Emotional Hires

Elkman Industries changed its college recruitment prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated the ways it judged candidates. To save money, Elkman identified candidates from job placement sites and from those who applied directly to the company. They did not visit campuses.

Once acceptable candidates were identified, they then did online interviews. These consisted of flashing a question on a candidate’s computer who then had three minutes to answer. The answers were recorded and then analyzed by the recruiting staff to decide who would get on-site interviews.

When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, Elkman needed to curtail its on-site interviews. They decided to make formal hiring decisions based upon an artificial intelligence (AI) system which assessed a person’s emotions. The system that Elkman leased was based upon affect-recognition. The emotions shown during the interviews were analyzed and used to predict a fit with the company. The database for the AI system was based upon videos shared on social media sites which were then coded by low-wage workers in developing nations.

Elkman quickly discovered two problems with its AI screening system. First, candidates of different ethnic and racial backgrounds were rejected. Apparently the system could not interpret partial emotions of those with different cultural backgrounds. Second, the candidates which were selected had “cookie cutter” backgrounds. There was no diversity in the selection process. This was equivalent to an NFL team selecting eight quarterbacks in the draft.

Elkman discontinued using the AI system and the recorded interviews. These were replaced with live interviews conducted online. While not as effective as face-to-face in person interviews, they were a lot more effective than the technology driven selections.

You have to wonder how many top performers in today’s organizations would survive a technology driven selection process? Probably very few. Could a technology-driven selection process survive a discrimination law suit? Probably not. Then why are such systems gaining in prominence? Is it because they are cheaper? Is the promise of technology so great that its allure out-strips its credibility?

Just imagine the damage that technology-driven selections of employees could have on the culture of an organization? Just imagine the emotional criteria you would like to have a system identify? Just imagine the trauma such systems would have on job seekers who try to match their emotions to a technology-driven system?

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“Embrace all emotions: sadness, happiness, sorrow, hate, prejudice, fear; they are weapons against our greatest enemy: indifference.”
– Dave Matthes

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