Nonfiction

An Interview With Nobody

7 May 2019

It’s February. Another semester, another lot of housemates, classmates, lecturers, textbooks… But some students are already thinking ahead to next year: hiring rounds for 2020 government and corporate graduate programs are openingand closing.

For an increasing number of applicants, these large-scale recruiting operations include a one-way video interview, also known as a pre-recorded interview. Basically, you log onto a third-party recruiting website, you’re asked questions and you have a set amount of time to record your answers. Someone at the company will review your videos later. Apparently.

It’s a fact of life that the resume and cover letter you spent hours writing and tailoring to the position could be chucked out after a glance. But at least it was once a human glance. Increasingly, your CV is read by software.

One day in early February, an algorithm smiles on me and I’m invited to complete an online psychometric test for a large international company. I think I’ve bombed it. But, within the hour, more good newsI’ve “made it” to a one-way video interview!

Along with, for all I know, every single other person who’s applied.

I spend hours, days preparing: researching questions, thinking of possible answers and reading the company’s annual reports. Everything I’d do for a regular job interview. Except that I doubt any human at the company has seen my resume.

See a problem here?

When preparing for a personned interviewwhether face-to-face, Skype, or telephonethe applicant knows they have a chance, as the company is investing HR resources in interviewing them. There’s at least some reciprocity of risk and expenditure. With automated processes it’s easy to “lead on” candidates, making them jump through time-consuming hoops that cost the company nothing.

A video interview also entails more work for the candidate. Instead of rocking up to an office overdressed and eager, I’m trying to turn my share house bedroom into a passable imitation of a video meeting booth.

“Shadow work” is what Craig Lambert calls labour that someone would previously have been paid to do. Scanning groceries at the self-checkout, filling in government “self-administration” forms online… To save a company money, algorithms don’t actually have to fully automate tasks. It’s sufficient to foist the labour on the consumer, or, in this case, the job applicant.

Worse, there’s the “shadow expense”. As we’ve seen, automated hiring processes allow huge companies to save on expenditure by treating hopeful candidates—and their time—as disposable. But these also require money, which deepens disadvantages between applicants.

Not long ago, the main cost of a job search was your interview outfit—which is hard enough; there are charities dedicated to providing professional clothes to people in this situation. Now, you need a good webcam, an internet-connected device and a fast, reliable connection. And a private place to interview. Too bad if you live in a share house, or a share room.

My “interview” begins. I’ve settled for the laptop webcam, and am braving the library wi-fi. The company’s hiring manager introduces himself in a recorded video. To hundreds of candidates? To thousands? Someone from HR does a piece-to-camera, setting me “business challenges” I’ve got three minutes to solve.

I speak self-consciously to no one, like some twisted version of the selfies my generation is supposedly obsessed with. I feel like a stage manager, videographer, director, lighting operator, improv actor and nervous/hopeful job candidate all in one.

While I’m telling my webcam how I’d approach an HR issue, some people start talking loudly in the next cubicle. I plough on, hoping my microphone isn’t picking up too much of the noise. The “interview” ends with another video from the hiring manager.

Two hours later, I get a mail-merged email.

We welcomed the opportunity to get to know you better… Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we will not be progressing your application…

(I then have the opportunity to give my views on the recruitment process, USING EMOJIS!! They range from a green :D through a yellow line mouth to a red sad face.)

Kind regards,

[Company] Recruitment

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