Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly prevalent in many aspects of modern life, and it has many applications in the business world, as well. One area that AI has been utilized extensively in is the early phases of the recruitment process. Many businesses employ certain algorithms, or AI, to help narrow down the pool of applicants for a given position. It’s important for recruiters to know that just because AI is, by definition, nonhuman doesn’t mean that human characteristics and concepts such as bias and discrimination can’t become a problem.
“AI decisions are driven in some cases by probability, or the assumption that people will behave a certain way because of circumstances in their lives, such as health or income, without considering other factors that would make the decision more accurate—or legal,” writes Valerie Bolden-Barrett in an article for HR Dive.
So, for example, human biases toward certain names, educational accomplishment, or even ZIP codes could potentially seep into the decision making of recruitment programs and disproportionately eliminate potential candidates of color or members of other traditionally underrepresented groups.
A somewhat secondary bias also exists when it comes to AI, and that is the bias in favor of the presumption of objectivity for AI. The technology is foreign and not fully understood by most of us, and it’s easy to assume that because it’s an advanced, nonhuman technology, it isn’t possible for bias to exist in its outcomes. That is simply not the case.
Proceed with Caution
AI holds great promise for a number of applications and, as Bolden-Barrett points out, shouldn’t be avoided by companies looking to gain efficiencies. At the same time, AI isn’t—at least in its current incarnations—a silver bullet that can be blindly applied to any situation. Employers, HR professionals, and hiring managers should carefully consider the potential discriminatory impact of AI on the recruitment process not only because of the potential negative impact to applicants from underrepresented groups but also because of the potential negative impact to the company itself.