Increasingly computer algorithms, big data, personality questionnaires and A.I. are taking the human out of Human Resources and while it may be good for some, it should be raising warning signs within the Human Resources Profession and Recruitment but it’s not and that in itself should have alarm bells ringing loudly.
I have just watched a documentary on Personality Tests on Sky Documentaries, titled:
PERSONA: THE DARK TRUTH BEHIND PERSONALITY TESTS.
I don’t really recommend the documentary, it strays off the subject in parts and feels like a bit of an attack on the original authors of the Myers Briggs tests. However, if you decide to watch it pay close attention to the parts concerning Kyle Behm, they demonstrate the dark side of personality tests and their effects on humans.
I have always been against the use of these types of test especially at the recruitment stage. I am even more against the use of these types of tests being carried out along with so called “Video Interviews.” I wrote about this back in 2016 posted on LinkedIn titled: Stop calling them Video Interviews – They are anything but. The fact is they aren’t what they are portrayed to be “Interviews.” They are simply an assessment tool, and in my opinion, a dangerous one at that, not only for applicants, but for the companies and recruiters.
Dr Chamorro-Premuzic in his 2016 article published by the Australian Human Resources Institute stated “That these interviews as digital behaviourism, which is like a Minority Report for video interviews. Not only can the content of a candidate’s responses be assessed, but also their voice and image. It is so sophisticated that it can give a micro level analysis of facial expressions, which can be linked through research to cognitive abilities.” Add to that mix the use of personality questionnaires such as Myers Briggs and The Big 5 and you have computers determining not only if someone can have a specific job, but if they can have any job at all.
Just like the Harvard IAT (Implicit Association Test) these tests aren’t reliable. This is especially so if as some have suggested thirty percent of the questions asked are given over assessing a person’s mental health, rather than their personality traits. If this is borne out then it raises the question why they aren’t up front with it, why are they hiding it and what are they doing with the information gathered in the recruitment process?
As these types of tests and interviews become even more advanced, the human element in recruiting will diminish further, decisions will be taken not by other humans, but by machines and although GDPR Article 22 bars the use of automated decision making, companies and recruitment agencies/consultants get by this by barring an applicant from proceeding with an application unless they agree to taking these tests or so called Video Interviews. In other words it is “forced consent” and they know it, as does every HR professional who uses such themselves or allows recruiters to use them on their behalf.
Stage one – Application. CV or Application Form scanned for key words and qualifications etc
Stage two – If an applicant gets past that first stage the algorithm sends out an invite to take tests be that/those tests things like numerical reasoning tests or tests such as the Myers Briggs or Big Five personality tests.
Stage three – Video interviews. So, pass those and then the algorithm will invite you to a Video interview which isn’t an interview by any stretch of the imagination it is as described in the documentary a computer asking questions which are recorded and analysed not just for the answers but for facial and behavioural mannerisms etc.
We are now in a situation where a computer algorithm can and probably does make the include/exclude decision for possibly the first three stages of the process without a human being involved. Soon enough these types of test along with the use of virtual reality and A.I. will do away with qualifications, hard skills and experiences gained over many years and as a result the CV will be dead and buried.
Three stages of the recruitment process and a great possibility that there is not one human interaction within them. Could we get to the point that the first human interaction a successful candidate has will be on their first day of work? The next question is how far organisations and recruiters will go with these technological advancements and how quickly, if ever, will they apply the breaks when they realise there is something systemically wrong with systems they are using to make those decisions?
A Wall Street Journal article from January 2020 titled HOW JOB INTERVIEWS WILL TRANSFORM IN THE NEXT DECADE goes further and suggests that the entire recruitment process will be determined by algorithms, A.I and Virtual Reality tests. If this comes about you can forget any drive to increase neurodiversity within an organisation because these tests aren’t designed to take into consideration disabilities at all. It was suggested in the documentary that nearly 30% of the questions used in a personality test such as Myers Briggs and The Big 5 aren’t actually assessing personality but are assessing the mental health of applicants.
David Scarborough, co-creator of the Unicru Personality Test used by Kroger and numerous other employers, defends the tests as providing a valuable service. “When you steer someone away from a job that they’re not as likely to do well in, you’ve done them a favour even though it doesn’t feel like a favour,” he says in the film.1
The question here is who gave him, his colleagues and their companies the right to decide whether or not they are likely to do well in a job or career? He puts it as “Steering someone away from a job that they’re not as likely to do well in.” True they may not, but equally they may just excel in it too. Just because a personality test suggests that they won’t doesn’t make it so.
Disability Justice Advocate Lydia XZ Brown says that “Personality tests are by and large constructed to be ableist, to be racist, to be sexist, and to be classist. That’s what happens when you have a test … based on norms devised from college-educated straight white men and sometimes women, with no known disabilities. Personality tests are useful for individual people sometimes on journeys of self-discovery. But when they’re used to make decisions by other people affecting someone’s life, they become dangerous tools.”1
I have to admit sadly, that I come down on the side of Lydia XZ Brown on this, the use of Personality Tests coupled with so called video interviews, virtual reality and A.I. stacks the cards so much that only the elites and the companies they work for win. This does not bode well for candidates at all, especially those who are disabled or neurodiverse.
We know that candidates look for new roles mainly when they have to; job loss, having to move because a partner has/is moving to take up a new role, problems at an existing employer (many and varied) but one thing is for sure, the chances are they will not be at the very best when going through a recruitment process.
If you take redundancy as a reason the candidate is looking for a new job there will be a lot of financial and emotional insecurities dominating their thoughts and these will consciously or unconsciously manifest in answers that are given in personality tests, body language and micro expressions that will be evident in video interviews. None of this will matter, these assessments won’t know or care about this, no allowances will be made, no quarter given.
We see daily how HR Professionals and Professional bodies such as the CIPD and AHRI to name but two, are driving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, though it would seem on the face of things that they still haven’t got to grips with Inclusion as it is the hardest to understand, develop and measure. The use of these tools will make it even harder, unless of course there are different tests or more likely different scores applied when making comparisons. If that becomes the case, I would expect a strong reaction from applicants and the public at large. Quotas are universally disliked, more so in people who belong to majority groups, however the strongest reaction will come when all applicants realise that they haven’t been rejected by a person but by a machine.
Other questions that arise from the use of such technology and testing is how long will it be stored?
How it will be stored?
Who will have access to it?
And how it will be used should an applicant reapply to the same organisation or recruitment company?
Are the original results going to be used to automatically reject someone regardless of the length of time between the original testing and the new application?
Will their personality letters define a person for the rest of their lives?
For me this is starting to feel like life decided by an algorithm which will decide who and what we will do based on a test that we can’t trust, based on the thoughts of a handful of people and companies who devise the tests and write the algorithms to interpret the results.
For the last ten years or there abouts HR people have been spearheading the call for Human Resources to become more human. There is nothing human about a recruitment system that actually takes out the human and replaces it with algorithms, A.I. and personality tests scored by computers and makes a decision that can profoundly affect a human.
The future of work is human?
Doesn’t look like it.