Monday, June 26, 2017

Unilever: Algorithms Replace Humans in Hiring Process

Kelsey Gee wrote about Unilever's "radical hiring experiment" in this morning's Wall Street Journal. Gee explained that, "To diversify its candidate pool for early-career roles that are a fast track to management, Unilever has ditched resumes and traditional campus recruiting. Its new process relies on algorithms to sort applicants and targets young potential hires where they spend much of their time: their smartphones."  

Algorithms have analyzed 275,400 job applications to date and chosen 1/2 of those candidates to advance to the next round of evaluation.  At that point, applicants "play a set of 12 short online games designed to assess skills like concentration under pressure and short-term memory."  Roughly 33% of those candidates move on to the next round of evaluation:  a video interview analyzed through artificial intelligence tools.  Finally, the top 300 candidates or so traveled to Unilever for in-person interviews.   The company claims that they saw top notch applicants in this final round, and they hired many of the candidates. 

What are the benefits and risks of this approach?  For Unilever, it enabled them to branch out beyond the usual small number of college campuses from which they recruited.   More and more companies are realizing that they are missing out on top notch talent by relying only on a few "prestigious" schools for recruiting.  This approach also tries to mitigate some of the bias effects from in-person interviewing.  Much has been written lately about the biases and other problems with usual job interviews.  What's the downside?  Perhaps certain types of candidates don't do well with techniques such as video interviews.   What about those online games?  Are you measuring the right types of skills?  What about "soft" skills that are harder to measure?   Companies will have to monitor such efforts to be sure that they aren't filtering out certain types of talented individuals because of the methods chosen.   

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