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Artificial Intelligence In Hiring

Today, algorithms can be used to create software capable of processing data to evaluate, rate, and make decisions about job candidates and employees. Artificial Intelligence can be used, for example, to scan resumes and prioritize applications based on certain key words. Virtual assistants or “chatbots” can question applicants about their qualifications—and reject those who do not meet defined specifications. Facial recognition software can scrutinize facial expressions to identify desirable traits.

Businesses may be tempted to make use of this rapidly developing technology.

Replacing recruiters with computer software frees up human resources staff for other duties and may translate into cost savings. It can also be argued that artificial intelligence removes the specter of potential bias by which humans may be influenced, either consciously or unconsciously. But is this the case?

AI has been known to perpetuate a lack of diversity in a workforce. An early and notable case occurred at Amazon, whose engineering and computer science jobs had historically been dominated by men. Although not programmed to do so, the AI software Amazon used was found to be ranking resumes lower if the word “women” appeared in them, thereby effectively excluding candidates from all-women colleges. The software, it seems, assumed this is what the employer wanted based on its existing workforce.

In another instance, a study found that some facial recognition software ascribed more negative emotions to certain races than to others.

Unintended outcomes like these have attracted the attention of lawmakers and administrative agencies. Some state and local governments now limit the use of AI and/or require disclosure to applicants when it is being used. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance aimed at avoiding unequal impacts on individuals with disabilities.

Employers who still wish to make use of AI in the hiring process or other HR decisions should not hesitate to quiz vendors about the way their software has been developed and the precautions they have taken to guard against bias. Businesses should memorialize and retain the assurances they receive on these points.

As always, it remains important to communicate the employer’s readiness to make reasonable accommodations in the hiring process and beyond, and to train staff to recognize and respond appropriately to requests for accommodation. This may involve alternate means of rating applicants and employees when an existing selection process is inaccessible or unfairly disadvantages someone who asks for accommodation due to a disability.

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