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The robot will see you now: could AI streamline the recruitment process?

Robots have been used to carry out routine HR work such as gathering data on job applicants and sending follow-up letters

Ikea Moscow used Robot Vera to conduct preliminary interviews and provide feedback to applicants.

Ikea Moscow used Robot Vera to conduct preliminary interviews and provide feedback to applicants.

 

How many times have you applied for a job, waited anxiously for an offer or a refusal and never heard anything back? Once or twice in your working lifetime, most likely.

But could a robot streamline the recruitment process, and is a rejection letter from a robot better than no letter at all?

This year, the Washington Post reported that Ikea Moscow used Robot Vera to conduct preliminary interviews and provide feedback to applicants.

Anne Keegan, professor of human resource management at the College of Business, University College Dublin, explains Robot Vera.

“Robot Vera is a video-enhanced chatbot that uses machine learning to continuously refine her conversational skills based on more and more practice with applicants. Robot Vera recognises emotions and gathers data based on the answers given by job applicants to her questions. She then distinguishes applicants based on this information to make predictions about job suitability. She also sends follow-up letters to applicants,” she says.

The introduction of AI into this kind of routine HR work may not displace HR people as much as expand or possibly improve their services to end users, she says.

“I say possibly, because not all job applicants will be happy with the use of AI to carry out job interviews. Companies need to consider the impact of using AI to carry out HR work and applicant reactions to these new practices.”

The question also needs to be asked, are people happy being interviewed and possibly rejected by a robot and will it impact on their view of the company brand overall.

Working with AI and robotics also creates news types of work. Evidence suggests AI needs to be supervised to monitor if outcomes are ethically or legally acceptable.

‘Biased outcomes’

“In HR, where automated CV screening leads to biased outcomes, for example in terms of gender or race, organisations should be aware and react appropriately. The perceived threat of AI should be considered in terms of both employees and service users,” Keegan says.

In terms of actually hiring a robot, Owen Lewis, partner in management consulting at KPMG Ireland says this is a somewhat “trite phrase invented to be provocative”.

“We don’t recruit a 5-axis precision lathe into our engineering workshop, or hire a cloud platform to manage our data. Perhaps in the future we might be hiring humanoids to be part of our home or work lives but for now I would like to think we hire amazing people and help them be even more amazing by giving them some pretty exciting technology in their toolboxes,” he says.

Lewis says there is a serious question for organisations to ask themselves around “hiring a robot”.

“Do we want to have robots working directly for us or should we outsource design and the run of work that robots do to an organisation that can operate this as a service, in order to let our organisations focus on doing what is core to our business. Getting back to the basic question of what’s core to your organisation is an important yardstick,” he says.

However, hiring robots can benefit the workplace and make employees’ lives easier, he adds.

“Freeing up humans to do more exciting, value-added and meaningful work has always been the underlying value of technology and this is no different with AI and robotics. Just think how much good we can add to the world if we can take the robot out of the human and give the human space to be truly intelligent,” he says.