Job interviews are rarely fun for everyone on both sides of the table. For candidates there is the pressure to perform, to balance between doing and saying the right thing and being enough of ‘themselves’ to give the recruiter or the team leader a good idea of what they will bring to the team. And for recruiters and managers, they involve taking time out from their other duties, matching resumes with actual candidates, and getting a feel for who fits what role – if any. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used in recruiting for some time, usually as a first filter for potentially hundreds of resumes – though it has a very checkered history, including the imposition of a kind of “digital intolerance” or “digital misogyny.” .’ But both AI and virtual reality could play an increasing role in ensuring your company gets the staff it needs – in a hiring process that stands a chance to level the playing field and erase some ingrained biases.
An inconvenient truth
What ingrained prejudices?
We’re sorry to tell you this, white folks, but you’re inherently more racist than you think. However, don’t take our word for it – research by Katherine DeCelles and colleagues at the Harvard Business School proved that candidates from ethnic minorities nearly got twice as many interviews as they just “whitewash” their name. And that’s before they entered the door.
There also is a built-in misogyny in the hiring process – apart from the data showing that men typically apply to jobs for which they only meet 60% of the job requirements, while women typically only apply to jobs where they feel they fit 100% of the job profile, there is the unfortunate probability that hiring managers (certainly male at least) will have an unconscious tendency to hire a masculine presenting male when one is available from a range of equally qualified candidates of opposite sexes and genders.
All this in an unfortunate hangover of the nature of Western society, which is essentially a pyramid of trapdoors, with wealthy, white, cis, male-presenting, heterosexual, non-disabled, conventionally attractive people at the top, and anyone who differs in some degree from that combination going down the pyramid, one hatch for each point of difference. The more we learn, the more trapdoors we uncover, including one for people with neurodivergence and one for (especially) women who have children (supporting the societal misogyny behind the idea that under “normal” circumstances, women should be the primary caregivers in a family, and therefore may not be able to fully focus on their work).
While we may not be on purpose biased against anyone in the world, much of our Western people’s decision-making paradigm has been shaped by this pyramid, resulting in the continued bias against candidates from ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities or neurodivergence, and others who at least one have trapdoor against them.
The misogynistic AI
AI, as we mentioned, was originally conceived as a way to weed out this learned intolerance – after all, machines don’t have emotions and therefore shouldn’t be able to learn disdainful impressions from one group or another. Unfortunately, AI depends on two things for its neutrality: the mindset and understanding level of its programmers, and the data set from which the learning process begins.
That was a combination legendary abandoned in the past. In particular, no less a company than Amazonwho used AI to select candidates for high-ranking employees found that the algorithm selected negatively against qualified women because, tellingly, they did not match previous human employees for similar positions in one key respect: they were not men.
After unsuccessfully trying to correct the algorithm for some time, Amazon disbanded the team working on the AI recruiting algorithm and reverted to human judgment.
The virtual reality difference
But a combination of AI and virtual reality could turn the tide. Certainly, there are currently steps towards a virtual reality interview education model, where candidates can, for example, test themselves in a virtual reality interview scenario (with avatars that can have random names and avatars that allow the candidate to present as they would like).
Companies such as Bodyswaps in the UK are already developing these interview practice modules in virtual reality, allowing candidates, with an AI component acting as an interviewer, to hone their application skills and possibly overcoming any inherent societal biases of human interviewers.
The purpose of these virtual reality interview practice modules is not only to build a candidate’s confidence, but also to provide useful feedback on what they did wrong and right so that they can improve their performance in their next interview. In a sense, the use of AI and virtual reality can gamify the application process, allowing candidates to keep trying until the virtual interviewer is willing to offer them the job.
While every company and team is necessarily different, this kind of no-stakes but real-time interview practice module can potentially increase a candidate’s chances of landing a role in which they can shine significantly.
Real-time virtual reality interviews?
However, in addition to interview preparation, there are companies that develop and deploy virtual reality and AI in combination to provide a full, live interview experience.
From major players like Microsoft (through its HoloLens mixed reality offering) to independent SMBs offering virtual reality interview software to companies and recruiters, the demand for virtual reality interview technology is growing across industries.
Not only can it put candidates at ease, but it can sincerely remove some of the inherent societal biases from the process, because with an AI interviewing an avatar, even the algorithm is based not so much on previous people in the position as on the position and what the candidate actually says in the interview, disconnected from ethnic and gender biases.
In addition, companies are finding that the sometimes stilted responses of a face-to-face video interview are greatly alleviated by using AI interviews in virtual reality.
Between reducing bias, increasing candidate confidence, and delivering a more natural, intuitive response for more ideal candidates, virtual reality interviewing is becoming a technology solution that can help overcome the ever-growing workforce shortage where the technology industry is facing.