So there I am scrolling through Drudge when an article catches my eye.  The topic? The world’s first robot that was created to carry out unbiased job interviews.

As the guy who has hired and fired countless people, you’d think I’d be interested in getting a robot like that.

Fake news.  I’d burn a robot like that.

Right after I fired it.

“Tengai” is just over a foot tall and just shy of 8 pounds  (Read: she does not also function like a sex doll, officially making her completely useless.)

She was created by Furhat Robotics, which is an artificial intelligence and social robotics company that started out as a research project at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Now I’ll give them this.  Having conducted tens of thousands of interviews over the years, I’m a firm believer that artificial intelligence, as early on as it may be, might still be smarter than the average person who applies for a job in Connecticut.  But I digress.

For the past four years, the first has been building a human-like computer interface that mimics both the way we speak and our subtle facial expressions. 

Things got a little weird when instead of moving in the Tinder direction, they moved towards job recruitment.

In October of last year, they partnered with TNG, one of Sweden’s largest recruitment firms. Their goal is to offer candidates job interviews that don’t have any unconscious bias from managers and recruiters.  They want to do this while still making the experience “seem human”.

Yes.  Because nothing is more “human” than being interviewed by a robot.

“It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision. We want to challenge that,” said Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, chief innovation officer at TNG.

The company argues that unconscious biases include making assumptions about someone based on anything from gender and ethnicity to voice, education, appearance or information conversations before or after an interview.

Tengai?  She’s not really a people person.  She doesn’t do that whole “chit chat” thing.  She poses all questions in an identical way, in the same tone, and same order.

Text transcripts are then given to recruiters or managers to help them decide who should move forward in the interview process.

50-year-old Petra Elisson, who works in healthcare recruitment, has been part of the trial process and loves it.

“I think it is a really good help while screening – if you have a big recruitment process with a lot of candidates – having someone, a robot, with no emotions, no feelings,” she said. 

“I was quite skeptical at first before meeting Tengai, but after the meeting I was absolutely struck,” she reflects. 

“At first I really, really felt it was a robot, but when going more deeply into the interview I totally forgot that she’s not human.”

No.  NO NO NO NO NO.

Petra Elisson, I’m sure you’re a nice lady.  And call me biased, but I wouldn’t hire you.  Because if you can’t differentiate between a machine and a human, then you’re not smart enough to work for me.

I’m a huge fan of using bias in the interview process.  It’s part of intuition.  Gut check. Subjective opinion.

That’s why we launched The Snowflake Test.  Not to discriminate, but to get to know someone.  To force them outside of their comfort zone.  To ask questions and then quickly gauge reaction… then apply logic and intuition to the process.

Among those questions:

  • What are your feelings about employees or clients carrying guns?
  • What are your feelings about safe spaces in challenging work environments?
  • Should “trigger warnings” be issued before we release content for clients or the company that might be considered “controversial”?
  • How do you feel about police?
  • When was the last time you cried and why?

The full list of questions is below.

The irony of the creation of this robot, of course, is the fact that they’re trying to inject micro-expressions and facial features into it but fail to recognize that those micro-expressions tell a lot about a candidate.

Take, for example, law enforcement.  If you’re interviewing a candidate for a position in a police department, it’s crucial to watch those micro-expressions and body language in the interview process.  They tell a lot about a candidate.  They can indicate whether the candidate is lying, is hiding something or is suggesting there’s a part of the job they’d be excited about when the truth of it is that they’d hate it and be apprehensive to do it.

Bias is everything in a hiring process.  Again, not bias based on looks or sexual orientation or anything like that… but rather based on whether an individual is the right fit for the position.

Read: Is Media Bias Making It Harder To Investigate Crimes? 

A robot isn’t going to understand culture in a work environment.  They might be able to weigh in on whether a prospective is qualified from an education or background perspective, sure.  But can it pick up on the dude stinking like B.O. and picking at his nails the entire time?  Will it recognize shifty behavior, an inability to maintain eye contact or a lack of knowledge about a basic handshake?  (And yes – you could argue I’m describing the average millennial job candidate.)

But hey – I’m up for a challenge.  Your floating head A.I. recruiter vs. my chops as the guy who actually runs companies. Whoever loses… their company is picking up the bar tab.

And the payroll taxes for 2019.

I’d say “you’re fired”, Tengai, but the truth is that I’d never hire you to begin with.

The Snowflake Test

  1. Outside of standard benefits, what benefits should a company offer employees?
  2. What should the national minimum wage be?
  3. How many sick days should be given to employees?
  4. How often should employees get raises?
  5. How do you feel about guns?
  6. What are your feelings about employees or clients carrying guns?
  7. What are your feelings about safe spaces in challenging work environments?
  8. In a creative environment like The Silent Partner Marketing, what do you envision work attire looking like?
  9. Should “trigger warnings” be issued before we release content for clients or the company that might be considered “controversial”?
  10. How do you feel about police?
  11. If you owned the company and were to find out that a client is operating unethically but was a high paying client…how would you handle it?
  12. When was the last time you cried and why?
  13. You arrive at an event for work and there’s a major celebrity you’ve always wanted to meet. What happens next?
  14. What’s your favorite kind of adult beverage?
  15. What’s the best way to communicate with clients?
  16. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
  17. What are your thoughts on the current college environment as it pertains to a future workforce?
  18. What’s your typical breakfast?
  19. What’s your favorite drink when you go to a coffeehouse?
  20. How do you handle bullies?
  21. How do you handle it when your ideas are shot down?
  22. What do you do if a coworker comes to the table with an idea and it sucks?
  23. What does the first amendment mean to you?
  24. What does faith mean to you?
  25. Who is your role model and why?
  26. “You’re in Starbucks with two friends. Someone runs in and says someone is coming in with a gun in 15 seconds to shoot patrons. They offer you a gun. Do you take it? What do you do next?”
  27. What does America mean to you?
  28. You see someone stepping on an American flag. What do you do?
  29. What does “privilege” mean to you?
  30. What’s more important? Book smarts or street smarts? Why?