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Study: AI Recruitment Tools Fail to Reduce Hiring Bias

These days the job process is getting more difficult and frustrating for both the candidate and the recruiter. Hopeful candidates craft personalised cover letters and resumes to make them stand out from the pile. Meanwhile, recruiters face the task of sifting through thousands of applications to select a few candidates to interview before eventually hiring one person for the position. Now recruiters use recruitment tools with algorithms to help them go through resumes to hire people.

There has been a longstanding debate on whether recruitment tools do more harm than help in the job application process. Do the algorithms reduce human biases during the recruitment phase? A research paper published by Cambridge University last week says no. Reducing biases by way of algorithms is a “myth,” says Dr Kerry Mackereth, a post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge.

“These tools can't be trained to only identify job-related characteristics and strip out gender and race from the hiring process,” she told the BBC. “Because the kinds of attributes we think are essential for being a good employee are inherently bound up with gender and race.”

How recruitment tools are used

Recruitment software is designed to help organisations and recruiters screen potential candidates thoroughly. Tracking the applicant through the screening process and keeping their data updated is meant to be easy for the recruiter using the tools. The algorithm used in these tools is supposed to identify and reduce human biases but can also implement these biases.

Asynchronous video interviews (AVI) are an example of a recruitment tool. Applicants are screened through platforms like HireVue, a video platform with pre-determined questions. The applicant answers each question within a time limit but can also retake the video if necessary. According to HireVue, this process is fairer and less biased than human recruiters and results in a more diverse range of candidates. In some cases, these videos are then watched by actual hiring managers. In other cases, the algorithms assess the candidates based on keywords and facial expressions, say the Financial Times.

HireVue says their “fair and transparent” hiring process helps recruiters and managers make better and faster decisions and boasts a 16% increase in new hire diversity.

Moving forward from past mistakes

Amazon scrapped their AI recruitment tool in 2018 because it showed bias against women candidates. The device was introduced to the company in 2014 and observed patterns in resumes submitted to the company. The article from Reuters showed that the patterns reflected the male-dominated tech industry, and the tool eventually taught itself that male candidates were better. For example, it favoured more masculine language, such as “executed” and “captured” on resumes.

From personal experience, using an AVI platform to record an interview can be awkward as I didn’t know where to make eye contact with the webcam. Without a recruiter in the room, the conversation doesn’t feel natural, especially when I can’t read the room to gauge how the interview is going. It’s also unnatural to look at yourself on camera. I caught my reflection and saw my uncomfortable face staring back at me, which made me feel even more self-conscious. Because AVI platforms are not the same as human interactions, I didn’t get to interact with any person from the company, so I was left unfamiliar with the company culture.

A Reddit thread gave users tips on how to work with an AVI platform:

  1. Look above the webcam, not directly at it.

  2. Practice your answers before recording to make yourself feel more comfortable.

  3. If you have notes, they should be in bullet points. It helps to glace at keywords than whole sentences.

  4. If you’re struggling with eye contact, stick a smiley face next to your webcam and talk to it.

  5. Dress well (like you would for an in-person interview).

Despite one following these tips, a video recording platform can’t compare to a natural person. John Jersin, the vice president of LinkedIn Talent Solutions, told Reuters in 2018 that the recruitment tool is not a replacement for traditional recruiters. “I certainly would not trust any AI system today to make hiring decision on its own,” he said in the same interview. “The technology is just not ready yet.” It looks as though it’s not ready four years later.

The hiring process is complicated and tedious, but hopefully, recruiters on the other side will realise they are also dealing with real people and treat them as such instead of a part of the algorithm.


Did this article change your mind about AI system-based hiring?  Tell us in the comments.

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