‘Unfair, untrustworthy’: candidates’ verdict on AI in recruitment

Job applicants feel that AI-driven recruitment processes are less fair and trustworthy than having people choose candidates, and academics have concluded that the use of AI could lead to reputational and brand damage.
August 30, 2023

According to a recent study, job applicants perceive the algorithmic decision-making in the AI-driven recruitment process as less fair than methods with full human involvement.

Conducted by National University of Singapore Business School, the International Institute for Management Development and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the study researched the opinions of 1,000 people from different nationalities, who had experienced both successful and unsuccessful outcomes in an AI-enabled hiring process.

They were involved in four scenario-based experiments, where the first two experiments studied how the use of algorithm affects perceptions of fairness among job applicants in the hiring process, while the remaining two sought to understand the reasons behind the lower fairness score.

According to the findings, job applicants perceived a higher degree of fairness when a human was involved in the resume screening and hiring decision process. This observation remained consistent even among the candidates in the study whose applications succeeded in an algorithm-drive recruitment process.

The distrust of AI expressed by the candidates was put down to “AI’s inability in identifying the candidates’ unique characteristics, as compared with human recruiters who are better equipped to evaluate qualitative information that makes each candidate distinctive,” according to the research authors.

The study found that AI-enabled processes could overlook important qualities and potentially screen out good candidates. This challenges the popular notion that algorithms would always provide fairer evaluations of candidates and eliminate human biases.

A participant in the study shared: “I feel that a computer programme could not choose an employment candidate as well as a human could. I feel that the emotions I put into applying for the position were wasted since computers can not relate to emotions in the same way humans can”.

Professor Jayanth Narayanan from the business school at the University of Singapore said: “While AI can automate any tasks traditionally done by HR, it cannot replace the human touch and interactions that are core to the HR function including recruitment exercises. The distrust of AI in providing a fair hiring assessment is prevalent. Hence, we hope our study can guide organisations to exercise caution when adopting AI in their HR recruitment processes as it may potentially lead to brand and reputational risks.”

Other potential legal and ethical risks involved in the use of algorithms to optimise recruitment include privacy loss, lack of transparency, obfuscation of accountability and loss of human oversight, the study concluded.

It advised organisations to prioritise the involvement of human recruiters in the hiring process, whenever possible, despite the advantages of algorithms in improving efficiency and productivity.

Original Article: Personnel Today

Establish clear and well-defined criteria for both automated screenings and human evaluations. For all your recruitment challenges – contact our HR & digital recruitment specialist Gareth Allison on 02920 620702

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