It Ain’t What You Say It’s The Way That You Say It!

A quick update about the use of Speech Analysis in Recruitment.

I read recently about the rising trend in the use of speech analysis as a valid recruitment tool. So how ready are we for such a thing? We all like to think of ourselves as technologically savvy, forward-looking and innovative but really… are we about to embrace speech analysis as a recruitment tool and how would it work?

Let’s have a think about that one.

How does it work?

Well it’s a fairly user-friendly computer generated programme whereby you’re asked some questions and you answer them. It takes about 15 minutes and is very simple. The questions are general and easy to answer because it doesn’t seem to matter too much what the answer is, what matters more is how you communicate your answer.

So what can be detected and for what purpose?

Before we answer that let’s think first about context and what a computer can do in seconds that would take us hours, days, weeks, months or years.
We can type a search into Google and within seconds we have hundreds of thousands of results.
Computers are already analysing the written word and some are now viewing speech analysis as the next level.

Your spoken answers could be analysed for tone, choice of words, cadence, speech rhythm, signs of nervousness, hesitancy, enthusiasm and so on. Supporters of the idea say that results are accurate and can be used for gauging suitability for new jobs, promotions or training as part of the selection process.

Some Call Centres have been using similar technology for a number of years. As they are talking to a customer, software running in the background shows the call centre operative how the call is going. Is the customer getting annoyed, are they losing patience, are they happy with how their call is being handled, are they withdrawing interest, who’s doing most of the talking, and so on. In other words it analyses how the conversation is going in real time so the operative can observe progress and take action to steer the conversation in a positive way.

It doesn’t take too much of a leap to see the uses for this in an interview situation or in a meeting. Imagine being able to tell from software monitoring the tone of a meeting if each attendee is paying attention/is bored/has withdrawn/is getting angry/frustrated etc!

But is software monitoring of our speech a step too far?

Supporters would say that when it comes to creating a shortlist, results from this type of technology are totally objective and efficient if properly benchmarked.

However, as with most new technology the market is divided and experts have different views. There are those who believe in it absolutely. Others, psychologists and linguists, are sceptical at best and there are those who see it as intrusive, unreliable and even, in some parts of the EU it is viewed as contravening Privacy Laws, rising to threats of legal action.

Clearly, there’s a lot more work to be done in this area before it ever becomes a mainstream recruitment tool, but we’ll monitor developments and report back if there’s any significant news!