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4 months ago by Libby McCaughey

Is there a future for AI in Recruitment?

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Many HR Managers said they had plans to invest in AI tools within the next five years after a recent survey conducted by Swedish technologists. Do you? No? Well, maybe that’s a good thing!

Artificial Intelligence is quickly becoming a popular tool for human capital tasks, like hiring and promoting employees. Although it has been years in the making - with original ideas and plans first developed back in 1955 by Newal and Simon – today we are seeing rapid changes in AI technology, and developments in robotics. A prototype of a robot that can conduct interviews is the recent result of over 60 years of research.

Tengai’s (yes, she has a name) main objective is to offer candidates with job interviews that are completely free from unconscious biases - which recruiters and managers commonly bring to the hiring process - while still ensuring the experience “seems human”. How can a robot seem human?

Would a glowing yellow face, backed by a machine, seem human? At 41cm tall she sits at eye level with the candidate and even has the ability to blink, smile lightly and tilt her head. She can mimic the way you speak and even your facial expressions. More, creepy than human don’t you think? 

Perhaps it’s something that you’d get used to over time. Maybe it’s just a bullet we have to bite if AI and robotics really does eliminate unconscious bias. If we are currently in a skill short market any tool that can improve the hiring process should be something we invest in, right?

Well, maybe not…

Race, appearance, age, gender, wealth and more are deeply embedded subconscious attitudes we unknowingly make judgments on. In fact, they are so embedded that pattern matching and prioritising familiar traits (popular AI techniques) can STILL result in institutional bias! How can a robot, with no emotions, feelings, or mind, harbor unconscious biases?

AI tools rely on heaps of historical data like, employee evaluations and promotions in order to recognise patterns and make assessments. Something called natural language processing is used in order to program AI human capital tools. This means bias is injected into the analysis by favoring data that contains ‘masculine’ words. 

As one of the largest global firms Amazon is a great example. When they began to introduce AI into their hiring process, their computers were programmed to identify patterns in and previously submitted CVs to understand what metrics lead to a hire, compare new CVs against the indicators of previous successful ones and provided a result. Simple enough. Not really…

In this example the majority of the CVs submitted were from male applicants, the program then began to link words such as ‘executed’ and ‘captured’ with successful candidates. However, as it linked those words to male candidates it’d cut women out of the process! This result may not come as a surprise in the tech industry, which has long been monopolised by men. But any industry can be susceptible to this kind of disparity! 

Elon Musk said, “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation”. The tech mogul argues AI could become and existential threat and regulations must be put in place NOW, not after!

Are human jobs really at risk? Will tech replace us? Musk argues that AI does threaten jobs, and we should be concerned.

Musk isn’t alone with his concerns about AI. Swedish psychologist, Dr Malin Lindelöw, who specialises in recruitment, says: “Recruiting is very much a leap of faith. It’s a huge investment. It’s a huge commitment. And you need to believe in the decision you make… I find it very difficult to believe that recruiting managers will rely on a robot.”

We are currently in a skills short market, especially in highly competitive industries such as finance. So, when it comes to the hiring process and interviews, it’s as much the choice of the candidate whether or not they want to work for the company. 

Not only do AI programs fail to eliminate unconscious biases out of the hiring process, robots are unable to sense and value a candidate’s personality. Skill set is factual and could look identical on two CVs, but the robot would neglect to acknowledge what candidate would also be the best cultural fit for a business. 

Unlike a robot, internal and external recruiters and hiring managers use years of experience to build a deep understanding of your requirements, preferences and priorities to ensure that candidates are a great fit culturally as well as having the right skill set. Robots may be the future but is it the best future for recruitment?

What do you think? Let us know, we are intrigued to find out.