is the one who can rid him/herself of biases at the decision point of picking the right players for the match.
The well-known Nobel Laureate behavioural economist, Dr Daniel Kahneman, made the same discovery when he first started to work in the space of ‘human decisioning’.
As a young psychologist in the 1950’s, he was tasked with figuring out which recruits to the army should be allocated to which units, infantry, air force etc.
All the generals of those units strongly asserted that there was a different type for each unit, and they wanted to make allocations that reflected those differences. What Kahneman found over time was that there was no difference between the best soldiers in each part of the army.
What he observed was the intrusion of the interviewer’s own intuition when interviewing for these roles. Expert judgments were less reliable than they thought. The right algorithms might have solved this.
Accuracy is not correlated with experience. We rely on heuristics, rules of thumb, mental models that rely on similarity with our own past experience.
The more likely the individual in front of you looks like your mental model of the person you hired last time that “was a great (insert role)”, the more likely you are to see them as a great (insert role).
Confirmation bias is something we see every day in the stock market. A stock price increase does not mean a company is successful. These buying decisions are emotional, not rational. People decisions suffer from the same human frailty.
That’s why Nobel Laureates like Dr Daniel Kahneman and many smart HR leaders are recognising that the only way to interrupt our own biases is with the right technology.
I spent 13 years working as an agency recruitment consultant but my customer-facing jobs started a lot sooner – at the age of 12, collecting monthly charity raffle contributions for the local hospital. Paper rounds and retail jobs through school were followed by contact centres and bar work at uni, where I first learned about recruitment. It just seemed to fit with my previous experiences as well as my mindset so I figured that’s what I’d do when I graduated.
Actually, that’s a lie. It’s what I decided to do once I’d graduated and decided I hated the idea of being an employee number within a grad scheme but knew it was about time to lock in a career.
I remember my first round of recruitment interviews – I just couldn’t understand why recruiters didn’t understand that when I said “this is what I want to do” i really meant it. I explained I’d done my research. I knew that if I worked harder, longer and smarter than my competitors I would find the best candidates, I’d place them and I’d be rewarded for doing my job
But I just couldn’t get past those infernal recruitment industry group balloon debates/assessment days of the early 2000s that principally involved a white male in his early 20s talking more loudly than the rest despite not really having any substance to his bellowing. I couldn’t understand why Timmy from Surrey’s slightly shouty, verging on passive-aggressive bullying tone always got him progressed to the next stage while the more insightful, reflective comments from others around the table went unnoticed?
I persevered nonetheless and I eventually joined a recruitment process that involved one-on-one interviews followed by a group presentation from the MD. No fake debates, no pitting people against each other – just truth and honesty from the company owner.
I called my recruiter as I walked out the door to tell him I really wanted to work there. And I did, for 8 years.
Now I wonder how much more quickly I could have found a job if those balloon debating sessions had instead been replaced by a tool that helped the recruiters understand my propensity to succeed within recruitment, leveraging my personality and behaviours, my competitive nature, my desire and drive to succeed and then the recruiters combined that with my demonstrable passion for technology…
I’m pretty confident I articulated them during my interviews and backed up my answers with my life experience (at the ripe age of 22!). Alongside my early start in the world of work, I was in the first team for all sports for my entirety of senior school (I even gave Fives ago but it really wasn’t for me). I started played the piano at 4, violin at 7 and self-taught the saxophone as a teenager. I’m a classical pianist (seeing as you didn’t really ask, Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto with the school orchestra was my proudest musical moment) and finally I graduated with a 2:1 from a Redbrick University.
An outstanding childhood? No, I don’t think so. But I know I was well above the average for a candidate applying for a graduate recruitment career. I know there was enough about my school and working history to show my commitment to learning, dedication to working hard individually and collectively and displaying a consistent understanding of work = reward. And until those recruitment interviews I had a 100% interview to job-offer ratio. And so I wonder, how many of those companies said “no” to me because they weren’t aware of their biases?
And look, I get it. There were no AI crystal balls back then. Recruiters had to make judgement calls on candidates without the benefit of technology tools to guide them towards the right talent. But I wonder how many of those money-hungry agencies would have paid more attention to candidates like me if a recruitment tool had helped them look beyond their biases and told them I was an applicant worthy of closer attention?
My guess is pretty much all of them.