How to leverage AI to eliminate unconscious bias in recruitment

Last updated:
April 25, 2022
April 25, 2022
min read
Rebecca Anderson
Instant Commerce
use ai to eliminate unconscious bias in recruitment
Table of contents

Companies regularly look for ways to eliminate discrimination and embrace diversity and inclusion when hiring candidates for certain positions.

However, recruiters and top hiring managers can be biased during recruitment, even without noticing it. This cripples the company's efforts and puts it at risk of not getting top talents.

Something simple such as a candidate's name or resume profile picture can significantly dictate how a recruiter perceives a candidate and can determine whether they get hired or not. And this shouldn't be the case.

One of the best ways of dealing with this problem is to identify these biases and look for ways of eliminating them. However, that is not as straightforward as it sounds. Luckily, AI can be used to solve this menace.

Read on to learn how to use AI to eliminate unconscious bias during recruitment.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is a prejudice you may have and not even realize it. This bias makes a person lean towards what they are familiar with, or what they prefer, based on their life experiences.

Types of unconscious biases during recruitment

There are several types of unconscious biases that show up during the recruitment process. Here are some of the most common ones.

• Affinity Bias:

Affinity bias happens when a recruiter favors a candidate because they share some characteristics.

For example, a recruiter may prefer a particular candidate simply because they attended the same college or come from the same city with them.

Although it's fun to have someone you share traits with within the workplace, you can choose the wrong person and dismiss the most suitable ones just because of one simple trait.

• Halo Effect:

The Halo effect happens when a recruiter doesn't conduct proper investigation regarding a candidate's background, experience, and skills but instead focuses on a specific trait like where they went to school during recruitment.

• Horn Effect:

The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. This bias happens when a recruiter focuses on one negative trait about a candidate and assumes all the positive things about them.

The candidate may have all the qualifications needed for a job position but get dismissed because of a trait that may not even affect how they work.

• Confirmation Bias:

Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for information that confirms particular pre-existing beliefs.

For example, if a recruiter believes that a person from a particular ethnic group or nationality is more or less suitable for a certain position, they can try looking for information to confirm their notions.

And after getting that information, they don't hesitate to hire or dismiss a candidate.

• Affect Heuristics:

Affect heuristics happens when a recruiter dismisses someone without critically examining their ability or inability to fit in a particular role.

This includes jumping to conclusions about a person simply because they have something a recruiter perceives badly, such as a tattoo and body piercings or having a particular name.

• Contrast Effect:

The contrast effect happens when a recruiter compares two or more candidates they have come across with.

For example, a very good application may set a certain standard in a recruiter's mind, forcing them to do away with other applications that seem inferior.

• Conformity Bias:

Conformity bias happens when a recruiter changes their choice of a candidate based on the opinion of other people.

For example, a recruiter may select a candidate who meets all the qualifications needed for a particular job but change their mind after the board of directors convinces them otherwise.

This happens when a recruiter doubts their initial decision or when there is pressure to agree with a particular person or group in the workplace.

• Gender Bias:

Gender bias happens when a recruiter favors a person from a particular gender.

Unfortunately, the brain sometimes judges people based on their gender, while in the real sense, gender does not always determine who will be a good employee and who will be a bad one.

Read more on other hirings bias that your  team might not be aware of.

How unconscious bias affects hiring

Unconscious bias introduces unintended discrimination, which often leads to poor decision-making. It hinders diversity and inclusion in a company.

A research conducted by McKinsey&Company shows that companies with ethnic, gender, or racial diversity have better financial returns.

That means the company's financial returns can get crippled just because the recruiter had some biases they were not even aware of when recruiting employees.

How AI is being used for recruiting

"Augmented Intelligence, rather than totally replacing people at work, will be used to make them more effective. I think this may be the best use of AI for HR." - Michael Haberman, HR Consultant

AI is finding its way into the recruitment process, slowly but surely. It's good to note that although AI is very helpful during recruitment, it is not yet ready to take the place of recruiters entirely.

It is just a valuable tool that makes things easier and more efficient. Below are some of the ways AI is being used for recruitment.

Job posting

Gone are the days when recruiters had to post jobs manually. Nowadays, they can automate job posting using AI. These tools post jobs more easily and take less time.

Also, they don't just post job ads; they also ensure that these ads reach the target groups who fit the advertised roles.

• Sourcing candidates using the right channels

Sourcing the right candidates requires ample time and a good strategy. Using AI in recruiting helps hiring managers source candidates from the right channels, saving time and reaching out to the right candidates.

If a recruiter chooses the wrong sourcing channel, they risk missing out on hiring the best talents.  

• Pre-selection of candidates

AI tools are very efficient when it comes to the pre-selection of candidates. Going through the applications sent by all the candidates interested in a job opening can be overwhelming when you do it manually.

AI tools eliminate these hassles and ensure that only the candidates who meet the needed qualifications are selected.

• Intelligent screening

AI tools are used to conduct screenings when finding the right candidate for a job. This saves time for recruiters since they don't have to screen resumes manually. These tools can be used to screen resumes on job boards or even on internal databases.

• Digitized interviews

AI-powered chatbots can be used to interact with candidates instead of a recruiter conducting interviews using phones or meeting physically.

These chatbots ask questions and provide updates, feedback, and suggestions during the recruitment process.

This makes the interviewing process easier and less time-consuming since a recruiter will only interview a few candidates suggested by the tool.

• Performing background checks

Performing background checks helps eliminate risks to a company. Performing these checks the traditional way can be very time-consuming.

Using AI to conduct them saves time and gives applicants privacy since only the relevant information is checked.

• Reference checking

Just like performing background checks, reference checking consumes a lot of time. AI-operated tools can be used to automate the process, making it fast and helping gather the relevant information.

These tools can also send questionnaires to referees and send them reminders if they don't respond on time. Fraudulent activities such as a candidate pretending to be the referee can be flagged easily using these tools too.  

Two ways that recruiters can use AI to eliminate unconscious bias

AI can considerably eliminate unconscious bias and enable companies to hire candidates based on their potential and qualifications. It does this in two ways.

1. It can be set to assume candidates' demographic information

Recruiters can set their AI tool to assume candidates' demographic information, such as their age, race, and gender.

It can further be programmed to ignore other details such as the school a candidate attended, socioeconomic status, and zip codes.

Doing this helps eliminate bias based on the demographic information of a candidate.

2. It uses data points when making sourcing and screening decisions

Recruiting AI tools uses data points to source and screen candidates. To combine these data points, it uses algorithms to predict the best candidates.

The human brain cannot process such information, and when it tries, there is a very high probability of making decisions based on biases and assumptions.

AI eliminates these biases and assumptions, ensuring that candidates are recruited depending on merit.

Check out how to implement AI in your recruiting strategy.

Future of recruiting with AI

"The positive part of this is that we can standardize our processes to better and more objectively assess a candidate's ability and skills." - Katrina Kibben, Randstad

AI is expected to be highly embraced by recruiters in the coming days. It's also likely to change how recruitment takes place since recruiters will embrace it as a standard tool for assessing the ability and skills of a candidate.

With more companies looking forward to streamlining processes and hiring the best talents, AI for recruitment may become a necessity soon.

Sometimes, it's hard to know when you have unconscious biases as a recruiter. Since you need to get the most suitable candidates for job positions in your company or organization, you need to eliminate these biases.

Using AI is one of the best ways of eliminating them. AI also comes with other benefits, such as promoting ease and speed of hiring.

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