Technology Doesn’t Discriminate, People Do!
I have spoken to numerous HR professionals at conferences about the benefits of video interviewing. Most all get it, but as a few consider the implications of seeing a candidate on video before the face-to-face interview, a shadow of worry creeps across their face. “Is video interviewing discriminatory?” they ask.
Speaking facetiously, I don’t ever recall my web camera or computer telling me not to hire someone because they were too old, too obese or a member of any particular ethnic group. My camera and computer have no emotions or even a voice, so no, video interviewing isn’t discriminatory. The question I was really being asked by the HR professional was, “Some of my people discriminate. Will this make it easier for them to do so?”
Similarly, while many job candidates blame an applicant tracking system for eliminating them sight unseen from the hiring process, that ATS is only discriminating according to orders given to it by a human.
I recently followed a discussion on Linkedin regarding the legality or fairness of using video interviewing in the recruiting stage of the hiring process. Several commenters, mostly from HR, seemed to feel that a job candidate’s selection should be based on nothing more than the candidate’s resume. What I found ironic about the discussion is that every person who responded had a picture of themselves next to their response as is customary with Linkedin membership. And since most of their recruiting was being conducted on Linkedin they are seeing photos of almost all the candidates they screen. By recruiting through Linkedin, their biases, if they possess any, will likely come into play.
The question remains, does technology discriminate and the answer will always be “no”. Has technology, however, made it easier to discriminate through its ability to target job candidates and improve the efficiency of the hiring process? The answer is probably yes. Similarly in an effort to improve the efficiency of travel, cars have made it easier to injure more people than we could with horses. This is a con we are willing to endure because the benefits of speedy travel far outweigh the detriments and like with hiring technology the car itself doesn’t do anything but what the operator intends for it to do.
If a hiring manager does not want to hire someone of a certain age, for example, he will make this determination before he even posts the job. Their biases have already been engaged before they have employed the use of an ATS, a video interviewing tool or any other recruiting technology. Upon occasion I have read of hiring managers viewing video interviews of candidates they might have rejected on the basis of the demographics appearing on the candidate’s resume only to discover after viewing the video that the candidate was more than suitable for their position. In this instance video interviewing actually negated the hiring manager’s pre-conceived biases towards the candidate.
Video interviewing and similar technologies are simply the scapegoat for an organization’s inability to properly train their hiring managers to be non-discriminatory. Take a look at this Linkedin quote from an HR Director in response to the video interviewing discussion I mentioned above:
“If we want to protect the organization from such a [discriminatory] manager, it is still better to not have a file full of rejected applicant videos waiting around for a subpoena.”
The flip side of that point of view is that if you are not discriminating you might be better off to have a file full of rejected applicant videos if a subpoena shows up. At least then you have a record of your organization’s non-discriminatory practices.