Everybody is talking about unconscious bias and so many suggestions have been made on how to reduce unconscious biases in recruiting. From blind resumes, skill tests, to restructured interviews, everyone has ideas on how to reduce bias in the hiring process. These tools help to reduce bias in the hiring process, however, they don’t completely eliminate the risk. There are a variety of types of bias, both conscious and unconscious, and they can influence decision makers in near-invisible ways. So, what are we missing? Is it even possible to completely eradicate bias?
Truth be told, if we only rely on a “human” fix for bias, we may not ever get there. The difficulty of unconscious bias is right there in the title: it is UNconscious. So either people are not aware of the bias and cannot fix it, or they need to be hyper aware at all times of potential biases and pitfalls.
Everyone has biases that subtly influence their thinking. One of the most common forms of bias, affinity bias, which encourages people to seek out people who look, think, and act the same way they do. This bias could be embedded in our DNA: our evolutionary psychology often compels us on some level to seek out community members who are already similar to ourselves. Affinity bias leads to workforce homogeneity and can be difficult to combat.
Luckily, where our brains fail us, technology can pick up the slack. Artificial intelligence is being used to completely revolutionize the recruitment and hiring process. A well-designed AI could jumpstart your recruiting as well as reduce any potential biases that could come into play during the hiring process. Here’s why.
AI technology analyzes massive amounts of data and, utilizing algorithms and machine learning, can determine who would be the best candidate based on the available data. With each new data point, the AI gets better at processing and recognizing stellar candidates. This type of large-scale processing is beyond the scope of what the human brain is capable of. Best of all, the AI assesses this data without being burdened with assumptions and biases.
Artificial intelligence technology can also be programmed to only look at specific information. For example, it is entirely possible to create an AI that is “blind” to demographic data such as race and gender. This prevents the AI from looking at anything beyond skills and experience, so it judges candidates based on that criteria alone. While a human recruiter may never be able to separate a person from their resume, an AI can do it with ease.
A person working in Human Resources may have a variety of duties and responsibilities outside of recruitment and hiring. Companies sometimes receive literal millions of resumes for an open position. A human talent acquisition specialist simply does not have the time or processing power to assess the entire candidate pipeline. Shortcuts have to be made in order to find a great candidate in a timely manner. This means qualified candidates will undoubtedly be overlooked and passed over.
Artificial intelligence lifts the burden of parsing through resumes and does it faster than any human ever could. AI accesses every single applicant in the recruitment pipeline, whether there are hundreds or hundreds of thousands. AI technology can quickly look at every single candidate and recommend those who would be best fit for the position. With AI, no candidate slips through the cracks or goes unnoticed. In addition, it allows HR to focus on other efforts and reduces overall time-to-hire.
AI will play a critical role in diversifying the workforce. A well-designed AI can provide an unbiased overview of an applicant’s skills and abilities, ensuring that every candidate that comes through your pipeline will have an equitable shot at landing the position. That’s not all it can do, either. AI’s are being used to identify bias in job descriptions and identify bias in hiring patterns.
These AI tools can be a gamechanger for recruiters who want to prioritize diversity. Reducing bias in all stages of the recruitment process gives underrepresented candidates a chance to truly shine. Artificial intelligence can be trained to ignore demographics or even prioritize certain demographics based on your hiring goals. For example, an organization with majority male leadership may decide they need to increase gender diversity within their management. An AI can be tapped to parse, evaluate, and recommend female candidates for open positions.
One of artificial intelligence’s fatal flaws is that an AI is only as good as the data used to train it. Amazon was lambasted in the past for creating a hiring AI that prioritized male candidates over female ones. Since the data used to “train” the AI was heavily biased towards men, and was not programmed to ignore demographic information, the AI itself picked up the biases of its creators. Creating a hiring AI requires careful consideration, programming, and frequent human oversight.
The good news is that bias in an AI is much easier to spot. By performing an audit of recent hire demographics and the AI itself, you can identify patterns that indicate a bias. This allows organizations to adjust their algorithms, update their data set, and eliminate any bias that rears its head. If you discover your hiring manager has an unconscious bias towards a specific group, there is nothing that can be done except find a new manager. If you discover your AI has a bias towards a specific group, it can be reprogrammed and retrained so that the bias is excised.
Technology may not always be perfect, but it’s easier to reprogram an AI than it is a human brain.
Artificial intelligence, when used correctly, can speed up and greatly reduce bias in your hiring process. The reduction of bias is critical to creating an inclusive workplace where employees of all backgrounds can flourish. Women, BIPOC, veterans, and disabled people are all hired at lower rates than their white male counterparts despite being equally qualified. Underrepresented groups don’t lack qualified talent; they are systematically disadvantaged by biased recruitment and hiring practices.
The strategic and ethical implementation of AI is necessary to create a truly equitable hiring process. Technology provides us with the tools we need to overcome our unconscious biases; it’s just a matter of using them efficiently and effectively.
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