A guest post by Siobhán Wray.
Conventional wisdom is that candidates prefer to be interviewed by HR professionals instead of being judged by AI. However, the trend in the industry seems to go in the other direction; the number of companies using AI to judge candidates is growing rapidly.
But how do candidates actually feel about all this?
My master’s degree in Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Limerick answers that exact question. What I found was surprising.
This question has been on my mind for a while. When studying for my bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Maynooth University, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the area of Organisational Psychology and Human Resources, applying psychology to the workplace. Shortly after graduating I secured a job as an HR administrator in the banking sector.
This was eye opening for me.
My experiences as a job candidate made me want to provide the best service to job candidates that I would interact with in my role in HR. I worked on the HR Information Systems team, which suited my interest in technology. This role also showed me the importance of individual differences in personality and intelligence when hiring talent.
So when I met Professor Donald Truxillo in my master’s program, it was an ideal fit. His work researching the candidate experience in recruitment is highly respected. We decided to work together on a simple question: how do candidates experience AI in video interviews?
This includes intentions to buy the company’s products or use their services and the risk of being sued for discrimination.
Do candidates like AI interviews?
To answer this question I set up a survey of a US-based group of candidates. Participants were given a scenario, where they had been invited to a job interview for a role they really wanted, and were assigned to one of two types of interview: a virtual interview scored by AI or a regular in-person face-to-face interview.
For both groups, I also created two possible outcome-scenarios for the interview: passed or failed. This means there were four experimental groups in total:
The applicants then described their reactions to the interview process on 4 factors related to fairness: job relatedness (how relevant is this interview type to the job), information known (was there sufficient information about what to expect in this interview type), chance to perform and two-way communication (opportunity to ask questions of, or express concerns to, the recruiter).
They were also asked whether they would recommend the hiring organisation based on this interview. Finally, I asked about their confidence in job searching with this type of interview (self-efficacy) and their experiences of interview anxiety.
Interview outcome matters more than the use of AI
Surprisingly, the interview medium (regular face-to-face interview vs AI-scored virtual interview) did not have a significant effect on the hypothetical candidates’ reactions except for one factor.
The only exception was that candidates perceived less of a chance to ask questions when they could not have a real conversation with the interviewer – indicating the value that candidates still place on interacting with a human.
What DID have a significant impact on perceptions of fairness was the interview outcome. Perceptions of job relatedness, chance to perform, two-way communication and applicants’ recommendation intentions were all lower when candidates failed the interview.
In other words: Whether candidates passed or failed the interview impacted candidates’ perception of fairness, far more than the use of AI.
Candidates’ self-confidence in job searching and job performance was also lower in accordance with the interview outcome. This shows quite naturally that the result of the interview is more important to candidates than the interview type. These low self-perceptions can lead to negative perceptions of the company and the interview process.
Impact on Employer brand
It’s well known that job candidates’ perceptions of fairness in the hiring process influence their intentions to recommend the hiring organisation . A surprising finding in this research is that perception of fairness is more impacted by the outcome of the interview than by the interview process details. As a result, candidates who failed were also less likely to recommend the company as an employer.
Outcomes also affected candidates’ self-confidence in job searching and interviewing. How the interview process makes candidates feel about themselves (after they know the result) is important for perceptions of that organisation.
How you make candidates feel about the interview process and outcome is vital for the employer brand. See Figure 2 for a visualisation of the difference between groups on their intentions to recommend the hiring organisation. This shows that, irrespective of the type of interview process you use, the way you communicate the outcome is crucial. Providing candidates with good feedback could be the key.
The fact that the outcome of the interview had such a large impact on the perception of the interview points in an interesting direction toward improving candidate experiences (and the employer brand). Of course, you cannot just hire every candidate - most companies still reject more than 95% of candidates. So the answer may be in the way companies reject candidates. According to LinkedIn, 94% of professionals want interview feedback if they are rejected yet only 41% receive it. The same study found that candidates are four times more likely to consider your company in the future if you offer constructive feedback.
Summary: What can you do to improve your candidate experience?
The most important factor influencing reactions was the outcome of the interview. We need to create a conversation about job applicant reactions because they affect perceptions of the organisation and the employer brand. This includes candidates’ intentions to recommend that company or other companies using a similar interview process to family, friends and colleagues. Here are two ways to improve your candidate experience:
- Explain to candidates why you are using AI and how it works. This will reduce candidate anxiety, enabling them to perform better. It will also improve your employer brand as the candidates are likely to react more positively toward the hiring process . When recruiters try to hide their use of AI or fail to explain its purpose, this leads to poorer reactions, as the organisation acts dishonestly with the applicant .
- Provide feedback to the candidate about why they were (not) selected to go further in the selection process. Be specific but careful, as the candidates’ self-perceptions may be lower when this specific feedback is given, potentially contributing to lower reactions and legal cases [4, 5]. Recruiters must decide and balance the risk of how much feedback to give about why a candidate was not selected post-interview. It may be that candidates should be directed to a job searching coach and gain practice doing mock interviews to obtain detailed feedback.
Siobhán recently graduated with a First Class Honours in her master’s degree in Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Limerick. At the time of writing this blog post, she was applying for jobs in HR. Since publishing this blog, she has accepted a role as a Clerical Officer in the HR & People Team at SOLAS, who regulate further education and training in Ireland. She is very excited to begin this new position.
Connect with Siobhán on LinkedIn Siobhán Wray | LinkedIn
 Zhang, Y., Xu, B., & Zhang, J. (2015). Impact of procedural characteristics on justice perceptions of Chinese civil service candidates. Public Personnel Management, 44(4), 543-558. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091026015607105
 Basch, J. M., & Melchers, K. G. (2019). Fair and flexible?! Explanations can improve applicant reactions toward asynchronous video interviews. Personnel Assessment and Decisions, 5(3), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.25035/pad.2019.03.002
 van Esch, P., Black, J. S., & Ferolie, J. (2019). Marketing AI recruitment: The next phase in job application and selection. Computers in Human Behavior, 90, 215-222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.09.009
 Anderson, N. (2011). Perceived Job Discrimination: Toward a model of applicant propensity to case initiation in selection. International Journal of Selection & Assessment, 19(3), 229-244. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2389.2011.00551.x
 Ployhart, R. E., Ryan, A. M., & Bennett, M. (1999). Explanations for selection decisions: Applicants' reactions to informational and sensitivity features of explanations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(1), 87-106. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.84.1.87