Does technology now trump human interaction?  

As technology changes and advances, many of the products and processes we use also change for efficiency or simply to survive in a new, technologically advanced market. So, when it comes to hiring new employees, it should be no surprise that the standard hiring process is also seeing some changes that rely more on technology. But is the efficiency these changes may offer actually effective? If so, does this gain in efficiency outweigh the advantages of creating an in-person relationship? Jeff Forbes, Managing Partner, Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette (KBRS), says he is not so sure.

“There is an ongoing question around the effectiveness of face-to-face [F2F] interviews and the alternative, a video interview, which could be you and I having a video interview live, or it could be you sending me a video of something that gives me an idea of your resume and your background. And then the next leap is we never talk, I never see you, and I pick you based on an online assessment,” Forbes explains. And it is this software-generated assessment that many organizations are now saying is the way to go, according to Forbes, but he is not sold.

In fact, Forbes says experts conclude, “A face-to-face interview is 10 to14 per cent more effective than specific online assessments, and there is a much higher percentage of value given to the interview process.”

“We have our own, professional dedicated Talent Acquisition Team dedicated to finding people that fit our organization. So, they are skilled at identifying screening and interviewing to help us choose the right talent,” says Mike Roberts, chief human resource officer at Emera Inc.

Roberts adds that for a company like Emera, that is geographically dispersed, “… being able to close that distance using technology is an advantageous tool for us. Having said that, we almost never hire anyone based solely on a video interview.”

But the issue has become a “hotly contested debate” with a variety of opinions from employers and experts across the board, says Nicolas Roulin, associate professor of I/O psychology, Saint Mary’s University.

You have smaller companies that still see the F2F interview as the gold standard, but you also now have companies, such as HireVue a global firm that is bringing online hiring into the mainstream, says Roulin, author of The Psychology of Job Interviews, and whose area of expertise is personnel selection.

 “The question then becomes, how many successful hires does HireVue make when they do more online assessments versus face-to-face?” He adds that while hiring based on an algorithm may work for HireVue “when you pick a professional services firm, you also have to ask how important is it for that company to go eyeball-to-eyeball and see how this person presents, because that is what they will be doing in professional services.”

Roberts says the video process is effective to help them decide which candidates to bring to Halifax, which can be costly and time consuming, depending on where the candidate is situated. He adds, though, that “An interview is much more than a simple question and answer. It’s everything from the nature of their presence to their eye contact, and when we are in a room with someone I can see how they process information and how they communicate much better than maybe through a video connection.”

The other fact, Roberts says is that “When you are looking for top talent, like we do, sometimes, we are the ones selling to the candidate who has multiple options. We have a high conversion rate when we can get them in our building and let them meet the people they will be working with. It’s a big advantage in attracting top talent to our organization.”

Forbes adds that beyond this, there is also the question of cultural fit. “How do you assess a cultural fit if you never meet someone, socialize with them?”

There is definitely an advantage to F2F interviews, “… based on decades of research, if done correctly, it works quite well,” Roulin adds, but it can also become quite costly when you have multiple candidates.  “The advantage of a video-based interview is that it can reduce some of those costs.”

Roulin says a newer hiring approach some organizations are using is AI-based programs that use the content of a video to score an applicant based on set criteria.  “The software will basically learn to identify different features in the video that they can score based, for instance, on the content of the questions, their physical display, such as facial features, fidgeting, tension etc. during the response. It can also score based on their tone of voice, how patient they are when they answer, how fast they speak  and a lot of different things like that. It can be anything you want to teach the machine to identify and then score,” he explains.

While this approach may seem like it provides the best of all interview techniques, Roulin warns that we still know very little in terms of how effective it is. More importantly, he adds, “It’s almost frightening in that the machine doesn’t make the decision, you teach the machine what to identify and then it just does it,” which can leave the door wide open for bias.

Roberts says, “Right now, I trust the professionals in our talent acquisition group over an algorithm.” Forbes and Roulin agree, saying there simply isn’t enough data right now to show that an algorithm can completely replace the one-on-one connection. Ultimately, Forbes says, “I think there is benefit to using all of these techniques, if you have the option.”

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