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Researcher Says Some Resent Job Interview By Computer

July 18, 1989

ATLANTA (AP) _ Computerized job interviews make people more honest but less comfortable, a recent study found.

Applicants tend to give straighter answers to computers, possibly because they believe the computer is more likely to catch a lie, according to the study. But some people, particularly those seeking higher-level jobs, resent placing their job future in the hands of a machine.

The study was done with students in simulated job interviews. It was conducted by Dennis Nagao, a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Management, and Christopher Martin of Louisiana State University.

A growing number of companies are using computers to conduct initial job interviews. The applicant answers a series of questions on a computer terminal, and if the responses show promise the job seeker will be called back for a follow-up.

″In the case where you have a higher-level job, your expectation probably includes some kind of face-to-face interview,″ Nagao said. ″These people come in expecting to get a little more detail - someone to answer their questions.″

The validity of the responses was checked by comparing the interview responses with the students’ actual academic record.

″We got a lot of exaggeration, but the exaggeration was much stronger in the face-to-face situations than in the computerized or the paper and pencil situations,″ Nagao said.

Nagao attributed this to people making ″socially desirable″ responses - telling the interviewer what they think he or she wants to hear.

″If you try to present yourself in a favorable way, you will respond in a certain way,″ he said.

When the pressure of trying to make a good impression on the interviewer was removed, Nagao said, the applicants tended to be more honest.

Nagao said there needs to be more study on the effectiveness of computers in job interviews. But he said the findings of resentment show the need to pay attention to how the computers affect people.

Employers perhaps should have a company representative talk to the job seeker immediately after the computer interview, he said.

″Our point is to alert people that you can’t just put a bank of PCs in a room and shuttle people through,″ Nagao said.

″We’re not saying it (computer interviewing) is bad at all,″ he said. ″All we are saying is let’s not get blind-sided. Let’s look at the social consequences and get away from the feeling that everything is hunky-dory and you don’t need to look beyond.″

Computer interview services sell their systems on the basis of consistency, accountability and their ability to profile job applicants. Steve Boyd, vice president of Human Resource Systems, an Atlanta-based job interview service, said the computer programs are especially popular with banks and retailers.

Nagao and Martin conducted their study by observing a group of students in simulated job interviews with a friendly interviewer, a ″cold″ interviewer, a paper-and-pencil application and a computer.

The researchers divided the test applicants among those seeking an entry- level clerk job and those wanting a management trainee position. The researchers observed how the applicants felt afterwards.

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