HireVue recruitment facial analysis screening

Occurred: November 2019

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HireVue is a Salt Lake City-based company that uses video, gaming, and proprietary algorithms to assess job seekers, whose written answers, behaviour, intonation, and speech are fed into algorithms that assign them certain traits and qualities.

The company is seen as amongst the top in its sector, and its products are used by 700+ customers in the US, UK, and elsewhere, including General Mills, Kraft, and Unilever.

A number of HireVue's practices - notably its use of psychological inferences to determine people's ability and character based on facial data - have also proved controversial with academics, ethicists, regulators, and commentators.

'Unfair and deceptive' practices

In November 2019, US privacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a legal complaint (pdf) alleging HireVue's use of facial technologies and biometric data 'constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices' and that it produces results that are 'biased, unprovable, and not replicable'.

It alleged HireVue's hiring algorithms are more likely to be biased by default, in contrast to it's marketing claims, that it's models fail to meet international standards on AI-based decision making, and that the company fails to give candidates access to their assessment scores or the training data, factors, logic, or techniques used to generate each algorithmic assessment.

The complaint also set out that HireVue's claims that it 'does not use facial recognition technology' is misleading as it collects and analyses 'facial expressions' and 'facial movements' to measure job candidates’ 'cognitive ability,' 'emotional intelligence,' and 'social aptitudes.'

Futhermore, EPIC accused HireVue of engaging in the 'intrusive collection and secret analysis of biometric data', thereby causing 'substantial privacy harms' to job candidates, that it’s assessment system causes 'substantial financial harms 'to job candidates, and that it's facial recognition software could be racially biased or improperly used to identify sexual orientation.

Speech analysis

In January 2021, HireVue announced that it had 'proactively' stopped using facial analysis in new assessments on the grounds that it's own internal research had 'demonstrated that recent advances in natural language processing had significantly increased the predictive power of language', meaning visual analysis 'no longer significantly added value to assessments.'

In a response to WIRED, John Davisson, EPIC senior counsel, said 'I am surprised they are dropping this, as it was a keystone feature of the product they were marketing.' 'That is the source of a lot of concerns around biometric data collection, as well as these bold claims about being able to measure psychological traits, emotional intelligence, social attitudes, and things like that.'

Algorithmic audit

Alongside its statement on facial analysis, HireVue released the results of an algorithmic audit by O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing (ORCAA) that it concludes it's AI-based pre-built assessments used in hiring early career candidates do not demonstrate bias.

However, Brookings Institution fellow Alex Engler pointed out in a Fast Company op-ed that HireVue mispresented both the claim that its termination of facial analysis was 'proactive' and that the audit concluded all of HireVue’s assessments were unbiased.

The audit, he argued 'was narrowly focused on a specific use case, and it didn’t examine the assessments for which HireVue has been criticized, which include facial analysis and employee performance predictions.'

Transparency

HireVue claims that it 'leads the industry with commitment to transparent and ethical use of AI in hiring' have been undermined by the opaque nature of its products and selectively misleading marketing.

In March 2022, HireVue released what it billed as a 'first of its kind' explainability statement (pdf) intended to explain clearly how it uses AI in its game-based and interview assessments.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDC) said the statement 'sheds some useful light on how HireVue’s technology works, it is also incomplete in important respects', and 'suggests crucial deficiencies in the fairness and job-relatedness of HireVue’s approach to assessments.'

Operator: Delta; General Electric; General Mills; Hilton; Kraft; Unilever
Developer:
HireVue

Country: USA

Sector: Business/professional services

Purpose: Improve recruitment efficiency & effectiveness

Technology: Facial analysis; Facial recognition; Behavioural analysis; NLP/text analysis
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - gender, disability; Privacy

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing

System

Research, audits, investigations, inquiries, litigation

News, commentary, analysis