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A computer screen displays an abstract algorithm concept/code. Lines of code (text) are visible under a magnifying lens.

Short-Sighted Hiring: An Open Letter to Employers Using Visual Interactive Assessments

By: Will Honcharuk
CNIB National Youth Council Member

In today’s world, algorithms factor into many decisions like our creditworthiness, dating choices, and whether we are qualified for a job. Employers increasingly use online assessments during the hiring process with the belief that they’re both more convenient and less biased than using human personnel, but for organizations that consider themselves to be “visionaries,” the use of algorithms can be blinding.

In 2019, Proctor & Gamble implemented an online assessment for new hires. The system incorporates a personality test (the PEAK Performance test) and a visual cognition test (the Interactive Assessment) to determine the most viable candidates. 

Proctor & Gamble isn’t the only company doing this— this rapid, image-based system is also used for hiring by major global companies like KPMG and Burger King. Developer AON justifies the software as a tool to test candidates’ “verbal, logical, and numerical skills” — if that is the goal, why then the rapid, random imagery? The system is incredibly fast-paced and visually dependent, where an applicant must respond to a series of visual and spatial challenges within a short time frame.

I’m an “A” student. I consider myself to be a capable brand strategist and critical thinker. I also happen to be legally blind.

If you got to know me, you would know all the things that I can do. It might surprise you.

I’ll tell you what I can’t do: count random, pulsating flashes of light from the corner of a computer screen, much less replicate that pattern after the dots “disappear.” Apparently, this would be a deal-breaker for a marketing position at Procter & Gamble.

These robotic assessments are being used because they are supposed to be less biased than humans.

I’m not applying to be a fighter pilot. I’m applying for a job that I have successfully done at other organizations, but a company using an automated first-round hiring process wouldn’t know that. I was eliminated when I couldn’t count the number of flying widgets in the right-hand corner.

This is not only ridiculous, but it’s also offensive and discriminatory. 

Let’s be clear, employers: no one is asking you to GIVE them a job — we’re just asking for a level playing field. 

My eyes may be different, but I can bring a lot of vision to any organization. I can only imagine how many excellent candidates have been overlooked through such automated processes. In an era where companies are paying more attention to their diversity and inclusion policies, where every effort is made to ensure equal representation of gender identities, skin colour, and age, it’s time to take a closer look at the corporate procedures that are preventing qualified disabled people from getting their foot in the door.