HireVue: A face-scanning algorithm decides whether you deserve the job

While we observe more and more recruiting processes are automated, HireVue is providing AI-driven interview analytics. Are you comfortable when they say your facial expression can tell whether you are qualified for the job?



The article from the Washington Post talks about HireVue, the recruiting-technology firm. HireVue’s AI-driven recruiting system is widely used for the recruiting process of well-known companies such as Unilever, Hilton, vodafone, Oracle, etc. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/10/22/ai-hiring-face-scanning-algorithm-increasingly-decides-whether-you-deserve-job/)


In case you are not familiar with HireVue (like me) and since the article is substantially long, let me summarize things about HireVue.

1. Background
HireVue launched its AI assessment service in 2014 as an add-on to its video-interview software, which more than 700 companies have used for nearly 12 million interviews worldwide. The company’s revenue and a full list of clients are not disclosed.

2. Product; Video interview analytics
HireVue records job candidates’ interviews and analyzes their facial movements, word choice, and speaking voice. It uses a proprietary algorithm to compare candidates’ assessment results to the results of high achievers of the companies. HireVue claims that it can measure how candidates score on various competencies, which may include communication skills, compassion, empathy, and the ability to work in a team or make prudent decisions.

3. The benefit of the product; HireVue claims;
HireVue provides time and cost saving to employers. For example, Unilever said it saved 100,000 hours of human recruitment time in a year by using HireVue. It also claims the system generates more consistent and predictable selection results without human biases.
HireVue also provides candidates better experience and accessibility since it leverages digital devices.

4. The algorithms and how it analyzes and selects;
HireVue doesn’t disclose much about algorithms both to protect trade secrets and because the company doesn’t always know how the system decides on who gets labeled a “future top performer.”


The article tries to make a balance between proponents, namely executives of HireVue, and some opponents, although it leans toward skeptical view overall.

I do agree with the skepticism. Although consistent, structured interviews and analyses can help companies mitigate the issue of human error and biases, it is not clear how accountable the system and algorithms are.

First and foremost, the unique proposition of the system, analyzing facial expression, depends on a false assumption of “universal facial expression”. While facial expression can tell many things about a person, not everyone and every culture share the same facial expression. For instance, people from East Asia (like me) don’t have much facial expression to read when they have a conversation, especially in a formal situation like an interview. The facial expression doesn’t tell us context as well. As an example from the article, a scowling can appear when people are not only angry but concentrating really hard or confused.

Second, it is not clear how HireVue’s assessment can be connected to that of high achievers. Is there something unique as well as common about facial expression, word choice, and speaking voice of high achievers?

Third, HireVue might select the same type of candidates who share similar culture, background, etc., resulting in less diversity and discouraging non-native speakers. To make things worse, as the article mentioned, the recruiters like the platform because it saves tons of time for them. The recruiters don’t have interest and time to look who wasn’t selected by AI, once they decided to use the system.
Sarah Smart, Hilton International’s vice president of global recruitment, said the system has radically redrawn Hilton’s hiring rituals, allowing the company to churn through applicants at lightning speed. Hiring managers inundated with applicants can now just look at who the system ranked highly and filter out the rest: “It’s rare for a recruiter to need to go out of that range,” she said.

I am sure the AI and data analytics will be the main tool for future recruiting and hiring. However, I want that to happen when we have more transparent and scientifically proven solutions.











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Student comments on HireVue: A face-scanning algorithm decides whether you deserve the job

  1. Very interesting article! Some thoughts:

    A fair amount of AI has a “black box” problem, where we cram in data on one side and get results out the other, but can’t explain what happened in between. As predictive analytics gets more complex (e.g. using neural networks) it gets harder to explain exactly what factors contributed to the results, whereas interpretation is easy with say a linear regression.

    It seems that HireVue’s analytics fall into this black box category, since it’s stated that the company doesn’t always know how their system makes it decisions. However, in this particular case it may actually be an advantage for HireVue itself. Often, hiring companies won’t tell candidates the reason for their rejection, in case it leads to a discrimination lawsuit. With this black box AI, they literally can’t tell their candidates why they were accepted or rejected.

    Completely agree that HireVue AI can lead to less diversity. However, simply removing the AI wouldn’t solve the problem – the human recruiters likely share the same bias. I believe what’s needed is a very intentional effort on companies’ part to use AI to diversify their talent pools as well as predict performance. For instance, AI could be used to select interviewers with dissimilar backgrounds, who would provide very different perspectives on a given candidate.

  2. Interesting article!
    I wonder to what extent HireVue provides customization to its clients. Do they alter what their algorithms consider as high-potential candidates depending on the organization and the type of role it is hiring for? For example, while agreeing with many of the concerns raised in your blog, I can imagine that facial expressions, tone of voice, and word choice would be a pretty useful indicator of a candidate’s fit for a sales job or other client-facing roles, but perhaps not as necessary if you were hiring an engineer (Of course communication skills is important regardless of the job, but I think there are varying degrees).

    I would also be curious to know when and how this tool is used within the recruiting process. For example, is this the only tool that is used, or do employers supplement if with other tools or processes? Is it generally used for the initial screening process, or can it be used further down the recruiting process?

  3. I have made my post about HireVue as well! Last year, for one of the internship opportunities, I experienced HireVue myself. Even though the process is quite user-friendly and you can use multiple opportunities to record the best video and try over and over, I still feel that HireVue lacks human touch and should not take over the recruiting process altogether. In the article I covered there is even stronger argument that HireVue might be biased against disabled people, that is very unfair.

  4. As many others have said, I am concerned about how this technology could widen the gap in income distribution in the U.S. Given that humans have a tendency to like and invest in people who are similar (or who they deem similar) to themselves, we now have a concentration of wealth and top caliber employment opportunities among those with similar backgrounds (family education/income levels, individual schooling, etc.). HireVue seems to reinforce these existing and problematic trends. I could see the same technology being used by potential VC investors. i.e. how does this company leader compare to past successful leaders. All in all I find HireVue scary, and while I recognize the time saving benefits, I think the societal costs are too great.

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