How would you like to have a job interview conducted in virtual reality by a computer?
Going for a job interview is the stuff of nightmares for many people, while for others it is a chance to shine.
Either way you are typically still interviewed by other human beings, either after walking into a scary office with one or more bosses sitting behind a desk, or via an equally nerve-wracking Zoom call.
Yet thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technology, you may soon be interviewed for that job you really want... by a computer.
Earlier this year students at Sandwell College in West Bromwich put on VR headsets to do some mock interviews.
Their avatars - cartoon-like, 3D representations of themselves - were put through their paces by another talking avatar representing the AI software system.
This is what the Bodyswaps' VR job interviews look like
"I'd never had an interview before in my life," says engineering student Ayyan Ahmed. "But because there was no human judging me, and it was all online, I could actually express myself.
"And then, at the end of the process, he [the VR interviewer] told me what I did wrong, and what I did right. It really helped me to know what to do in my next interview."
The VR system the students were using is made by London-based company Bodyswaps.
Questions and requests that the interviewees get asked range from the straightforward "tell me about your greatest achievements", to the more challenging "do you prefer to be loved or feared?"
The user then gets feedback, not just on what they said, but how they say it, whether they are maintaining eye contact with the interviewer avatar, and even their posture.
Student Ayyan Ahmed says he felt he could talk freely to the computer interviewer
Bodyswaps' chief executive Christophe Mallet says the idea is that people can keep practising with the simulated job interviews until they feel ready for a real-life one.
He believes that the technology has the chance to level the playing field for candidates from less well-off backgrounds who might not otherwise have the opportunity to practise for job interviews in a professional setting.
"Things like communication, empathy and leadership are the secrets to success [in interviews], but how can you practise those? If you are rich, you can get a coach. Otherwise you have e-learning [such as watching videos on the topic], but that doesn't work as you are lacking immersion.
Christophe Mallet says the aim is to help people more easily and effectively practise for interviews
While Bodyswaps is currently focused on mock job interrogations, is already allowing firms out in the real world to get a computer to do their initial job interviews.
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