How Artificial Intelligence Can Stop Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

Sabrina Son

As much as we try to deny it, all human beings suffer from some form of unconscious bias—it’s part of nature. Whether we realize it or not, our decisions are influenced by our experiences.

Biases in recruiting can ultimately create a homogenous company culture, meaning that there’s a lack of diversity in the company’s workforce. Thanks to social media and sites like Glassdoor, companies can no longer hide their reputation of not having an inclusive culture. And public knowledge eventually leads to a vicious cycle, where diverse candidates avoid applying to specific companies due to the negative employer brand. In fact, 55% of job seekers avoid certain companies after reading negative online reviews.

In this article, we discuss how unconscious bias creeps into the recruiting process and how AI can stop unconscious bias in recruiting.

How unconscious bias makes its way into the recruiting process

As mentioned above, unconscious bias comes in many forms. Here are some forms of biases that can make its way into the recruiting process:

  • Leniency effect: Research has shown that an interviewer may give a candidate an inflated, favorable rating because the interviewer believes a negative rating will reflect poorly upon them. This could be the case if recruiters and hiring managers are interviewing an employee’s referral, where the interviewers don’t want to negatively affect their relationship with the employee who referred the candidate.
  • Contrast effect: Remember in school when everyone had to do presentations, and the person before you did an excellent presentation? You didn’t want to be the next to present because you felt like yours wouldn’t be as good as the previous presentation. The contrast effect is similar. If a candidate performed well during the interview, then you’re most likely going to believe the next one won’t be as good.
  • Confirmation bias: If you saw something on a candidate’s resume that makes you believe they’re perfect for the job, then you’re most likely going to look for information during the interview to confirm this belief.
  • Personal similarity bias: This is most prevalent when companies hire for culture fit. In reality, when we’re hiring to culture fit, we’re actually looking for people who are most similar to us. This would result in a non-diverse workforce.

Now that you know how easily unconscious bias makes its way into the recruiting process, here’s how AI can stop that.

How AI can remove unconscious bias in recruiting

First and foremost: how is AI being used in recruiting? Companies have adopted recruitment software that uses technology such as machine learning and sentiment analysis to automate sourcing, screening, and engaging with candidates—areas where unconscious bias is found.

The AI software can be taught to understand the specific qualifications for a job role by analyzing the resume for data. Once the software has that data, you can train the software to ask relevant questions that would help screen for the right candidates.

According to Glassdoor, one single corporate job listing can attract 250 applicants on average. That’s an overwhelming number of applications and resumes for recruiters to weed through, which could result in both mental fatigue and biases. This is where AI can help eliminate those factors.

If you’re worried that AI software can start training itself to qualify a specific gender or school for the job role, you can program it to ignore demographic information.

Unconscious bias in the recruiting process can have downstream impact on your workforce. In return, you may end up with a workforce that isn’t diverse, and that information can be surfaced on review sites such as Glassdoor. AI can help eliminate that unconscious bias through automated sourcing, screening, and engaging with potential candidates so that you can truly find the right candidate for your job.

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