talent acquisition

AI and Bias: The Challenges & Opportunities for Talent Acquisition

Chris Cella is GR8 People’s Vice President, Product. Known for his passion, discipline and imagination, Chris leads all aspects of product life cycle management for the company's next phase of product growth and market leadership. With more than a decade of experience leading diverse technology teams in a product management capacity, Chris always has an eye on the future and is focused on building transformative HR technology solutions for the enterprise.

AI and recruiting. In recent years, these two words put together have generated quite a buzz in talent acquisition. Adding “bias” into that mix has also created a different kind of buzz. What are your thoughts on inherent causes of process-enforced bias that’s common in modern recruiting systems?

Bias in recruiting can be caused by a number of factors, some totally natural to the human condition, some caused by prejudice, and others an outcome of weighing the benefits of process standardization and efficiency over fairness.

To achieve efficiency, efforts are made to identify repeatable patterns. One of the most common, and most associated with recruiting efficiency, is the “ideal candidate profile”. This may be a combination of a number of factors such as where a job seeker went to school and what they studied, or where they worked previously and in what roles, and much more.

The identification of an ideal candidate profile to quickly find and court only the most likely-to-perform talent reduces cycle time, cost-to-hire and better outcomes. However, the patterns can potentially open the door to bias.

Organizations try to develop their hiring patterns based on the study of their existing high performing and high value employees. If that pattern is based on male or female dominated roles, the ideal candidate profile may reinforce that bias. This may be a basic example, but in reality biased outcomes have serious consequences. Compliance is critically important, but so too is the less-visible but still problematic impact of not having enough diversity of thought and experience that drives innovation and a competitive edge.

Share your thoughts on how companies will need to address inherent bias in data used along with AI/machine learning for sourcing, matching and scoring candidates?

Purposeful design, ongoing visibility and diligence!

The minimization or elimination of bias needs to be made a goal for the system and the AI tools we wrap around the process.

Because this is so fundamental to the proper application of these automated technologies, best-in-class AI providers across the whole spectrum of use-cases are training their tools to correct for bias prior to putting them in the hands of recruiting organizations. To this point, the forward-thinking administrators of these tools will not only be asking IF the tool considers and corrects for bias, but also WHICH biases it measures and HOW as well. You can spot a quality provider if the answer seems well-considered and thorough, with data that can illustrate outcomes.

As anyone who has been bitten by overhyped technology can attest, there is a big difference between understanding what a system can do and ensuring that it is having the desired effect against your real-world scenario.

At the tail end of 2018, Amazon received a lot of press … can you expand on this and the potential impact on AI and recruiting as a result?

The issue of AI-driven bias became much more visible due to this early, high-profile misstep. Our shopping god speaks, and we the people listen! The result of this additional visibility is scrutiny from both the recruiting industry and the regulatory bodies. Buyers are starting to ask the right questions of vendors, and though generally a bit slower to adapt, the regulators are beginning to consider the impact these tools can have on fair recruiting processes.

Does AI offer us the opportunity to potentially remove bias from hiring?

When used consistently and when developed in a considerate manner, properly-trained AI can automatically adjust itself to ensure that its outcomes are not generating bias. Right now, however, AI is not solely responsible for hiring. In most cases it is being used to discover, sort, rank and prequalify talent in as non-biased a way as possible before providing that list to the human-driven portions of the selection process.

At the end of the day (today) a human is still going to be interviewing a person and deciding if they should get the job. Machines may be able to give a confidence rating to submitted candidates, but if the machine-championed candidate comes in and the hiring manager thinks “just doesn’t look right” or insert a thousand other human bias drivers, then bias is reintroduced.

Evaluating today’s landscape, what advice can you offer someone in talent acquisition who wants to choose the right solution?

With all solutions in this space in particular, be wary of fantastic claims that are unsupported by large sets of data. We have seen many providers claim that their point solution can replace swaths of existing processes and solutions, only to look a little deeper and see that the scientific validity, architectural underpinnings, and/or basic enterprise-readiness of the vendor does not support the claim. When there is a clear ability to solve a problem with demonstrable business outcomes, you will stay on track.

How is GR8 People leveraging AI for their customers?

As a full-cycle talent acquisition platform, GR8 People is dedicated to providing access to best-of-breed AI capabilities and our customers’ requirements drive our focus both natively and through integrations.

Initial native capability development has included automated sourcing and processing. AI has its fingerprint all over our talent platform, from NLP parsing for both resumes and job descriptions, to smart matching and automated engagement communications (email, text, message channels, bots).

We also leverage market-proven solutions via tightly built and seamless integrations. It’s always our goal to enable our customers to quickly and easily bring the best of what AI has to offer at any given time to bear on their recruiting process. GR8 People never stops building capabilities and partnerships. With constant evolution in mind, our customers in talent acquisition and our platform never lag behind in what is a fast-changing market.


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