Posted on 7 Nov 2019
A recent article in the Guardian reported that Unilever saved 100,000 hours of recruitment time in the last year by using AI software to analyse video interviews. The company estimated that this equated to an annual global cost saving of $1 million (£779,865).
Unilever uses AI for graduate recruitment by scanning candidates’ facial expressions, body language and word choice, and checks them against traits that are considered to predict job success.
It makes sense for a multinational such as Unilever to use tools like AI to screen a high volume of candidates within a limited period. It clearly saves management time and speeds up the selection process, which is to everyone’s advantage. But does this signal the end of the road for the face-to-face interview?
The problem with interviews
Interviews are rarely performed as well as they should be because interviewers fail to ask the right questions to find out the information they need to make an effective decision. Some of the reasons behind this are that interviewers are underprepared, they talk too much, they make decisions based on first impressions and they do not follow a logical structure. More often than not, the root cause is that they have never been trained to interview.
A 10-point plan for interview effectiveness
- Do your preparation – Review candidates’ CVs in advance and identify the aspects of their experience to focus on at the interview, including any employment gaps.
- Stick to a structure – Interviews should follow a logical progression to enable the interviewer to manage the discussion and ensure they obtain the information they need to make a fully informed selection decision.
- Choose an appropriate environment – Interviewing is about attracting as well as assessing, so the interview room must be selected carefully to represent the company in the best light.
- Relax the interviewee – There is nothing to be gained by deliberately increasing a candidate’s stress levels, which will already be high. Even if the role they are being interviewed for is stressful, skilful questioning is the way to find out how they handle these situations.
- Ask effective questions – Past and recent performance is proven to be a good indicator of future performance. Get candidates talking by asking big open questions starting with ‘how’, ‘why’ or ‘what’, and use phrases such as ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or ‘Give me an example of when you…’
- Encourage the candidate to talk – As a guide, the applicant should talk for 70% of the time and the interviewer 30%. Use open questions to encourage candidates to talk, and use closed questions, or even interrupt them (politely), if they are over-talkative or evasive.
- Be a conscious listener – Effective listening is not a passive activity. Interviewers need to listen carefully to the candidate’s responses in order to find evidence on which to base the selection decision.
- Note down key information – Make brief notes during the interview of the key points the candidate makes. You will rely on them in order to make the selection decision, and you may need them to justify your decision if an unsuccessful candidate challenges it.
- Play the attraction game – Interviews are an important PR exercise, and all interviewees must be treated professionally and with respect, regardless of whether or not they get the job. So leave them the impression that yours is an organisation worth working for, and it’s a job worth having.
- Close the meeting professionally – Allow interviewees to ask questions at the end of the meeting and explain the next stage. Tell them the date by which they will be informed of the outcome and stick to it. If necessary, allow yourself more time than you need, so there is no chance of missing the deadline.
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