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This Robot Maybe the Answer to Unbiased Recruitment

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

Until we figured out how to eliminate unconscious bias, why not let this robot carry out judgement-free job interviews for now?


Picture this: Walking into a job interview expecting just another common conversation with a recruiter, but ended up shaking hands and exchanging namecards with a robot.

Don’t laugh just yet – a robot called Tengai will soon be used to conduct real job interviews in Sweden.

Tengai, a robot developed by Furhat Robotics, has been carrying out simulated job interviews since last October as part of a collaboration with Stockholm-based recruitment firm, TNG.

Think of it as a Lady Justice that can walk and talk – this robot is especially designed for recruitment purposes and it’s believe to outshine humans when it comes to making unbiased decisions about a candidate.

Not convinced just yet? The results of an experiment in Sweden, where robot recruiters have been used to conduct interviews, proves this to be true.

Designed to look friendly and approachable, the machine can mimic human speech and mannerisms. Don’t bother with cold gags or small talks though, as the robot is designed to ensure it only records responses that are work-related.

It asks the same questions in the same order, with no variation in its tone of voice throughout.

Photo credit: Furhat

The biggest difference between Tengai and a human interviewer – aside from their outlooks – is that the robot neither knows or cares about a candidate’s race, gender, religion, appearance or any other potentially influencing factors.

Following the interviews, human recruiters or managers are then given text transcripts of each interview.

After several months of trials, Tengai will start interviewing candidates for real later in May. Recruiters and developers are also working on an English-language version of the robot which is expected to be rolled out by early 2020.

While some may challenge the robot’s consistency to demonstrate unbiased behaviours, as seen in examples of how some artificial intelligence machines inherited human biases, Tengai has been tested with a diverse set of interviewers, which minimised the chances of this occurring, according to BBC News.

Despite robot recruiters’ promising results, recruitment bias often occurs before applicants reach the job interview stage.


As a Runnymede Trust report states: “Despite various policy initiatives by governments over the years, bias and discrimination affect people at work from recruitment to progression: at the CV stage, during interview and once in the role.” So a tech-based solution that is only focused on interviews will be ineffective unless accompanied by similar measures that can be applied to other parts of the recruitment process.

Sweden has long been triumphed as an advocator of diversity. Its efforts on gender equality, in particular, is widely recognized by its counterparts in Europe.

The Swedish society actively teaches equality to children in school, and the government mandates equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal access to education.

In the Swedish business world, companies must have active programs supporting equal opportunities for women and men, and with respect to parental leave, either parent is entitled to 480 days of leave. (And the men will take their parental leave, different from other countries where stigma can override taking advantage of the possibility.)

Over 25 percent of companies in Sweden are women-owned and those with female board members are also close to 25 percent. Half the parliament members are women as well. These percentages are what many European (and American) companies are striving for.

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