The automated interview is now a feature of the recruitment landscape
So what can you do when faced with an automated interview? Here are some tips
More and more organizations use video as an integrated part of their recruitment process. But a new step is the automated interview also called the on-demand interview or even one-way interview. This is a structured interview where candidates answer a series of predetermined questions which are recorded to camera. There are a number of platforms that deal with this and the process can vary.
Benefits of an automated interview
Marketed as a way to overcome unconscious bias, primarily they serve to cut manpower costs of labour intensive recruitment processes especially in the early phases of preliminary interviews and screening. They offer advantages around scheduling and all the time-consuming to-ing and fro-ing with diaries, time zone differences, no shows and candidates who are not on target or unsuitable in another way. Focused questions specific to the opening allow interviewers to assess candidates at their own convenience and call only the most suitable for a face-to-face interview.
For candidates they also give flexibility, reducing the time needed off from a current job or trying to find a quiet space in today’s open plan offices.
The automatic automated interview
Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t a mistake. In this model all candidates receive an email access link to the video interview which can come as soon as they have submitted their CV. Candidates can decide when they want record their responses. That gives them flexibility to complete their recording to meet the deadline Questions may be posted as captions on the video link, or come by text and audio questions.
The interview starts the second the open link is clicked. Sometimes there is a welcome and housekeeping message or an organisation mission statement. Candidates should complete a tech check and then are usually asked questions specific to the role. They might have 3 questions to answer in 15 minutes. They need to pace themselves and check the available answering time as well as the number of re-recordings (if any) they are allowed.
Once the recording is submitted the interviewer will revert to let the candidate know if they have been successful.
6 tips to prepare for an automated interview
#1 Follow the instructions.
It seems basic but many don’t! It is imperative to read the guidelines carefully making sure you have factored in all the criteria and required steps. Do this well in advance so you can take care of anything that you take longer to process. It may not be straight forward. There is usually a due date, so be careful to take that into account. When you plan a timeline, allow rehearsal time and always do a dummy run.
#2 Set up your location
Choose an appropriate location where you are the only person if possible in the room, where there is no ambient noise. An office with a neutral wall which looks professional is great and bookshelves or tasteful picture in the background would be an added bonus. Avoid anywhere busy and noisy and especially don’t try to do it “on the go.” Test the lighting so your face is well-lit and clear. You may need to raise your computer or device so the camera is not pointing up your nose. No one’s best look.
#3 Do a tech check
I can’t stress how important this is. It’s not just in case there is a problem so err on the side of caution and anticipate some sort of issue. Most automated interview programmes offer a practice run so take advantage of that. It is a mistake to try to wing it unless you are very skilled and even then there is a risk. Test your microphone and camera, as well as the log-in information, password or identifier code. Avoid using a Smartphone if at all possible. The advantage for the candidate is that you can participate in an automated interview around your schedule.
#4 Prepare as usual
Carefully review the job description and highlight where you meet or exceed the requirements. Check out the web site as well as social and regular media for any updates. Anticipate questions if you can, just as you would for a face-to-face interview.
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#5 Rehearse your questions
Prepare well and if possible to camera. You can record yourself on Zoom to get an impression of your facial expressions and other body language ticks. I was recently recorded to camera for another project and there are all sorts of tells in even our eye movement which skilled assessors can pick up. Listen carefully to your delivery and monitor your language use and voice tone. The challenge is pacing yourself to give equal time and weight to all the questions. You don’t want to run out of time. Participants report feeling uncomfortable talking to themselves which is why some commentators say that the system favours the Persicope and selfie-generation. This is why practise is so important.
#6 Select your wardrobe
Your preparation should be the same for any interview to camera. Your attire will be professional but best to select block colours and keep accessories simple which can be more distracting on camera than face-to-face. Women are judged more harshly than men, as we know, by their appearance. One automated interview programme instructs women not to wear make-up. I have a problem with this because research suggests that women who wear make-up are perceived to be more competent. There is additional research that suggests that women who wear heavy make-up are seen as damaging to their leadership chances. All of this get’s on my nerves! I’m not saying any of it’s right, but make-up is a known bias. I would suggest something light and natural, especially to reduce shine – whatever you feel comfortable with.
The feedback I’ve had on automated interviews has been mixed. Both interviewers and candidates comment negatively on the impersonal elements. For hiring companies the cost effectiveness is a key driver. Candidates who are confident and comfortable performing to camera tend to do better and nervous candidates or introverts tend to under-perform. With limited time for answers, preparation is key, and an ability to be succinct is more important than ever. All believed that an automated interview by video was a huge improvement on its counterpart the automated telephone screening.
Regular face-to face interviews are considered to be one of the least effective and bias embedding ways of hiring talent and lead to significant errors. So care is needed to make sure the questions are designed and appropriate for each role. Whether they manage unconscious bias is still to be decided. Many felt that it was simply being deferred and judgments were being made especially on appearance and voice. One HR Manager suggested:
Despite the automation of the process it is still possible for bias to kick in around gender, appearance, accent, voice, ethnicity, age etc. so it doesn’t go away completely. The “performer” quite, often an individualist alpha personality will tend to do better. So it’s a change but not necessarily and improvement.
The automated interview is useful for a preliminary triage especially for lower levels positions where there is a high number of applicants. It is also useful for technical roles or to assess a specific skill. It would also be helpful if a performer personality is needed for a role.
The development of personality profiling using facial expressions specifically non-verbal communication via eye movement is also something that is already happening. I discussed this possibility with Sofie-Ann Bracke, Belgium based Body Language and Mediation Specialist, who works with Strategic Face Profilers. They profile personalities based on facial expressions, especially movement around the eyes. She recently analysed my facial expressions in a 30 minute recorded interview and gave an eerily accurate profile of my personality. Having been through the process I think there is huge potential for assessing candidates from their non-verbal communication during an automated interview.
Software such as HireVue which examines facial expression for enthusiasm and soft skills and then ranks the candidates against the job profile. There are some potential downsides to this approach as well. It doesn’t factor in the mood or well-being of the candidate which might have nothing to do with their fit for the job. There could be issues in their lives which cause them to exhibit signs of unease, self-consciousness, anger or just nerves. Perhaps they are putting on a brave face if they feel unwell. It also doesn’t touch on physical disability, congenital deformity or even Botox injections. This is where human interaction would be useful.
So where are we going with this? Will they ever eliminate the human element no matter how flawed? Would you hire a candidate you had never met or accept a role without meeting the hiring manager?
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