What If Job Interviews Were Automated?

New study shows that computers can predict how applicants will do at interviews

Job Interview
Bernd Vogel/Corbis

The ritual of the interviw is nerve-wracking for interviewees and laborious for interviewers. But what if the process of selecting the right candidate for a job were automated? Heads up—the future of job interviews might just involve computerized analysis of your performance.

New research shows that computers can analyze the facial expressions, language and tone of interviewees and predict how humans would rate their performance. In the study, a team from the University of Rochester used computers to observe and interpret both non-verbal and verbal behavior during face-to-face interviews. They did so with footage from 138 mock interviews with 69 would-be interns at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The team didn’t just have nearly 11 hours of interviews at their disposal—they had ratings and hiring recommendations provided by the original interviewers. In order to remove potential bias from the interactions, the team turned to Amazon Mechanical Turk to rate the interviewer’s performance, too. Then they used the data to train a computer algorithm to predict how people would rate each aspect of an interviewee’s performance.

The algorithm wasn’t just able to predict how each interviewee would fare—it also provided insight into the most important behaviors of winning job interviewees. It turns out that staying focused is the most important thing you can do in an interview, followed by things like showing enthusiasm, speaking in an engaging tone of voice, avoiding awkwardness and displaying what the team calls “an appropriate smile.”

While you practice your smile, you may be worried that computers will soon be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not you get the job. The researchers have a different idea—they say their research could be used to help give underprivileged youth the feedback that could help them master complicated interviews or train customer service professionals. Translation: computers won’t be doing the hiring…yet.

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