Do Computers Make Better Recruiters?

I’ve had some odd experiences during the job interviewing process. Those experiences included a manager who registered no facial expressions, or recognition, while I spoke (the stone-face treatment), and a manager who was all smiles and pleasantries during the interview and then, a friend told me, tore into my appearance and dress after I left. There’s no telling what variables will affect the final decision of whether to offer an applicant a job, or even to let him or her advance to the next stage of the process. It’s beyond the straightforward factors of past experience, proven competency, and positive recommendations.

There’s the human factor, which sometimes can help an applicant with understanding shown when a gap in employment history is explained, or can hurt a job-seeker when the human factor decides to focus on the purse the applicant is carrying, or the desire not to have a potential competitor on staff.

A survey released by CareerBuilder last month shows that the human factor eventually may be partially removed from the recruitment, hiring, and even performance monitoring, function played by Human Resources.

Among employers that automate at least one part of talent acquisition and management, here are the percentages found by the survey that do so for the following areas:

  • Employee messaging automation: 57 percent
  • Set up employee benefits: 53 percent
  • Set up payroll: 47 percent
  • Background screening/drug testing: 47 percent
  • Archiving candidates: 37 percent
  • Centralize candidate profiles: 31 percent
  • Interview scheduling: 30 percent
  • Search third-party resume databases: 29 percent
  • Performance reviews: 29 percent
  • Employee learning and development: 28 percent
  • Request candidate feedback from hiring managers: 27 percent
  • First-day orientation: 26 percent
  • Continuous candidate engagement: 21 percent
  • Tailored career site experience: 20 percent
  • Employee referral process: 20 percent

 I’ve always been a late adopter of technology, not getting a smartphone, for instance, until fall 2011, but the idea of computers conducting parts of the recruitment and hiring process, and other aspects of Human Resources, is appealing. There are too many times I feel the human factor hasn’t been sympathetic, and has not offered nuanced thinking. More often, the human factor in my career history has purposefully, or thoughtlessly, turned the screws on me. As is true for many of us, it hasn’t been as clear-cut as meet my responsibilities with a high level of work, and be rewarded with a job, or a promotion. For the most part, it’s been, rather, do everything you should, and do it well, and then wait to see how the office politics play out. The great thing about computers is they don’t engage in politics, they don’t experience professional jealousy, and they don’t “like” or “dislike” anybody. They just calculate, recognize patterns, and then deliver the results of their dispassionate analysis. There’s no refusing to let a candidate progress because she might become a competitor, or not giving her work because she carried a bag into the interview from a trade show.

Moreover, computers are wildly more efficient than humans at screening applications. A computer can be programmed to only advance those resumes for consideration that have required experience checked off, are in the right salary range, or have another characteristic the company seeks.

Rather than have the employee come in for an initial interview, a computer could be used to conduct a phone interview, and then another computer could do an in-person interview, in the form of a friendly robot. The computer program could be set up to ask all the typical questions asked at job interviews—experience, a professional challenge that was met, and how it was met, a time when the applicant had a conflict or disagreement with a colleague and how it was handled, and any other question desired by the company. For the in-person (or, I should say in-person/in-robot) experience, the computer could be programmed to take a photo of the applicant at the end of the interview so it could scan the photo for the presence of red flags identified by the company, such as casual wear, messy attire, or shirts with messages. It could be company policy to let the robot flag any potential appearance irregularities rather than leave it up to the hiring manager to review the photo.

After the first three tiers of the process—application gathering, phone interview, and in-person interview—have been completed, the final stage could be handled by a person. By that time, the crop the hiring manager has to choose from is all objectively qualified for the position (no one has been weeded out of the earlier stages for the type of purse they were carrying, or, more seriously, their race or gender).

There’s still a good chance that when the human factor enters the process, a person will be hired for the wrong reason (“I love her, she looks so much like my sister,” or “There’s something weird about her. She reminds me a woman I used to know who I didn’t get along with”), but at least the final round of candidates will all be there because they have objectively proven to be qualified.

Do you think computers can add objectivity and fairness to the hiring process? How can computers, and computers in the form of robots, be used to provide organizations with a better final grouping of candidates?

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