Interviewed by a robot…

The majority of you have no doubt attended an interview for a job at some stage. Some of you have also probably done the interviewing.

If you have interviewed somebody, how many interviews would you say you would be able to do before you started to lose concentration?

Well my guess is that you wouldn’t be able to do as many as this interviewer can and whilst this particular interviewer won’t be able to ask any difficult questions, one thing it can do for sure is process far more information than you or I could.

Vodafone has begun using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen people applying for jobs at their call centres and shops.

Candidates looking for a job with Vodafone have to record a video of themselves answering questions from a standard questionnaire. These videos are then reviewed by robots. OK, not real robots but computers which have been programmed with advanced algorithms which can assess the candidate’s suitability for the job by way of analysing facial cues and voice intonation.

If candidates get through this scrutiny by the computer then they are put forward for interview by humans.

Vodafone has been using this technology significantly and it was reported in the Times newspaper that about 50,000 applicants have already gone through this AI procedure.

That’s an impressive number and a significant amount of time has been saved by using machines instead of humans. Catalina Schveninger, Vodafone’s head of resourcing was quoted as saying “It takes a tremendous amount of time out of the hiring process: it halves the time and allows us to fish from a much bigger pool”. Ms Schveninger went on to say that “We are the first multinational implementing a programme like this on a global scale. This is the future of resourcing”.

I wonder though whether the AI includes the ability for the computers to detect that you are stretching the truth when you answer the question about “What are your weaknesses?” by saying that you are too hard working and too much of a perfectionist…

He won’t be scratching the surface on this one.

A good friend of mine collect labels from beer bottles. As he travels around the world on holiday or business he collect labels from bottles of the local beer.

I think it’s a nice idea as it is a unique souvenir of where he’s visited, it’s relatively cheap and perhaps most importantly it gives him a great excuse to try out some local beers.

Things may be about to become more difficult for him though as a number of beer producers seem to be changing their marketing mix to save money and (some would argue) make the bottles look more fashionable.

As a lot of readers will appreciate, the marketing mix is also known as the 4Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). If you look at the product component of the mix then not only does it include the beer itself but it also includes the packaging. This packaging in turn includes bottles (both glass and plastic) as well as cans.

Drinking some bottles of beer during a recent evening out with friends at a restaurant got the accountant in me thinking about what it costs to create the bottle that holds the beer.

Well if you think about it the raw materials that go into the bottle are glass (for the bottle) and metal (for the top) together with paper and glue for the label.

How can you reduce the cost of the packaging?

Can you reduce the quantity or quality of the glass? This would be tricky as the bottle could break.

What about the top? Again, this is awkward as you don’t want the beer to suddenly start leaking from the top of the bottle.

That leaves the paper and glue for the label and what a number of manufacturers now appear to be doing is producing bottles without the main label on it but instead embossing the name of the beer on the bottle itself (no additional material costs) and having the only label as a small paper “collar” around the neck of the bottle. An example of such a bottle can be seen in the image above from the successful Fosters Beer adverts in the UK.

Reducing the label size seems to make sense for bottles of beer that are sold in restaurants. After all, the label on the bottle has little impact on the purchasing decision when a person is looking at the menu or asking the waiter or waitress what beer they have. They may even know what beer they want already or can’t see the bottle anyway so the bottle wouldn’t impact on their decision.

It seems a good idea therefore for the beer companies to save money by removing the labels. Even though the paper used by one label is quite small, if you multiply that by the thousands of bottles which are sold around the world every day it could turn into a very significant saving.

What is interesting though is that if you go into a shop or supermarket that is selling beer, you will see bottles which have larger more “attention grabbing” labels on them. As people are wandering through the supermarket aisles they haven’t necessarily made up their mind whether they want to purchase a bottle of beer or if they have, what particular beer they want so having a big label which will grab their attention is a good thing.

In summary then it appears that two out of three people are happy. The accountant in the beer company is happy as production costs have been reduced due to reducing the labelling on the restaurant bottles. The marketing person is happy as he or she can use their skills on the design and thought process behind the labelling for bottles that are sold in supermarkets.

As for my friend that collect the beer bottle labels well my guess is that he may soon be unhappy as instead of trying to peel off the labels from the bottles whilst sat at a restaurant table he’s having to try to do that at the supermarket…