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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.

Early this year, Chaylene Martinez accidentally hit the “record” tab during a video job interview with SkyWest Airlines, and before she realized her mistake the video of her interview was already uploaded to the company.

In a now viral TikTok video, Ms. Martinez can be seen practising for the interview, except she’s completely unaware it’s the real deal. The video caught her lighthearted chat with a friend to whom she’s heard saying a particular interview question about the company’s culture seemed “cheesy.”

The prospective employee of the airline – who was interviewing for a flight attendant position – had botched her one and only shot to impress the algorithm. Ms. Martinez’s clearly mortified reaction when she realizes her mistake appears to have struck a chord. Suffice to say, she didn’t get the job.

Ms. Martinez is among a growing number of candidates who were invited to interviews through asynchronous video interview, or AVI, platforms embedded with artificial intelligence. AVIs are automated interviews where candidates record their answers to predetermined questions on video.

More and more organizations are using artificial intelligence technology for their hiring process. AVIs are a preferred choice for large companies that receive and have to process hundreds or thousands of applicants.

A Gartner survey of 334 human resources leaders in 2020 showed that 86 per cent had used some form of virtual technology to interview candidates during the pandemic.

Although the AVI technology itself is not new, demand for it has soared in the past two years.

Organizations say using AI allows them to expand the candidate pool and ensure consistency in hiring practices, but applicants subjected to a chat with a robot are unhappy and maintain the experience was stressful and dehumanizing.

Maintaining eye-contact

Caron Mitchell, an accounting professional, was invited to an AVI with a tech startup. She had 30 seconds to read each of the four questions and two minutes to articulate her answer.

“You’re at a tremendous disadvantage as a candidate when it’s a one-way street,” Ms. Mitchell told Axios, an online news portal. “I’m used to reading people, and there was nothing there for me to read.”

Ms. Mitchell said she couldn’t get herself to relax because she was distracted by the clock. So, when she received a rejection by e-mail, she wasn’t surprised.

The videos typically are scrutinized by algorithms and facial recognition software that analyze, among other things, grammar, facial expressions and tone to define the attributes of the candidates. The algorithms determine if the candidate is resilient, a team player and has communication skills.

Some experts say while AI can accurately identify images to discern differences, it may not have the intuitive ability to predict social outcomes such as whether the candidate will succeed at a job. The robot may also not be able to evaluate traits such as sense of humour, empathy and irony.

The other pitfalls of interviewing with a robot? Bias. All AI systems are vulnerable to bias. In 2018, Amazon abandoned a machine-learning program to recruit candidates after developers realized the tool discriminated against female candidates.

The ‘human’ way

Contrast the cringe-worthy-no-retake approach of AVI interviews to a more compassionate practice adopted by a Toronto organization.

Paul Taylor, executive director of FoodShare Toronto, recently announced his organization would compensate all short-listed candidates $75 when they showed up for an interview. Mr. Taylor said FoodShare Toronto would also e-mail candidates the questions 48 hours prior to their interview. And, if the job seeker had to undertake some additional prep work such as creating a presentation or plan, the non-profit would compensate them and pay the position’s hourly rate as well.

“We recognize preparing for an interview is labour-intensive,” Mr. Taylor said. “Candidates may have to take time off from work, pay for commute, and secure child-care needs. And, if someone’s unemployed and applying for several jobs and not getting any call backs, they are also watching their savings dwindle. The $75 can make a significant difference. It could mean that person will eat that week.”

FoodShare Toronto, which serves to address roots of food insecurity and poverty, has other progressive policies in place as well. These include paying all employees a living wage ($24 an hour), a no-interest emergency loan, 20 days of wellness vacation, 10 personal days off in addition to four weeks of vacation. The organization has a 1 to 3 salary ratio, meaning the executive director and other top-paid employees can’t make more than three times the salary of the lowest-paid employee.

“I believe capitalism has given workers the short end of a stick in a big way,” Mr. Taylor said. “And many of us have assumed that’s the way it has to be. We need to dream in colour and be ambitious about the kind of life we want.”

What I’m reading around the web

  • The ability to learn a new skill has become crucial today, but can you gauge what skills are in demand? This article in SitePoint provides three research-based strategies, including a framework that offers help on how to structure learning outside of education.
  • Gravity as a source of energy? Who knew? This article in BGR showcases how Australian engineering company Fortescue Future Industries has developed the world’s first infinity train. The infinity train recharges its battery using gravity instead of relying on renewable energy generation.
  • This article on BBC says between COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine disrupting the world economy, every organization needs disaster recovery plans, but it appears no one has one. Enter, Gianluca Pescaroli, a global expert in risk management, and more specifically in how businesses and other organizations can best plan for, and cope with, the impact of a crisis.
  • Your company’s not your family. This story in ideas.ted.com says when companies overuse the word “family,” it harms a company’s culture and its employees’ morale.

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