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Meet Tengai The World’s First Unbiased Recruiter Robot

Cognitive bias is a well-known issue in the recruitment process and “Tengai Unbiased”, as the robot is called, will be used to assist recruiters in the early stages of the recruitment process, where questions are primarily skill and competency based.

The vision is to better analyze, understand and perform competency-based interviews and assessments while eliminating unconscious bias.

Tengai. Measuring 41cm (16in) tall and weighing 35kg (77lbs) she's at eye level as she sits on top of a table directly across from the candidate she's about to interview.

Her glowing yellow face tilts slightly to the side. Then she blinks and smiles lightly as she poses her first question: "Have you ever been interviewed by a robot before?"

Tengai is the brainchild of Furhat Robotics, an artificial intelligence (AI) and social robotics company born out of a research project at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The firm has spent the past four years building a human-like computer interface that mimics the way we speak, as well as our subtle facial expressions. The idea, according to chief scientist Gabriel Skantze, is that "it feels much less scary or strange compared to a more traditional robot".

Research by TNG in 2018 shows that almost 73% believe they have been discriminated against while applying for a job based on their age, gender, ethnicity, handicap, sexual preferences, appearance, weight or health.

"It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision. We want to challenge that," explains Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, chief innovation officer at TNG's office in central Stockholm.

Unconscious biases include making assumptions about someone's competence based on gender, ethnicity, voice, education, appearance, or as a result of informal conversations before or after an interview.

"For example, if I ask you a question at the beginning of the process like: 'Do you play golf?' and you say: 'Yes I do, I love playing golf', and I do too, then in some way I will put that in a positive box," says Ms Mårtenzon.

Tengai, by contrast, doesn't engage in pre-interview chit-chat and poses all questions in an identical way, in the same tone, and typically, in the same order. This is thought to create a fairer and more objective interview.

Recruiters or managers are then given text transcripts of each interview to help them decide which candidates should move to the next stage of the process, based on the answers alone.

Next level of unbiased recruitment

Following on from the recent launch of Furhat’s new social robotics platform, this partnership is designed to create a more objective and unbiased recruitment process, contribute to research on social robots and commercialize the robot in Sweden and internationally.

It is a completely unique offering, as current AI-recruitment solutions that the HR world calls robots are actually automation products, while Tengai is a physical advanced social robot with a human interface – considered the next thing amongst the tech world.

“At Furhat, we believe that social robots are the most natural, accessible and engaging user interface for humans. Part of bringing this vision to life is by working with world-leading companies such as TNG.”, said Samer Al Moubayed, CEO at Furhat Robotics.
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