If you can’t practise with another human for an upcoming job interview, Google has a new solution: talk to its computer.
The tool asks general job interview questions about your background, like “Tell me a bit about yourself,” along with situational questions such as “Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you communicate that mistake?”
It can also ask technical and skill-specific questions that can be tailored for people seeking jobs in data analytics, e-commerce, project management, IT support or UX design.
As you speak your answer into your mobile device or computer, Interview Warmup transcribes your words, then shows you which ones you repeated more than three times, along with suggested synonyms.
It also reveals whether your answers are “job-related” to your field and whether they included identifiable talking points such as skills, experience, lessons learned from previous wins and failures, and goals.
Google describes it as “a judgment-free zone for anyone who wants a little practice interviewing.”
Thankfully, your answers are private. Google doesn’t save your audio or transcripts, though you do have the option of downloading your transcript for yourself.
Google’s new tool is helpful. It just can’t replicate one big benefit of practising with another human
One big benefit of talking to Google’s computer: you get to practice as much as you want without having to worry about boring a conversation partner. Interview Warmup lets you practice a number of questions written by industry experts to your heart’s content.
“[With the tool], you can practise multiple times,” says North Carolina State University sociologist Steve McDonald, who researches hiring practices. “With your friend, they might be like, ‘I’ve had enough.’”
“A tool couldn’t tell you how confident you sound in what you are saying. A tool couldn’t tell you the level of enthusiasm you have when you speak.”
Ideally, McDonald says, job candidates would practice with the tool and with other people to be super prepared. He just doesn’t think the tool can replace practicing with another human being.
“The AI tool focuses on the linguistic and grammatical content. It pulls out these talking points. It narrowly focuses in on that, whereas doing a person-to person practice interview involves much more improvisational type of skills. I do not think one would replace the other,” he says.
Mia Williams, a job interview coach who specialises in helping college students and recent graduates, said she would recommend Interview Warmup to her clients so that they can practice organising their thoughts, but she doesn’t think it can replace the advantages of practicing with a colleague, friend or family member, either.
“Interviews are more than just the answers you give, but also it’s just the level of connection you can make with a person,” Williams said. “A tool couldn’t tell you how confident you sound in what you are saying. A tool couldn’t tell you the level of enthusiasm you have when you speak ... Those things matter in interviews, too.”
“You can have some of the best answers, but if your delivery is wrong, the enthusiasm isn’t there, you may not be a good fit for the team,” she says.
This is why, although Interview Warmup highlights your most-used words and offers similar words you could say instead, you shouldn’t go overboard in changing your vocabulary. Maybe you really do say “really” a lot, but if self-editing that phrase makes you sound self-conscious and awkward as you speak, it won’t help you win over a hiring manager.
“Some words aren’t a part of people’s vocabularies and therefore their delivery may be off,” Williams says. That’s why she suggests practicing with a person if you want to try including words that don’t come naturally to you.
Overall, the tool could potentially foretell more AI-powered facets of job searches. Many applicant tracking programs can already screen job candidates’ résumés for relevant keywords. McDonald said Google’s new interview prep tool signals a potential future in which your job interview answers might be screened by AI, too.
“If employers are not doing it right now, they are probably on their way to using these types of technologies as part of their screening process, especially for jobs where there are large amounts of applicants,” he says.
It might not be a future we want. Technology is only as neutral as the hiring managers who interpret artificial intelligence’s results, or the programmers who told it how to compute them.
“Certain types of language can be coded as proper and normative in a way that could be culturally specific and could lead to inequity,” McDonald says. “With linguistic analysis, complexity might be a variable that could be used as part of the analysis of something like what you see for [Google’s] interview prep ... That could be a culturally specific kind of thing. That could lead to bias in terms of race and ethnicity, and that would be a problem.”
In the meantime, Interview Warmup is a useful tool that puts you on the spot. It’s good to see how your spoken career story translates on the page. Just try not to be like me and count how many times you say “like” and “so.”