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Your next job interview could be conducted by a bias-free robot



Tengai is a robot designed to conduct unbiased job interviews, currently being tested by recruiters in Sweden.

Tengai, the job interview robot, is designed with human-like facial features and speech patters to seem "much less scary or strange compared to a more traditional robot" according to its developers
(Image via BBC)

Developed by Furhat Robotics, Tengai has a human-like computer interface that mimics speech patterns and facial expressions as she interviews potential employees. 

At just 41cm tall, and weight 3.5kg, she sits on top of a desk at around eye level with the candidates and performs a standardised interview free from any unconscious biases that a human interviewer can unwittingly bring to the hiring process - such as assumptions based on gender, ethnicity, voice, education, appearance or any unrelated information from the pre-interview conversation.

“It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision. We want to challenge that,” said Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, recruitment firm TNG’s chief innovation officer, who is responsible for testing Tengai.

“For example, if I ask a question at the beginning of the process like: ‘Do you play golf?’ and you say: ‘Yes I do, I love playing golf’, and I do too, then in some way I will put that in a positive box.”

With Tengai, there is no pre-interview chat. The robot gets straight to business with questions posed in an identical way, in the same tone and the same order from person to person - creating a level field for each interviewee. 

Petra Elisson is one of the recruiters who has been helping to test Tengai's artificial intelligence
(Image via BBC)

Though its structure is robotic, the team have spent four years making Tengai’s speech and subtle facial expressions as human as possible, so interviewees can still feel comfortable talking to a machine.

“I was quite sceptical at first before meeting Tengai, but after the meeting I was absolutely struck,” said Petra Elisson, a healthcare recruiter who has worked with Tengai both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

“At first I really, really felt it was a robot, but when going more deeply into the interview I totally forgot that she’s not human.”

Tengai conducts an interview in a consistent and bias free way, sending a transcript of the conversation to recruiters to make the final decision
(Image via BBC)

After the interview is completed, Tengai sends a text transcript to the recruiters or managers so they are able to decide which candidates move to the next stage, based on nothing more than their answers.

“I think it is a really good help while screening - if you have a big recruitment process with a lot of candidates - having someone, a robot, with no emotions, no feelings.” said Elisson.

Gabriel Skantze designed Tengai to be free from bias and hopes that soon it will be able to perform the entire interview and decision making process itself
(Image via BBC)

Eventually Furhat want Tengai’s AI to become sophisticated enough to decide for herself which candidates should move forward to the next stage. 

“Before we can completely rely on that, we have to make sure that there is no bias in our data,” explained Gabriel Skantze, Furhat’s chief scientist.

To ensure that the robot doesn’t pick up any unconscious biases from the humans programming it, Furhat are developing Tengai’s artificial intelligence using multiple test interviews from a diverse pool of volunteers.

“It’s learning from several different recruiters so it doesn’t pick up the specific behaviour of one recruiter,” said Skantze.

Tengai has been tested by a diverse pool of recruiters, learning from each one to eliminate any built-in biases
(Image via Furhat)

Non-profit foreign workers rights campaign group, Diversity Foundation, have voiced their approval for the design.

“Any method that emphasises competency and skills over things like ethnicity is a welcome development and truly part of the Swedish innovation spirit,” said the foundation’s chief operating officer Matt Kriteman.

Furhat Robotics intend to use Tengai for real-life interviews in May. Currently she only works in Swedish, but developers are working on an English-language version that they hope to roll out by early next year.


The growing world of technology-aided interviews

Tengai is not the only solution being developed for bias-free job interviews.

Mya is a smart chatbot used to conduct interviews through peoples smartphones and analysing the data to match the right person to a job
(Image via Mya)

Mya is another conversational AI assistant. Developed in the USA, it uses deep learning to deliver a human-like conversation to the candidate. Mya is a chatbot, capable of understanding complex statements, changed answers, context and interjections - and is able to capture meaningful information from the candidate.

Autoview takes in a number of factors during a candidate's video interview and analysis them to see if the person is a good fit for the role
(Image via Aspiring Minds)

Another interview bot is AutoView, developed by technology firm Aspiring Minds. The bot screens candidates based on 4 parameters: facial expressions and gestures; sentiment analysis of voice and text; ability and knowledge required for the job role; and workplace competencies, cultural fit and personality. It analyses these using video analytics, neural language processing, machine learning and speech recognition.

HireVue allows candidates to complete a video interview in their own time, and offers analytical data that a human interview might overlook
(Image via Hirevue)

HireVue is a US based video platform that allows candidates to record answers to pre-set questions in their own time. The platform’s AI will then analyse candidate’s responses, facial expressions and even inflections in their voice to deliver to hiring managers a complete ranking score that incorporates details a human interviewer might miss or overlook.

Gecko plays back interviews to recruiters with added data picked up by the systems AI
(Image via Gecko)

Gecko is a similar interview platform that allows recruiters to play back the answers for detailed analysis and review. It delivers reports, based on AI scans of the interview, on the candidate’s attitude, positivity and overall sentiment towards the role.

Seedlink is a question and answer smartphone app that analysis a candidates skills and personality based on their responses to see if they'd be a good fit for the job
(Image via Seedlink)

Seedlink is a company that allows users to upload interview answers through their smartphones, then analyses them using their AI algorithms to match the candidate’s capability and personality to current employees - establishing if they’re a good fit for the company.

Which would make you more comfortable in a job situation? A potentially flawed human interviewer, or a robot that misses nothing? Let us know in the comments.

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