Industry 4.0, Marketing 4.0, Change 4.0, these days being a little bit “4.0” is standard operating procedure. And thus, we have also come to the term “Recruitment 4.0” in HR – personnel recruitment driven by data and algorithms. Is this development a blessing or a curse?

Have you received several applications for a job? Congratulations! And yet the next hurdle is already waiting for you; how do you find the right person for the job? Welcome to aptitude test and interview hell! My personal record? Two tests, two job interviews and an introduction round of the team – for an entry-level job, mind you. While some companies are taking their testing procedures to the next level, others are increasingly relying on artificial intelligence (AI) to select potential candidates for them.

Meet Vera: When machines conduct job interviews

Tools that use algorithms to search through submitted CVs and verify them against social and professional networks are quite popular, especially with larger companies. The Corona pandemic also saw the rise of digital job interviews. Some companies used platforms such as Zoom or MS Teams for the first time to “get to know each other”, others have been relying on automated interviews for some time. L’Oréal and IKEA, for example, have been using the robot “Vera” since 2018, which can conduct up to 1,500 interviews a day and then send individualised emails (Adelmann & Wiedmer, 2020).

Survival of the conformist

Technology in this field is constantly evolving. Systems such as “HireVue” can analyse not only key words but also voice, facial expressions and body language during standardised interviews and derive psychological characteristics from them. These are then compared with characteristics of high-performing employees or information on job requirements or corporate culture. The candidates are assessed on this basis. The result: A ranking that ultimately determines whether applicants are accepted or rejected. This is because very few recruiters focus on profiles that have not been highlighted by the system as “future top performers” (Adelmann & Wiedmer, 2020).

For me, this trend is somewhat unsettling. In keeping with the motto “birds of a feather flock together”, machines are searching for “corporate conformists”, to put it bluntly. And this at a time when everyone is yearning for more diversity and inclusion? Troublesome. However, some AI and neuroscientist researchers are also sceptical about such tools and doubt their ability to interpret human behaviour – especially in a cross-cultural context (The Washington Post, 2019).

AI in recruiting: A blessing or a curse?

So, what does one gain from the use of artificial intelligence in recruitment processes? Let us look at three aspects in this context:

  1. Use of resources

The potential savings can be huge. Unilever, for example, says it saves around 100,000 hours of interview time and about one million dollars in recruitment costs per year thanks to HireVue. The costs for the software are negligible in comparison. Whether an investment in an AI application is worthwhile, however, depends largely on the size of the company and the average number of vacancies to be filled. 

  1. Decision-making and diversity & inclusion

At first glance, artificial intelligence seems superior in this respect. Machines are objective and therefore make more unbiased decisions when compared to humans. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. There are two things we need to keep in mind:

  • Machines need a large amount of high-quality training data in order to learn. SMEs in particular rarely have these data available.
  • For machines to be able to decide objectively, they need unbiased training. If previous hiring decisions were made based on prejudices, a “learning” algorithm will adopt and possibly even reinforce them. For example, Amazon experienced unintentional discrimination against women. The workforce used to consist mainly of men. That alone made the robot classify men as more suitable candidates.
  1. Candidate experience

Candidate experience can definitely improve with the use of artificial intelligence – especially due to faster response times. On the other hand, I think it can feel very alienating to first have to impress a machine before being worthy enough to be given company time.

Conclusion: It is not all that simple

The “Veras” of this world can greatly relieve the burden on human resources work, and the savings potential can be huge. But the challenges are just as great. Beyond cost-benefit considerations, we should also ask ourselves whether it is ethically justifiable for machines to decide the fate of people. In my opinion, the role of human recruiters will therefore continue to be of high importance in the future.

What is your opinion on this? Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee. I promise there will be no robot!

This is the fourth article in our series, read more here: