The hiring process at large international banks, law firms and financial services companies has always been notoriously difficult, but now one firm is streamlining the process in a way that could have an unpredictable impact on applicants. When Goldman Sachs began its 2017 recruiting season on July 1st it no longer conducted in-person interviews with undergraduates on college campuses. Instead, it initiated the process by using the pre-recorded interview platform HireVue (https://www.hirevue.com/). HireVue boasts a client list featuring such diverse additions as General Electric, TMX Finance and the Boston Red Sox, but to date, only Goldman Sachs have advertised such a extensive use of the program.
The firm is also introducing several other tools designed to create consistency in the hiring process, including electronic screening tools for CVs and a change in protocol for in-person follow-up interviews. Personality questionnaires and recruitment drives on social media sites (including LinkedIn, Twitter and even Snapchat) as also part of this new system. The firm plans to retain more staff members at the junior banking level by introducing new schemes like earlier promotions and rotations to encourage mobility in the company.
So what does this mean for new applicants? Well, what the firm is searching for hasn’t changed. They still value individuals who will forge long-term careers at the firm and “fit in with the culture”. While GPAs, qualifications and the university the applicant attended are still important indicators, many of the firm’s most successful individuals don’t always tick all these boxes. However, they have often had diverse experiences or overcome some kind of hardship (learning how to “fail-up” is always a skill). The new software is designed to eliminate subconscious interviewer bias, for example, an interviewer favouring someone with the same interests or alma mater. Interview questions will also now focus more on an applicant’s judgement, integrity and problem-solving skills.
On the surface, this interview process seems more egalitarian. While prejudice along racial and gender lines is now unlikely, significant research as shown that overweight applicants suffer workplace prejudice. Video platforms don’t care what you look like. However, this system is akin to running algorithms on people, an approach with noticeably patchy results. The CV-screening tool is designed to highlight characteristics and experiences the firm believes are indicative of long-term success, so it’s essentially making predictions about your future based on your past. Well, we all know how good banks are at predicting the future don’t we? The only empirical way of assessing the effectiveness of this approach is to compare career progression in a statistically significant sample, but perhaps you don’t have time for a fifty-year pan-global experiment at home? One comforting though is that if you are dumped out in the first round by a program, you can rest assured that it really wasn't personal.
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