AI in the Hiring Process

In the science fiction film, Terminator, computers designed to think and act like humans decided they didn’t need carbon-based lifeforms and set out to end the pesky human race. While it’s easy to dismiss depictions of artificial intelligence as Hollywood fantasy, the use of algorithms to help make good decisions continues to grow in scope and scale.

One area, in particular, that is drawing attention from business leaders and public policymakers alike, is AI in the hiring process. Tara Behrend is an Associate Professor at The George Washington University in Washington DC and an expert in the use of artificial intelligence in employment. 

“First, let’s remember that the task of hiring is about using limited information that we can collect from somebody right now and make a prediction about the future…and as you know predicting the future is difficult,” Behrend recently explained on the BBB National Programs’ >Better Series Podcast.

Lawmakers are putting regulations in place for this future we are innovating towards. Illinois marked its stance with the Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act. This law requires employers to gain consent firstly, then give candidates an overview of the AI technology that will be used, in addition to the data that will be observed. It also asks employers to delete video interviews within 30 days if requested by the interviewee. In April 2019, Federal courts presented the Algorithmic Accountability Act, which creates AI regulations and enforces companies to assess the candor, impartiality, privacy, and security of the technology. Other states like New York, New Jersey, and Washington are trailing close behind with legislative efforts. 

The idea of algorithm-based decisions runs counter to what people involved in the hiring process often believe. Research, though, is pretty clear that humans are not great judges of whether a candidate will be a good employee. “Most people can’t really suss somebody out by shaking their hand or looking in their eye,” noted Behrend. “But, we all like to believe that this is a skill we have; so, we tend to prefer face-to-face interaction even when it’s inferior (to a tech-based decision).”

But AI does have its limitations. Here’s Professor Behrend again: “Every algorithm is just an equation that is meant to describe a set of data. If the data were generated on a world that is unfair, then the algorithm will describe that data back to you in a way that is unfair.”

“What you need to do first is fix your human resources practices, and then think about how to find the people that match the model of success that you actually want.”

You can learn more about the proper use of AI and how one state is regulating its use in the hiring process by listening to the conversation with the Director of WAVE Lab and George Washington University Associate Professor, Tara Behrend. You’ll find the full episode on the BBB National Program’s <Better Series Podcast website.