In a staggering blow to the illusion of corporate empathy, a Russian robotics firm in St Petersburg have released their newest creation: an HR artificial intelligence named Vera, which will conduct job interviews and narrow down fields of potential candidates by 90% through techniques such as reading emotions. Stafoy, the small robotics firm responsible for Vera, has 300 global clients that may end up adopting Vera to handle the first stages of their recruitment processes. As if the term “human resources” wasn’t creepy enough already.
Stafoy says that Robot Vera is an a.i. software meant to take some of the burden off hiring managers and recruiters by quickly vetting a large pool of candidates through phone or video interviews. Beyond just being a robot that you’re meant to talk to, the artificial intelligence further depersonalizes the job hunt through its claimed ability to handle up to 10 interviews at a time.
The job-interviewing robot is being trained in a wide range of human imitating and inquisition techniques, says Stafoy. Vera is currently being trained to recognize anger, pleasure, and disappointment in the candidates being interviewed. The robot is also being trained to have complex conversations with potential candidates. According to Bloomberg News:
[Vera] combines speech recognition technologies from Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Russia’s Yandex. Programmers fed 13 billion examples of syntax and speech from TV, Wikipedia, and job listings to expand the software’s vocabulary and help it speak more naturally and understand responses.
Because when I think “speaking naturally,” I definitely think “job listing.” What happens when someone who doesn’t exclusively talk in corporate jargon interviews with Vera? Will their CV just be stamped “insane” by a robot who learned to speak by reading monster.com postings?
As to the kinds of jobs which our new robot gatekeepers will be in charge of, it’s not futuristic, white-collar tech jobs. Robot Vera is primarily focused on “high turnover service and blue-collar jobs.” Which, coincidentally, are the same jobs in which robots are already replacing humans. It seems pretty rude for robots to offer jobs only to snatch them away again in two years. Among the companies already partnering with Robot Vera to assist them with making sure they’re never accused of having a soul are PepsiCo, Ikea, and L’Oréal.
Vladimir Sveshnikov and Alexander Uraksin, the founders of Stafoy, say the a.i. will only do the initial screening, call backs, and the first rounds of interviews. This, they say, eliminates 90% of potential candidates and human hiring managers should ultimately have the final say about the last 10% of candidates. Which is all well and good until version 2.0 comes out.
Robot Vera is being released in the United States and Europe this year and has already conducted 2,000 interviews.