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3rd January 2023

2022 Highlights: Computer says no – should we welcome AI in recruitment?

Georgia Heneage

As unemployment soars and the market floods with an excess of applicants applying for a limited number of jobs, the recruitment process has become swamped. Amber Shrimpton, an HR consultant at Centrica energy, says the economic situation has sparked a “loose labour market where there are more people looking for jobs than employers offering them”.

It seems, then, that the need for technology in the application process may be more important now than ever. The role which Artificial Intelligence plays in recruitment is expanding exponentially; machine learning allows companies to filter a large number of job applicants and vast amounts of data more quickly and efficiently, which is why conglomerate companies like McDonalds, JP Morgan and accountancy firm PWC are jumping on the trend.

According to recruiters, the most time consuming part of hiring is the initial sifting through hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applicants. This is where AI steps in. Intelligence can sort through CVs, look for the right candidate and conduct first-stage interviews with them; they can perform background research on the candidate such as income, earnings and schooling.

According to one report, 52% of talent acquisition leaders say the hardest part of recruitment is identifying the right candidates from a large applicant pool, so on the surface AI recruitment seems like an attractive alternative.

But, like any rapidly growing technological phenomenon, the symptoms are not all positive. A BBC article yesterday revealed the ins and outs of this digitalised process and one jobseeker’s largely negative experience of being interviewed via an algorithm.

That our future careers may be decided on the algorithmic whim of new AI recruitment software may strike anxious jobseekers as unwelcome: doing well in an interview has traditionally been reliant on human contact, such as a firm handshake or good eye contact, and the automated nature of this process has frightened off even the most tech-savvy of companies- like Amazon, who scrapped their artificial hiring tool back in 2016 because of bias against female candidates.

But the role that AI plays in the job process doesn’t always have to be so invasive: technology plays a large part in just assisting online job searchers, such as with ‘Chatbots’ or automated replies to applicants inquiring online about a job. Technology can also play an important role in recruiters matching applicants to the right job by using data to match applicants’ skill sets and interests with the right role.

What’s more, the science has progressed since Amazon’s decision to ditch its hiring tool in 2016: many specialists consider automated recruitment tools to actually be a more diverse approach to hiring than humans, who have unavoidable internal (or external) bias.

A report from IBM Smarter Workforce Institute showed the impact AI can have on remedying the systemic inequalities in the workplace by diversifying the recruitment process; machine learning can choose the right candidate for the job regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity or background, and can help to eliminate the massive role which nepotism currently plays in the majority of job applications.

One report even found that the gendered language of jobs ads can exclude female applicants and “maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations”. So data-driven, standardised language may be crucial in adopting non-partisan advertising language in order to make the job market a more level playing-field for men and women.

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