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Can A Robot Take Bias Out Of The Interview Process?

Researchers say they have created the world's first unbiased robot that conducts job interviews. She has just been released in English from her Swedish company.
Researchers say they have created the world's first unbiased robot that conducts job interviews. She has just been released in English from her Swedish company.

Video job interviews are becoming the norm, especially during COVID-19. But there is some question as to how fairly you are evaluated in this medium.

CNBC reports 8 out of 10 job interviews are being conducted over video screens, and even after the pandemic, Northern Kentucky University's Emma Walker expects them to continue. She directs NKU's Business Experience Program.

One thing candidates cannot control are biases from those doing the interviewing. A new study from Missouri University of Science and Technology finds video interviewees, in large part, do not get the same treatment as in-person candidates.

The study looked at 84 participants in 21 job interviews judging likability, competence and hireability.

The results showed large differences, with video observers rating the applicant substantially worse across all measures. Differences could even be seen in the adjectives participants used to describe the applicant. Face-to-face passive participants chose words like “experienced” and “intelligent,” to describe the applicant, while VMC passive participants used “unprepared” and “unenthusiastic.”

The researchers suggest interviewing all the participants the same way.

Pre-COVID, Walker had students getting ready for real job interviews with robots in an online program. "We found this to be very beneficial and honestly, it's prepared our students for this unforeseen pandemic," she says.

Now, robots may play a role in changing bias. Tengai is the world's first unbiased social interview robot, according to the company who makes and programs her. CEO Elin Öberg Mårtenzon says Tengai functions as a blind interviewer.

"She doesn't care about age or gender or ethnicity or race," says Öberg Mårtenzon. "She only listens to your voice and your voice is being transcribed into data and data is connected to behavioral science."

Here's Tengai promoting a trade show. Recently she was released in English. Tengai used to speak only Swedish.


Years of studying analytics has shaped Tengai to be unbiased, according to her company.

Analytics also shape impressions at other companies using software and robotics. EMI Labs promotes "better recruiting during the pandemic."

This 2019 story from WVXU reports on HireVue and Humantic - two other companies using artificial intelligence to help with hiring.

NKU's Emma Walker is a little skeptical. "I think it's a really neat concept, I really do," she says. "I think that there's still some work to be done."

Copyright 2020 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.