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Major employer, Spectrum, shifts to virtual hiring in a week

In March, cable and broadband provider Spectrum moved to a fully virtual hiring process in one week. About 25% of its hiring was conducted virtually before the coronavirus pandemic.

In mid-March, Spectrum, a broadband and cable provider, shifted its hiring process to be completely virtual. The firm, which employs about 95,000, was already using virtual hiring technology for 25% of its hires before the coronavirus pandemic. It's now at 100%. The transition took about a week.

With Spectrum's virtual hiring process, it's only after someone is hired that human-to-human interaction is possible.

"The first time that someone actually meets another human being in our process," is when "they pick up their laptop" to start their job, said Jennifer Tracy, vice president of recruiting solutions at Spectrum. "And then they take their assets home and work from home," she said.

Jennifer TracyJennifer Tracy

Tracy expects virtual hiring as well as remote working to expand at Spectrum once the pandemic ends.

The expansion of such practices may be true for many employers, said Jeanne Meister, a founder of Future Workplace, a consultancy based in New York. Employees, now comfortable with working from home, are going to ask, "Why come into the office?"

Meister pointed to a recent comment by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to suggest the cultural changes ahead. He is advising people never shake hands again. Meister found the recommendation shocking. "Not just this year or next year -- but ever," she said. 

They may not shake hands, but Spectrum plans to send, at some future time, recruiters to military bases and colleges. Some in-person interviewing will resume as well post-pandemic. In the corporate environment, "they just prefer in-person interaction," Tracy said. 

Virtual hiring may speed AI adoption

Spectrum, which is a brand of Stamford, Conn.-based Charter Communications Inc., has about 7,000 job openings, many in customer support. The online hiring process includes some testing, or pre-employment assessments, and on-demand video interviewing. An applicant responds to four to five questions, and then submits the video interview. For some jobs, the interview may be conducted live.

Mike HudyMike Hudy

Spectrum is using Modern Hire Inc.'s hiring platform. The assessments or "virtual job tryouts" typically start with a job preview, followed by assessments, or standardized measures that simulate aspects of the job, said Mike Hudy, chief science officer at Modern Hire. The intent is to try to understand an applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities required for the job.

Spectrum's shift to virtual hiring also enabled an end-to-end mobile recruiting platform for candidates, Tracy said. About 50% of Spectrum's recruiting traffic comes from mobile devices. With the new mobile platform in place, 80% of job candidates using mobile devices are now completing the process, up from 50% previously. Before a fully mobile system, candidates had to switch to a desktop computer to complete part of the application.

Video AI is dividing line for vendors

But the implications of this shift to virtual hiring at Spectrum and other firms may be broad, Meister said.

Virtual hiring is "ushering in more sophisticated AI-powered technologies to the recruiting department, and it puts the onus on the recruiters to learn those capabilities," Meister said.

Modern Hire, which is based in Delafield, Wisc., doesn't use video to evaluate facial expression or tone of voice. That's different from HireVue Inc., in South Jordan, Utah, a video interview platform provider that has said it will use important general characteristics evident, such as friendliness, to evaluate candidates.

HR vendors are divided on whether AI should be used to analyze facial expressions and voice. In fact, Modern Hire makes a point of outlining, in its "ethical AI position," that "there is no credible body of research attesting to the predictive power and fairness of these techniques."

AI is going to beat human judgment just because there's so much noise in human judgment.
Mike HudyChief science officer, Modern Hire Inc.

"We don't evaluate the audio elements and we don't evaluate the video elements," Hudy said. What the firm does is apply its AI to video transcripts and to the "structured interview questions." A candidate's responses are scored on what the person needs for the job, such as being able to deliver good customer service. Hudy is an industrial organizational psychologist. 

The AI-generated results are only a guide for recruiters, who have to watch the video and form their own opinion, Hudy said. "This is a rather new technology, and so we're taking a conservative approach to implementing it," he said. 

But over time, Hudy said Modern Hire will be able to see what the AI predicted, what the recruiter and hiring manager decided and what the results are. "How did that person, if they ultimately got hired, perform on the job? Did they stay or leave?" he said. 

Hudy believes AI will eventually be better than human judgement because people don't consistently follow best practices when asking interview questions

"AI is going to beat human judgment just because there's so much noise in human judgment," Hudy said.

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