Artificial Intelligence: Optimising Your Recruitment & Avoiding Bias

AI can help you find the best candidates and increase diversity

It is common knowledge that machines are better than humans at certain tasks. Need someone to carry out repetitive work on an assembly line? To fulfil dangerous or physically demanding roles? To analyse of thousands of pieces of data in seconds? Modern robots, computers and artificially intelligent machines are more than up to the task.

Writing, however, is one role that has so far withstood the onslaught of AI. Luckily for some of us, where creativity is required, humans, for the time being at least, still maintain an advantage over machines.

That’s not to say that Artificial Intelligence can’t give us a helping hand, however. In fact, intelligent computer programmes are now supporting businesses in recruitment by improving their job adverts and this technology is leading to some impressive results in HR.

The trouble with recruitment

Recruitment is one of the biggest headaches for any HR department. Employ the wrong person, and your business will suffer in a host of wide ranging ways. Ill fated employees are likely to make mistakes, affecting the morale of everyone in their team, and may ultimately leave the post after a short period of time, leading to wasted time, money and effort. The best option is to find the right person from the beginning of the recruitment process. But our inherent biases mean that attracting the ideal candidates can be tricky.

Experimental evidence shows that humans make subconscious decisions based on their prejudices. Such prejudices are so ingrained within us that they are impossible to escape, affecting everything from the way we interact with others, the way we talk, and how we express ourselves in writing. Legislation might prevent employers from actively discriminating against a certain demographic in the recruitment process – they cannot hire someone based on their age, religion, or gender – but it is far more difficult to control the subconscious bias of a written job advert. Implicitly masculine language will deter women from applying to certain posts, and vice versa. For businesses looking to support diversity and ultimately to hire the best candidates regardless of their background, this is a huge problem.

Textio – an artificially intelligent editor

Textio is an American company seeking to improve the gender balance in recruitment and to speed up the process as a whole. They have created an AI augmented writing platform to help businesses compose and analyse their job adverts. So how does this work? Using the analytical powers of AI technology, Textio examines 10 million job posts and their outcomes every month. This enables the programme to identify patterns in language, to find out what kind of writing style makes job adverts likely to succeed or fail.

The machine learning technology at the heart of Textio means that the more it is used, the better its analysis becomes. Conclusions drawn from previous job adverts enable the algorithms to give posts a score based on the tone and gendered nature of language used. Textio can predict if a post is likely to attract female or male respondents, and even how long it will take for the position to be filled. It can offer guidance on how to improve writing, enabling businesses to attract better qualified and more diverse talent in less time. It seems to be a win-win for HR.

Not all writing is equal

Critics of this kind of system may point out the potentially homogenising effect it could have upon the written word. Will technology like Textio make all job adverts the same? Could it lead to a process of levelling down, where only the most vanilla of workers are able to gain employment? Hesitancy around this technology is understandable: writing is a fundamental part of human expression, and it’s not clear that we want machines to start meddling in it. In fact, job adverts provide a unique opportunity for businesses to convey their ethos to potential employees. The language used can help companies to distinguish themselves from others, setting the tone for their business.

As with most of our current automation strategies, however, AI programmes like Textio are all about enhancing human performance by way of machines. This isn’t about letting AI write job adverts for us, it’s using the technology to maximise our outputs. Businesses concerned about diversity can use such tools as a strategy for attracting the right people. If amending the odd word here and there in a job advert can have significant effects on attracting candidates, then businesses would be ill advised to ignore this. As for the rest of human creativity? Luckily for those of us who are particularly attached to our writing, intelligent machines still have some way to go.

Could your business benefit from AI enhanced job adverts? Is AI a small price to pay for streamlined recruitment processes? Can we really put our trust in the decision making abilities of AI? Comment below with your thoughts.

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