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Artificial Intelligence

Will AI Decide If You Get Your Next Job?

The Role of AI in Recruitment

Key points

  • By implementing AI-enabled recruitment tools, organizations have significantly reduced time and costs.
  • AI can be used to generate job descriptions and even to make hiring decisions.
  • But people are averse to having their fates decided by non-human entities.
  • A possible consequence is loss of trust and turning high-quality candidates away.

Written by Carl-Johan Holmberg, Researcher at Refapp, and Melissa Wheeler, Ph.D.

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Generated with AI/Bing's Image Creator

Employers and candidates, alike, can enhance their practices around hiring and being hired with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is defined as “making a machine behave in ways that would be called intelligent if a human were so behaving”. Although the term AI was introduced in the 1950s, it is only in recent years that the implementation of AI has gained momentum. Thanks to such factors as cheap, high-performance computer systems and the availability of large amounts of data, AI has been implemented in everything from self-driving cars to voice-controlled virtual assistants. This rapid development has also reached the recruitment industry.

AI and Recruitment

Candidates can use generative AI to create cover letters, improve their grammar and clarity, and enhance their key selection criteria responses with better (and perhaps fabricated) examples. And what about employers? Here are a few examples of common AI practices in recruitment:

  • Job Descriptions. By typing prompts into large language models (e.g., ChatGPT), employers can automatically generate job descriptions in just a few seconds. For job descriptions, AI can also be used to identify gendered language and suggest improvements in order to attract a wider range of job seekers.
  • Screening and Shortlisting. In the initial phase of the personnel selection procedure, chatbots can be used to ask candidates questions about both soft skills and hard skills. The AI-enabled screening tools can draw inferences from natural language sentences, score the candidates’ responses, and automatically generate a shortlist.
  • Testing. To test candidates’ abilities, such as adapting to unforeseen events, analyzing situations, and making good choices quickly, game-like computer simulations can be used. In these settings, AI is used to adjust the game’s difficulty to the skill level of the candidate.

The Benefits

When used for recruitment, AI can increase objectivity, save time, and reduce costs. It is well established that human biases affect hiring decisions. For example, cues about job applicants’ age, ethnicity, and disabilities can affect whether or not they are invited to a job interview. AI-enabled screening tools can reduce human biases and enhance diversity by ensuring that eligible candidates are not eliminated for subjective reasons.

AI can scan and analyze candidate data in a fraction of the time it would take a human recruiter. By automating tasks that would otherwise be performed by recruiters, AI can save human capital and reduce costs related to recruitment.

Proceed With Caution

Although minimizing discrimination and easing the workload of recruiters are arguably good outcomes, the implementation of AI in personnel selection is not without ethical challenges. One ethical dilemma that is often highlighted in the scientific literature is algorithmic bias. Because the algorithms that power the AI-enabled recruitment tools are only as good as the data they are trained on, there is a risk that existing biases become amplified. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Amazon’s recruitment tool which taught itself to systematically discriminate against women. This was because the AI was trained to look for patterns in resumes submitted to Amazon in the past. Since most of these resumes came from men, the AI tried to reproduce the demographics of the existing workforce.

It Comes Down to Trust

Letting AI make important decisions is something many people seem to be skeptical about, especially when those decisions involve themselves. People prefer to be judged by humans. A possible explanation for this is that it is easier to relate to and understand a human rater (with human biases) than an algorithm. Even in humanless interactions, people tend to anthropomorphize or find human attributes in machines. Despite our acclimation to technological advancement, including AI, people continue to rely on their evolved capacity to detect warmth and competence, even when in non-human interactions.

Balancing AI With Humans

By implementing AI-enabled recruitment tools, organizations have significantly reduced time-to-hire and saved recruiters a lot of working hours. However, given the importance of candidate trust, organizations should consider how AI is implemented in the recruitment process. Human oversight is still required to avoid ethical violations and increase candidate trust. If trust erodes, candidates will take their talent elsewhere.


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