Recruiting Tech: Is a Robot Interview a Good Brand Look?

I often talk and write about the explosion of marketing technology and how it can lead companies to focus on tactical wins while ignoring or hurting long-term consumer brand development. I would also apply the same caution to recruiting technologies.

You get an email from the CEO titled, “How do we become a destination employer?” You know this is a not-so-subtle hint in reference to the last “VP of Sales” candidate who came in a T-shirt, jeans and flip flops; or perhaps it is in reference to the one before, who averted eye contact and often gave one-word responses.

To get ahead of these pitfalls, some companies are using recruiting technology platforms to filter out duds early in the process. While the platforms are indeed powerful and have the potential to add data and structure to a process that has historically been very subjective and disorganized, this is another great example of the “land of shiny objects,” where the ability to do cool things has outpaced the strategic thinking of why things should be done. In this case, we find a budding industry that has built powerful tools to help companies design interviewing and recruiting experiences that work for their needs. However, I was curious as to what impact this is having on the Employer Brand from the perspective of the candidates, and if employers are going to get burned. I spoke to a friend who came across this experience during her job search, and she had some interesting insights to share.

A Candidate’s Experience With Recruiting Tech

Her first assumption, when informed about a video interview, was that it would be over Skype. Her first shock was learning that there would not be another person on the other end; but rather a technology platform, which would ask the questions. “It took me a while to understand that my first interviewer would not be a human. This was unfamiliar territory.” After she realized that she would be talking to a technology platform, her next reaction was a flood of questions, mixed with anxiety.

  • “What questions will it ask?”
  • “How much time will I have to answer questions?”
  • “What if I don’t like my response; can I have a do-over?”
  • “Will the employer be tracking how many do-overs, pauses and breaks I take?”
  • “Will the technology be analyzing facial expressions, ticks, as part of my answer?”

While the technology provider did its best to answer her concerns and was very supportive, there were some anxieties they could not address — such as the underlying reasons why the employer would put various time limits on questions, or if they would track the number of retakes and how that information would be evaluated.

During the interview, she spent hours in a locked room judging her responses and deciding if she should do a re-take or move on. “Being a perfectionist, this was not an easy process. On top of that, the unknowns were frustrating.”

She was eventually called in for an in-person interview and discovered an employer only trying to filter out non-serious candidates before investing time and energy on the next stage. Luckily for the employer, my friend was already familiar with the company, and so her negative experience was tempered by other information. Nevertheless, the experience did not reflect well on the employer.

My Take on Recruiting Tech

Despite my friend’s account, I found clear advantages to using recruiting technology platforms and, as a data-driven business consultant, I would encourage their use. However, I would also strongly suggest that employers think about the Employer Brand and plan more carefully before deploying recruiting technology.

I often talk and write about the explosion of marketing technology and how it can lead companies to focus on tactical wins while ignoring or hurting long-term consumer brand development. I would also apply the same caution to recruiting technologies, because I believe many companies are going to hurt their Employer Brand as they become enamored with new capabilities.

The right solution should begin with a vision of the Employer Brand you are trying to build and answer some important questions, such as:

  • When building the Employer Brand using technology, what will you measure and why?
  • What are the anxieties that might be created by injecting technology into the employer-employee relationship?
  • What are the trade-offs (short-term and long-term)?

While automation may be shrinking the workforce in the next decade or two (maybe not), most expectations are that the need for creative talent will increase. This means that your Employer Brand is likely to be a critical component of how companies will recruit the best creative talent. Getting lost in the land of shiny objects is not something competitive companies will be able to afford.