Artificial Intelligence and Automated Hiring Platforms – The future of recruiting, or is it?
As our society rushes in to develop computerized business solutions for every activity conducted by humans, there is often a need to pause and reflect on developments. Everyone wants the Holy Grail, a computer platform that will do the work for us and in the case of recruiting, find the top candidate for the position that is extremely qualified and able to perform the required duties. We assume that computer programming has advance to the stage where it is flawless; the best solution. But is it?
The consensus is that automated hiring platforms offers bias free hiring decisions. This discussion will review if this consensus is actually true. The primary goal of automated hiring platforms is to reduce a tremendous workload on human resources to manage large numbers of applications, and in the case of mega corporations, thousands of employment applications that are unmanageable for recruiters to handle. Automation saves employers money and reduces headcount in human resources by reducing the number of recruiters and recruiting assistants. But does automation reduce bias?
An employment and labor law expert, Dr. Ifeoma Ajunwa, http://ifeomaajunwa.com, has extensively researched this issue and advises that those who believe that automated hiring platforms are less biased and discriminatory than humans are “misguided.”
In a New York Time opinion piece, Dr. Ajunwa discusses how automation can create a closed loop system that “operates with no transparency or accountability built in to check that the criteria are fair to all job applicants” when algorithms are utilized to determine the qualifications of the candidate for a position. Dr. Ajunwa writes, “Advertisements created by algorithms encourage certain people to send in their résumés. After the résumés have undergone automated culling, a lucky few are hired and then subjected to automated evaluation, the results of which are looped back to establish criteria for future job advertisements and selections.”
Algorithms have become a part of everyday life. An automated process everyone can relate to is the mystery of your credit score and is analogous to the automated hiring process. Algorithms review your transactions and your credit history and magically determine a score then now becomes your value as a consumer. This score now determines whether or not you will receive a credit card, whether you will qualify for mortgage and how much your interest will be. Credit scores are even used when you apply for auto insurance and the cost of your policy and in some cases, whether or not you will be insured, is determined by your credit score.
Similarly, a candidate’s employment application and resume are scanned with predetermined criteria for the position in question. Just like a credit score, a value will be placed on your submission with criteria unknown to the candidate. Companies specialize in improving your credit score. Similar services are available to help candidates match their resume with keywords that will be found by employment algorithms. So the question remains, does the best candidate for the position get the job or is it the candidate that best knows how to structure their resume to match algorithms for the position who will advance to the next stage? Individuals with less sophistication or are inexperienced in resume crafting, never get to the next stage of the hiring process.
You may have heard advertisements for applicant tracking systems that will deliver qualified applicants the day after your job is posted. Algorithms only capture what they are programmed to do. Outliers that identify a candidate as a unique individual and qualified at least to move the next stage of the hiring process never have a chance and may never have a chance. Employers are increasingly using algorithms in all stages of the hiring process, resume and employment application parsing, analysis of video interviews and psychological aptitude testing.
Candidates cannot be sure if the company where they are applying will apply the human touch to review their qualifications or if they must run through the gamut of hurdles and obstacles placed by hiring algorithms. Dr. Ajunwa writes that this is particularly true for low-wage and hourly workers. Huge corporations even run the algorithm programs for entry level occupations. The potential discrimination begins at the earliest stage when algorithms create advertisements aimed towards certain people to submit their resume and exclude others.
According to Dr. Ajunwa automated hiring has “enabled discrimination against job applicants” and “we cannot rely on automated hiring platforms without adequate safeguards to prevent unlawful employment discrimination. We need laws and mandates to achieve that goal”.
Will hiring algorithms create a disparate impact on certain groups? This process runs without any transparency or accountability to determine if the underlying principles are fair across all job applicants. The ACLU has opined that algorithms have been programmed to penalize gaps in employment and positions that were short term assignments. The can practice can have an adverse impact on minority populations and women.
As technology rushes on to automate every process, let’s take a moment to step back and review current legal trends relating to this topic.
Facebook Business tools faced a class action lawsuit in 2016 alleging that it “enable and encourage discrimination by excluding African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans but not white Americans from receiving advertisements for relevant opportunities.” Another Facebook algorithm, Lookalike Audiences, highlighted Facebook users in advertisements as candidates to potential employers that were demographically identical to their existing workforce. This resulted in enforcing racial and/or gender disparities at the corporations using the service.
The lawsuit alleged that Facebook enabled advertisers to discriminate by excluding individuals based on race, sex, age and other criteria from receiving credit, housing, and job advertisements. Employers beware when using hiring platforms. Seventy employers that utilized Facebook services have pending EEOC charges relating to discrimination by excluding older workers and women and there is a large class action lawsuit pending against hundreds of employers for using this platform.
Reuters reported that Amazon internally created an automated hiring platform in 2014 to review resumes with goal of finding only the top candidates based on the algorithm it designed. Other candidates that did not pass the algorithm maze never had a chance. The platform scored candidates on a scale of one to five stars much like rating a purchase that was made on Amazon.
Only one problem, Amazon discovered in 2015 that the algorithm was not gender-neutral and the rating for engineering and technical positions biased against women. If Facebook and Amazon are unable to build bias free programming, what is the chance that hundreds if not thousands of algorithms are biased.
Lawmakers are involved in the potential for bias in artificial intelligence platforms. The Illinois attorney general opened an investigation into automated hiring platforms after Jobr, a résumé building tool, was accused of excluding older applicants. Effective January 1, 2020, the Illinois “Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act” will provide rights to candidates that apply to an employer that undertakes and application process that utilizes AI analysis and video interviewing.
A synopsis of the Act states “an employer that asks applicants to record video interviews and uses an artificial intelligence analysis of applicant submitted videos shall: notify each applicant in writing before the interview that artificial intelligence may be used to analyze the applicant’s facial expressions and consider the applicant’s fitness for the position; provide each applicant with an information sheet before the interview explaining how the artificial intelligence works and what characteristics it uses to evaluate applicants; and obtain written consent from the applicant to be evaluated by the artificial intelligence program”.
Employers can expect further scrutiny of their hiring practices. The potential for additional class action lawsuits is increasing. The Fair Report Credit Act mandates certain processes and procedures for employers and it background vendors. However, FCRA was inacted long before artificial intelligence existed and does not address the current issue. Numerous states have enacted their own state FCRA related legislation as additional protection for their citizens during the hiring process. Employers should expect states to step into the void and enact artificial intelligence statutes to protect candidates during the application process. Additionally, it is likely that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will continue to review this topic and initiate proactive guidelines.