It’s almost impossible to look online these days without seeing ‘AI’ or ‘machine learning’ plastered all over the place. That’s not a bad thing of course – we live in exciting times technologically. There’s already a plethora of advanced recruitment tech solutions out there, claiming they can do everything from interviewing candidates better than a human to sifting through CVs to pick top applicants. We hear a lot about the advantages, but are we talking enough about the potential downsides?
We’ve all heard the predictions that AI could replace human recruitment specialists, or that HR could end up a fully automated process. While there would be a certain amusing irony in seeing an HR department run entirely by machines, the human element of recruitment and HR practice is only likely to get more important, not less. Understanding the importance of the ‘human factor’ (which includes soft skills like emotional intelligence and decision making) in recruitment is also the key to highlighting and understanding the potential risks that an increase in AI automation brings with it.
Here are three potential problem areas that could cause major issues for recruiters and jobseekers alike if we’re not careful how we assess and implement up and coming technology.
Automated Recruitment can be Exploited
We’re all getting more tech-savvy, and thanks to the internet, as soon as a new piece of tech or software is out there, it’s often a matter of hours before someone has worked out how to hack, break, or modify it. New recruitment tech is no different, and ATS systems are the perfect example.
Research conducted by Tribe Pad, a software provider, found that 88% of candidates who are aware of applicant tracking systems have attempted to optimise their CV. That’s normal enough, but one in four those aware of ATS have also tried to game assessment systems. The study also found that:
- 57% of candidates go for quantity over quality when applying for jobs
- 42% worry that tech might screen people incorrectly
This combination of distrust in recruitment technology and the desire to get ahead in the hiring process by any means necessary means jobseekers have started using a variety of measures to try and manipulate the recruitment process in their favour. Some tactics include:
- Searching online to see how other people got hired at the same company, or for a similar role.
- Using keywords or buzzwords that they know will get their CV search hits from an ATS or automated system.
- Exaggerating or lying about previous experience on a CV.
- Cheating on skills or psychometric tests.
While the percentages of surveyed candidates using these methods wasn’t that high, it is significant. Just one example of why recruiters can’t rely on technology alone to choose applicants.
It could be argued that in a way nothing has changed. Exaggerations on a CV isn’t a new trick, for example, and neither is looking up what other candidates might have done to get hired. The problem is, AI might not be able to spot these issues. An experienced recruiter, on the other hand, could see the potential warning signs.
AI Bias and Transparency Could be a Problem
Around 42% of respondents to TribePad’s research thought that technology dehumanises the recruitment process, and that recruitment decisions should ultimately be made by people, not programs. Rather tellingly, a much smaller number (21%) highlighted what could be a much greater problem – that software and AI are still programmed by humans, and are therefore likely to inherit inherent biases as a result. As it turns out, this unease isn’t entirely misplaced.
Firstly, there are the ethical challenges of handling such detailed personal information. In a world where data is now almost the most valuable commodity (set to be worth around €111 billion in 2020), how we approach the privacy issues that could arise as a result of AI or automated systems using and sharing CV information is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Then there’s the question as to whether the qualities that make a good employee are even able to be parsed by AI at all. Many experts have their doubts. Meredith Whittaker, the co-founder of the AI Now Institute, called claims that AI can spot good employees through facial movements, mannerisms, and tone of voice pseudoscience. She’s not alone in making such criticisms.
Yes, there are advantages to using recruitment AI, especially when it comes to cost and efficiency, but there are some serious questions that need to be properly addressed as well. Another area of concern is transferring bias directly into automated systems and AI. Can a facial recognition AI accurately read the expressions of all people, regardless of age, gender, and race? Can an automated recruitment system really construct an accurate picture of an applicant and their personality from a CV?
Unless these systems have been programmed with an almost uncountable number of variables – currently an extremely difficult task – then they will operate within the limits, and biases, of their programmed parameters. Who takes responsibility for discrimination and bias in these systems? The HR department? The recruitment agency? The software provider? No-one?
Jobseekers Prefer People
The final, and arguably most fundamental issue, is that jobseekers simply don’t want to go through an entirely automated hiring process. And who can blame them? We only need to look at an automated switchboard to see how infuriating a fully automated recruitment process could become if we’re not careful. In the TribePad survey, 75% of jobseekers said they were also concerned that their CV wouldn’t make it past screening AI or software, while 70% said they thought interviews should be conducted by an actual person.
This might all paint a fairly negative picture, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t use new and innovative tools to increase efficiency, reduce cost, and improve processes. Of course we should. Jobseekers know this too, and despite having many reservations about up and coming technology, most use online job boards by a clear margin (56%) to find their next role these days.
There’s plenty of positive feedback for video interviewing, skills tests, chatbots, and automatic CV reading software as well, so it’s clear that recruiters don’t need to be taking any extreme steps back into the dark ages.
AI as a Tool (Not a Necessity)
In the end, like many other industries, there’s no doubt that automation and AI will affect the way recruitment works. That doesn’t automatically mean removing people from the equation entirely. People are going to be more important than ever, in fact – it will be those exact qualities that make us human that means we’ll be an essential part of any process, especially in a sector as social as recruitment. Human recruiters aren’t going anywhere.
New technology and its potential is always exciting. We just need to ensure we measure the impacts, advantages, and disadvantages carefully and objectively.