3 Ways AI Can Prevent Unconscious Bias in Hiring

When interviewing candidates, recruiters are determining whether they have the experience, skills, and education necessary for the open position. These are items we consciously consider when deciding on who will ultimately get the job offer in the end.

But what about the things we don’t consciously consider?

By nature, humans are often quick to judge – whether we realize it or not. I’m talking, of course, about unconscious bias. Some studies suggest that our brains are wired to be predisposed towards stereotypes. Others have shown that we’re more likely to befriend people who are similar to ourselves.

This is obviously not ideal. Particularly when it comes to a workforce, diversity is good for a variety of reasons. People who come from different walks of life bring differing cultures, viewpoints, and ideas – all of which keep a business thriving and prevent stagnation; and while there are different steps we can take to minimize our unconscious biases, it’s almost impossible for people to be truly objective.

That’s where technology and artificial intelligence step in. Here are some of the ways AI can help us beat our biases.

1. Grading Our Job Advertisements. The labor market is tight, so writing the perfect job ad is more important than ever. But could the job descriptions you write be driving potential candidates away? Gender-coded language in job adverts could be deterring qualified candidates from applying to your company. Some recruiters are using AI-augmented writing systems to curtail this problem and improve their job ad’s performance.

Textio uses linguistic data and predictive analytics. It analyzes language patterns to understand why some job descriptions do well, some don’t, and why some attract only certain genders. While writing the ad, Textio recommends alternative phrasing and warns you if a word or phrase could dissuade candidates. It then gives your description an overall score; the higher, the better. Many large companies are beginning to use this service to create higher-performing job ads that bring in talent of all sorts.

2. Skipping to the Good Stuff in Resumes. A person’s resume says a lot about them; some argue, in fact, that resumes say a bit too much. Studies show that people with names that read as “non-white” are less likely to get called for an interview. People make assumptions about the candidate’s sex, socioeconomic background, and age based on the identifying information presented in a standard resume. This provides several avenues for biased hiring, conscious or unconscious.

Artificial intelligence streamlines the resume screening process and reduces bias by scanning resumes for relevant skills and experience. Ideal’s AI looks for candidates that have the proper credentials without ever glancing at where they live or attempting to determine how old they are. This ensures that all qualified candidates make it through to the interview process without recruiters or hiring managers unintentionally making biased decisions.

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3. Impartial Interviewing. Interviewing candidates can be a minefield: the halo effect, confirmation bias, nonverbal bias, and more can all influence the outcome of an interview. Some companies are avoiding this by using chatbots to conduct preliminary interviews with candidates.

TalkyJobs, for example, uses an AI to ask candidates questions that would be covered in an early interview. It focuses solely on skills, qualifications, experience, and personality. The AI never asks for data regarding race, gender, or any other extraneous information. It analyzes the answers based on the employer’s candidate profile and flags those that should move on to a more in-depth interview.

Going Forward

AI won’t fix all our problems, and there is still a long way to go in perfecting this technology. Amazon recently shut down an AI recruiting tool it built because it began to discriminate against women. Developers need to be careful with the data on which they build artificial intelligence systems; otherwise, they may accidentally create an AI with its own unconscious biases.

But as technology advances, it becomes clear that these systems could change hiring and work as we know it. It only seems right that we utilize these new programs to not only streamline hiring, but to ensure that great people get great jobs – no matter who they are.

Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen
Tammy Cohen (SHRM-CP, PHR) is the founder and chief visionary officer of InfoMart, an identity and background screening company.

Tammy Cohen

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