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How bots can help you get hired in a pandemic

BY Barbara Hyman

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Although the use of AI in recruitment is not new, experts say it will play a bigger role in the jobs market heats up after dealing with COVID-19.

Natasha BoddyWork & Careers reporter, Aug 18, 2020 – 9.14 am
Original article: https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/careers/how-bots-can-help-you-get-hired-in-a-pandemic-20200722-p55efz

How did you deal with a change in your life?

What motivates you?

What is a valuable lesson you’ve learnt from a prior colleague?

They sound like the questions you’d ordinarily get asked in a job interview – except this particular interview is being conducted by a hiring bot.

Welcome to the new world of job interviews, where robots are the ones doing the hiring.

Although artificial intelligence being used in recruitment is not new, experts predict it will continue to rise in popularity as competition in the jobs market heats up due to COVID-19.

On average, job seekers are having to apply for 20 to 25 jobs before securing employment, said Trini Nixon, regional director of talent management at recruiter Hudson.

She said AI was growing in popularity as a recruitment tool, being a much faster and more efficient way to screen applicants.

“That in itself creates a much more positive and engaging experience for applicants when they’re able to get responses at each of the milestones,” she said.

AI can also help candidates put their best foot forward, according to Sam Zheng, chief executive and co-founder of conversational AI start-up Curious Thing.

Interview by text message

“This is because a recruiter may not have time to talk to everybody but an AI does,” he said.

AI can be used to discover many things about applicants, such as their fit for the role, their personality, their communication skills and their tendency to move around jobs, said Barb Hyman, chief executive of PredictiveHire, a Melbourne-based tech firm that uses AI to filter job applicants.

In the wake of COVID-19, PredictiveHire has launched a new function that lets job seekers be interviewed by text message.

Candidates answer a series of questions by text, with their responses analysed by AI, and then get personalised feedback.

“I know it’s hard to believe, but what we can learn from 200 words is a hell of a lot and that’s because it’s about the questions you ask. You have to ask questions which really get to you and your experience – what we call behavioural questions,” Ms Hyman said.

Ms Hyman said chat-based interviews addressed some of the big failures of current assessments of young people: ghosting (not hearing back about job applications), bias and trust.

“In all of these roles … it doesn’t matter what you look like, what matters is your traits or your behaviours, are you someone I can rely on, do you get on with people,” she said.

Ms Nixon said although AI did reduce bias, it was important to remember it was built off algorithms.

“We need to make AI continually learn from those mistakes and get smarter and smarter, otherwise we’re working on an algorithm that’s not correct and that I think does have some perils that we need to be really conscious of,” she said.

Ms Hyman said feedback from candidates showed they found chat-based interviews much more comfortable than other styles of interviews, such as video.

Tips for dealing with hiring bots

When applying for a job where AI is involved, Ms Hyman gives the same advice as she would for an in-person interview.

“Be yourself,” she said. “If you try and game the system, the system will find you out.

“In our case, we can identify when someone has plagiarised, we can identify profanity, we know the top sites graduates use to source answers and we can reveal that to our customers.”

Mr Zheng agreed applicants should not try to game the system.

“Every AI runs with different algorithms and a method like this might ultimately penalise you,” he said.

“For example, at Curious Thing, our AI will notice if a candidate is piling on keywords without connecting them into a well-structured and coherent answer with strong reasoning. The best results will come from you being authentic.

Mr Zheng said it was important for applicants to remember AI was essentially information collection tools designed to analyse provided information.

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