How AI is deciding who gets hired

7 min read | Amanda Whicher | Article | Recruiting Market trends Permanent hiring | Information technology sector

Hiring managers use AI tools

The increasing proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) in all walks of life has rendered it an influential tool across every facet of business, and talent acquisition is no exception. Whether it’s applicant tracking systems (ATS) or automated job descriptions, AI is already working behind the scenes to save time and resources in recruitment.

But just how effective are AI-driven recruitment methods when it comes to finding the right professionals you need, and does their potential hiring boons justify the risk of bias?

Using key findings from our What Workers Want 2024 report, we’ve endeavoured to assess what place – if any – AI has in the hiring process, along with the key risks and opportunities that recruiters and hiring managers need to be aware of.


Who’s using AI tools?

The recruitment marketplace is awash with vendors and suppliers offering tools that claim to leverage AI. These products can in fact make use of a range of emerging technologies, such as machine learning and intelligent automation, but the primary goal remains the same: helping to fill vacancies more quickly and efficiently.

Despite the proliferation of AI tools though, there appears to be some hesitancy around adopting them. Our survey revealed that only 4% of organisations currently use AI screening tools to evaluate job applications – scanning CVs and scoring candidates, for example. However, wider usage could be on the horizon, with nearly a third (30%) of employers predicting there will be a future uptake of the tech.

But just how beneficial are AI tools in the current hiring arena?


AI could discover higher-quality candidates

From sifting through thousands of applications to automatically scheduling interviews, AI tools can streamline the administrative burden of recruitment. Not only can this save on costs, but it also allows recruiters to direct more of their time towards higher-value tasks – potentially helping them source higher-value candidates. According to the employers we surveyed, nearly half (49%) have observed better-quality candidates making it through to first-stage interviews.

The potential cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits could lead some hiring managers to conclude that AI tools are an organisational must. But what happens when bias creeps into the evaluation process?


A resource-saving tool, or a vehicle for bias?

Most AI tools are trained to rely on patterns in past data, but this can perpetuate pre-existing biases and embed them into hiring processes. As is the case in society, these biased behaviours can be varied, and often unintentional. Evaluating a candidate’s vocabulary using AI could, for example, inadvertently lead to discrimination against applicants from certain backgrounds – by way of illustration, it might favour male-orientated word choices for certain roles.

The consequences of algorithmic bias can’t be understated. No progressive business wants to be in a situation where certain backgrounds, demographics or protected characteristics are disadvantaged – or entirely excluded – when recruiting. Aside from the clear ethical motive, companies also risk losing out on the best job applicants if algorithmic bias is left unchecked. It’s therefore essential that the right guardrails and testing are put in place when implementing AI in any hiring stages – along with the necessary human supervision.


Candidates value clarity when it comes to AI

It’s clear that employers must consider how transparent they are about their use of AI tools, otherwise they risk damaging the candidate experience and losing out on desirable talent. However, a third of employers currently don’t inform prospective candidates that their organisation uses AI tools to evaluate job descriptions.


“Whilst AI tools can help speed up a hiring process, employers must take the time to develop the human-to-human relationship with applicants to ensure that the best talent is not being overlooked and bias doesn’t creep in,” says Pam Lindsay-Dunn, COO at Hays UKI. “Meanwhile, transparency of AI use is key, as 78% of applicants want to know if this technology is being used to evaluate their CVs.”


Communicating how AI tools might influence any decision making could mitigate the risk of potentially high-quality candidates being prematurely rejected. Employers should make the following clear to applicants:

  • When AI tools will be used during the screening process
  • Any steps they should take to comply with an AI tool’s parameters
  • The measures taken to eliminate bias


Keeping the human in hiring

Quite simply, AI tools can help employers find the talent they need more quickly. However, they must be aware of the potential risks and limitations when using AI to source talent, and always strive to keep a human touch. Alongside the potential for embedding bias, AI tools currently lack the sophistication needed to truly assess how well an individual will fit into your organisation’s culture.

Intangibles such as emotional intelligence and critical thinking are unlikely to be replaced by AI anytime soon, and personal interaction will almost always be required to narrow down the best candidates for your organisation and a listed role. AI tools should be viewed as productivity-enhancing assets that can reduce administrative burdens and aid decision making, but that doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices.


Keep on top of AI evolution

Whether or not you’ve adopted AI, or are planning to in the future, you can be certain that its influence on the hiring arena will only grow. Recruitment is inherently a human-driven process; organisations that can strike the balance between productivity-enhancing tech and human empathy will likely see the greatest hiring success.

Making informed decisions today – especially when supported by specialised talent – will place your organisation in far better stead when navigating the hiring landscape of tomorrow, helping you leverage AI in a manner that’s mutually beneficial to your organisation and prospective candidates.

Get your copy of our What Workers Want 2024 report to discover how to make the most of AI tools in the hiring process.


About this author

Amanda Whicher, Director of Public Services Technology, Hays UK&I

Over the last 17 years, Amanda has worked primarily across public services delivering a range of consultative services in a bid to address technology recruitment and skills challenges. Her role involves working with CDIOs and CIOs of organisations in supporting a range of transformation programmes and restructures to help reposition organisations, and reshape their recruitment processes to enable them access to the diverse talent they need.

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