As we learn more about the enormous benefits of diversity in the workplace, and how unconscious biases influence hiring decisions, many companies are turning to AI and automated solutions for impartial decisions. Is AI a remedy for unconscious bias? And how can recruiters and hiring managers best leverage technology for the future? 

How AI is Transforming the Recruitment Process

Around the world, the task of recruiting staff and filling open positions has become increasingly challenging. Companies and candidates have higher expectations than ever, competition for the best talent is incredibly fierce, and many acquisition and HR departments are facing staff shortages of their own. In this environment, software that saves time and streamlines processes is incredibly valuable, regardless of larger goals of diversity and inclusion. For this reason, AI-enabled software is most widely used in recruitment for:

  • Candidate screening. AI-powered candidate screening software reviews resumes much faster than a human can, shortlisting the most promising candidates for human review. Some of these systems simply identify the most desirable candidates based on skills and experience, while others incorporate demographic data into the scoring criteria. This technology also improves over time, as it learns which candidates are the most successful. 
  • Candidate support. More and more companies are using AI-enabled chatbots as part of the recruiting process. These tools are available 24/7, available to answer candidate questions, schedule interviews, and even perform basic pre-screening. They are a great way of improving candidate experience while also saving time and improving efficiency. 
  • Process automation. In most organizations, recruitment is a long, complex, multi-step process. And it is only the beginning of the long, complex processes of onboarding a new hire and working with an employee throughout their tenure. AI-enabled software can automate many repetitive HR processes and improve efficiency. In fact, 67% of recruiters are using AI and machine learning tools to help streamline and automate the creation of job listings and job descriptions, the posting of open positions, check references, and more.  

Many organizations have uncertainties about the role of AI and software in actual candidate selection, and almost all professionals believe that human intelligence is necessary for candidate evaluation and selection. However, these tools are also proven to save time and improve efficiency, making them a natural fit for the stressful role of recruiting and talent acquisition. 

Does AI Eliminate Unconscious Bias and Create a More Diverse Workforce? 

The ability of AI to screen candidates impartially and without bias is the most commonly cited benefit of using these tools. However, the truth is more complex, and software has not yet been proven to accomplish these aims. 

It is true that AI can be trained to screen candidates and disregard demographic data, excluding information like gender, name, location, and other information that may trigger unconscious bias. AI can also be trained to assess professional achievements and past experience in a way that grants a fresh interpretation of success in a given role, broadening human perspectives on candidates. AI can also eliminate bias-coded language in job listings and job descriptions, helping to create a more diverse candidate pool.  

However, despite this potential to improve diversity during the recruiting process, AI has not yet been proven to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. In fact, in many instances, AI and machine learning tools have been found to perpetuate unconscious biases rather than eliminate them. In order for an AI to actually improve D&I (rather than simply disregard demographic data), it must be created, trained, and evaluated by diverse teams, using a diverse and inclusive dataset. So far, existing imbalances in the workplace continue to unconsciously affect AI decision making, undermining the potential of these tools. 

It is also important to remember that, even if bias were eliminated during the recruitment process, every aspect of an employee’s work life may be influenced by biases. Organizations that seek to be truly inclusive need to ensure that they are impartial with regards to pay, supervision and feedback, performance reviews, promotion opportunities, and every other aspect of an employee’s tenure. 

Concerns About AI Tools in Recruiting

For these reasons, despite the widespread adoption of AI software and tools in the recruitment industry, there are still some important concerns and potential liabilities related to these tools. The main areas of concern are: 

  1. Legal. In the US, it is illegal to discriminate against candidates during the hiring process. Companies who are found to avoid candidates due to various protected candidates are legally liable for those hiring practices. However, AI screening software may perpetuate biases, or infer protected category status based on other factors (like social media behavior). A company may feel that they are protected from liability because no human is directly involved in the candidate screening process, but the courts have yet to test that theory. These tools also have a substantial ability to create comprehensive candidate profiles that incorporate years of their personal online activities, raising questions about privacy and the use of personal data. 
  2. Ethical. The stakes in recruiting are very high, and a person’s employment can determine the trajectory of their entire life. If the algorithm that suggests a song or movie is incorrect, a person can simply disregard the suggestion and move on. But if a person is eliminated from consideration for employment, the consequences can be enormous, and they may have no insight into how, why, or by whom these decisions are being made. An ethical recruiting system would not just be unbiased and impartial, but it would also be transparent and accountable, allowing candidates and employers insight into the decision-making process. 

While these tools are already being used extensively in recruiting and HR, and their potential is enormous, there are still reasons why organizations should be both cautious and conscious of their use of AI and algorithms. Claims that these tools eliminate unconscious bias and promote a more fair and diverse workforce are largely overstated and unproven, and there are still very few mechanisms for transparency and accountability. Using human intelligence is still a necessary part of the hiring process, and will be so for the foreseeable future.

Do you need an extra human to support your hiring? Contact Grapefrute today.