A combination of cautious optimism and concern surrounds AI hiring

A new survey reveals HR managers are turning to AI for hiring efficiency, but remain concerned about algorithmic biases and handing full control to machines. Most see AI as an enhancement, not replacement for human decisions in recruiting.

A new survey from Greenhouse Software suggests that while HR managers are embracing AI tools to achieve hiring efficiency, many remain concerned about overreliance on algorithms and the persistence of human biases.

The EMEA HR Manager AI & Bias Pulse Report polled 1,700 HR professionals in the UK, Germany and Ireland on their adoption and perceptions of AI in recruitment. The results reveal a workforce stretched thin by economic conditions, yet wary of handing over hiring fully to machines.

Nearly 90% of respondents said they currently use AI tools in HR and recruiting. The most commonly cited benefits were efficiency (65%), finding the best candidates (47%), improved matching (44%), reducing bias (43%) and automating repetitive tasks (42%).

This enthusiasm stems in part from lean teams and tight budgets. Over half of respondents said distributed workforces have generated cost savings, likely through downsizing office space and related expenses. 29% specifically reported implementing AI to support remote staffing needs.

However, enthusiasm is tempered by persistent concerns. 47% of HR managers said they cannot fully trust AI hiring tools yet. 35% felt algorithms have already made incorrect hiring decisions. 40% worried AI could introduce more bias against minority groups.

In essence, many see AI as an assistant rather than a replacement for human judgment. Only 44% believed AI could make unaided hiring decisions today. 47% feared over-reliance on algorithms without human oversight.

These concerns arise in part from recognizing that human biases still pervade hiring:

  • 68% said a candidate’s educational background sways their decision making. 17% only consider applicants from the most prestigious universities.
  • 56% were more inclined to hire those with similar backgrounds to their own.
  • When between two equal candidates, 53% favored the one with a higher degree.
  • Only 12% said education has no bearing on a candidate’s skills and capabilities.

The picture is therefore nuanced – while AI promises efficiency, HR professionals are proceeding with caution. They understand algorithms inherit our own biases unless thoughtfully crafted, and believe human oversight remains critical.

As Henry Tsai, Chief Product Officer at Greenhouse summarized: “Efficiency should not come at the expense of fairness. There’s just no good business or moral reason to hand the wheel to AI when we are aware of its existing flaws and risks.”

The survey highlights the complexities of AI adoption. HR managers are attracted by the promise of efficiency, but reluctant to cede control entirely to technology.

As Colm O’Cuinneain, Greenhouse’s EMEA GM concluded: “Candidates should be judged on their skills and capabilities, rather than the privilege of having access to prestigious university educations and degrees.”

For the present, AI is seen as an enhancement rather than a replacement for human decisions. But looking ahead, makers of algorithms and recruiters alike will need to work diligently to combat bias and build trust. If thoughtfully developed and deployed, AI has immense potential to remove barriers and promote more equitable, successful hiring.

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