Job interviews are rarely fun for someone on either side of the table. There is pressure on candidates to perform, to walk the tightrope between doing and saying the right things, and being “themselves” enough to give the recruiter or team leader a real sense of what they will bring to the team. And for recruiters and managers, that means taking time away from their other responsibilities, comparing resumes to real candidates, and getting a sense of who fits which role—if at all. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used in recruitment for some time, usually as a first-stage filter for potentially hundreds of CVs – although it has had a very checkered history that has included imposing a kind of ‘digital bigotry’ or ‘digital misogyny’. .’ However, both artificial intelligence and virtual reality could play an increasing role in ensuring your company gets the employees it needs – in a recruitment process that has a chance to level the playing field and erase some ingrained biases.
Which ingrained prejudices?
Sorry to break it to you white people, but you are inherently more racist than you think. But don’t take our word for it—research by Katherine DeCelles and colleagues at Harvard Business School found that ethnic minority candidates received nearly twice like many interviews where they simply “whitewashed” their names. And that was before they walked in the door.
There’s also built-in misogyny in the hiring process – completely despite data showing that men will typically apply for jobs they only meet 60% of the role requirements for, while women will typically only apply for jobs they feel they meet full 100% of the role profile, there is an unfortunate likelihood that hiring managers (certainly male, at least) will have an unconscious bias towards hiring a male representative when one is available from a pool of equally qualified candidates of a different gender and sex.
All this in an unfortunate hangover from the nature of Western society, which is essentially a trapdoor pyramid, with rich, white, cis, male, heterosexual, non-disabled, conventionally attractive people at the top, and everyone who differs to some degree from this combination moving down the pyramid by one trapdoor for each difference. The more we learn, the more traps we uncover, including one for people with neurodivergence and one for women (especially) who have children (which promotes the societal misogyny behind the idea that women “should” under “normal” circumstances be the primary caregivers in family, so they may not be able to fully concentrate on their work).
Although we may not be intentionally with prejudice against anyone in the world, much of our Western paradigm for making decisions about people has been shaped by this pyramid, resulting in continued bias against ethnic minority candidates, women, the disabled or neurodivergent, and others who have at least one trap door against them.
As we said before, AI was initially supposed to be a way to get rid of these learned bigotry – after all, machines have no emotions and therefore should not be able to learn disparaging impressions of one group or another. Unfortunately, in its neutrality, artificial intelligence depends on two things – the way of thinking and the level of understanding of its programmers, and the data set from which the learning process begins.
This was a combination that had let it down in the past, according to legend. In particular, no less a company than Amazon, which used artificial intelligence to select high-level employee candidates, found that the algorithm negatively selected against qualified women because they did not match previous people hired for similar positions in one important way—they were not men.
After unsuccessfully trying to fix the algorithm for some time, Amazon disbanded the team that worked on the AI hiring algorithm and reverted to human judgment.
The difference in virtual reality
But the combination of artificial intelligence and virtual reality could change the development. Sure, there are currently moves towards virtual reality interviewing training a model where, for example, candidates can test themselves in a virtual reality interview scenario (with avatars that can have names randomly and avatars that allow the candidate to present themselves however they would like).
Companies like UK-based Bodyswaps are already developing these virtual reality practice interview modules that allow candidates to hone their interview skills with an AI component that acts as an interviewer. and potentially overcoming any inherent social biases on the part of human interviewers.
The purpose of these virtual reality interview practice modules is not only to build the candidate’s confidence, but also to provide useful feedback on what he did wrong and what he did well so that he can improve his performance in the next interview. In a sense, the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality can enrich the interview process, so that candidates can continue to try until the virtual interviewer is ready to offer them the job.
While every company and every team is necessarily different, this kind of no-stakes but real-time interview practice module can potentially improve a candidate’s chances of landing a role where they can really shine.
Interviews in virtual reality in real time?
However, beyond interview preparation, there are companies that are developing and deploying virtual reality and artificial intelligence in combination to deliver a full-fledged live interview.
From big players like Microsoft (through its HoloLens mixed reality offering) to independent SMEs offering virtual reality interview software to companies and recruiters, demand for virtual reality interview technology is growing across all industries.
Not only can it give candidates relative peace of mind, but it can really remove some of the inherent social biases from the process, because with AI interviewing an avatar, the algorithm is not based so much on previous people in the role, but on the job role and what the candidate actually says in the interview, disconnected from ethnic and gender bias.
Additionally, companies are finding that the sometimes tumultuous reactions to face-to-face video interviews are significantly mitigated by using AI-based virtual reality interviews.
Between reducing bias, boosting candidate confidence, and providing a more natural, intuitive response for more ideal candidates, virtual reality interviews are emerging as a technology solution that can help overcome the ever-increasing workforce shortages that the tech industry in particular is suffering from.