Recruitment? By robot?

Could it happen? Is it possible? Are humans, ironically, about to become redundant in the recruitment process? Let’s look at the latest developments…

An article caught our eye on the BBC News website a couple of weeks back. Headed ‘the job interview robot who won’t judge you’, it’s about a new development in Sweden, where recruiters are testing the world’s first robot designed to carry out unbiased job interviews.

Now call us old-fashioned, but we at Back Office have always believed recruitment is a people business. In these days of chatbots and virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri though, is the idea of an interviewing robot really that far-fetched? Perhaps not.

This particular robot’s name is Tengai (sounds more Japanese than Swedish!), and it’s a project is run by Furhat Robotics, an artificial intelligence and social robotics company that’s come from a research project at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Over the last four years, they’ve created a human-like computer interface that mimics subtle facial expressions as well as how we speak. The intention is to make it less scary than being interviewed by a traditional robot – although Tengai consists only of a ‘head’ sitting on a table!

Seriously though, Swedish recruiters have been using the trials to see if they can carry out interviews without any of the subconscious biases that humans naturally make. For example, if an interviewee plays the same sport as the interviewer, there can be more of an affinity than with someone who doesn’t play – even though it’s unintentional.

Tengai doesn’t do chit-chat. Instead, it asks all questions in an identical way, to offer a fairer, more objective interview. A transcript of each interview is then passed to managers to determine who should go forward to the next stage.

Where there’s a big recruitment drive with a lot of candidates, Tengai could certainly help with the screening process. And it’s true that there would be no bias regarding gender, looks, age, ethnicity, accent or disability, just a focus on competency and skills. But could Artificial Intelligence do more?

The aim with Tengai is that eventually the technology will be sophisticated enough to decide for itself whether a candidate should go forward to the next stage, avoiding the need for script reviews. That’s some way off – although the robot does start interviewing people for real in May this year.

In other areas, technology’s certainly coming into play more and more. Recent research by the Fosway Group found that 76% of organisations are increasing investment in HR tech, to simplify administrative HR tasks for employers and managers.

And advances in recruitment technology, such as AI through chatbots and natural language and machine-learning technology, can prevent recruiters and HR teams getting wrapped up in time-consuming, costly hiring processes and give them the time to make human connections and assess candidates’ cultural fit.

At Back Office, we firmly believe people are still the most important part of any recruitment process – and certainly they are in our role in providing back office support, as our clients testify; the personal touch and talking to someone you can trust counts for everything.

So while technology almost inevitably has a part to play in the future of recruitment, perhaps we won’t be losing the ‘human’ from human resources just yet.

What are your thoughts on technology in recruitment? Would you trust a robot to carry out an important interview? How would you feel being interviewed by one? Join the discussion on Twitter & LinkedIn #robotrecruitment!

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