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How AI can reduce bias to build a better workforce

Andreea Wade, Portfolio Director - AI/ML, iCIMS (former co-founder & CEO of

Can AI have feelings?
Can AI read our minds?

Those are two of the top Google searches for artificial intelligence, or AI, and they demonstrate the concerns many have about its place in our world. Even the phrase itself – artificial intelligence – sounds a little, well, “artificial.”

As a tech professional who is passionate about how AI can benefit how we build and manage our teams, I invite you to look past the sterile buzzword and see how AI makes engaging, hiring, and managing talent easier for those on the front lines of doing just that: recruiters.

Because let’s be honest – a recruiter’s job would have to be easy for us to be able to replace it with a robot.

The Case For AI in Recruitment: Improve Diversity, and Reduce Bias
Recent events have changed expectations and pushed organisations to look inward at where bias has inhibited their diversity and inclusion goals, starting with the recruitment process. A seemingly easy path to improve diversity could be to just ‘hire diverse talent.’ But hitting quotas for gender and ethnicity doesn’t result in a more inclusive workplace, which then puts the problem solely on the recruiter’s shoulders to solve.

AI not only helps you do more with less (without turning you into a robot), but it also alleviates the pressure to feel like you have to start over on how you source candidates to accommodate ever-changing business needs. For years, recruiters have needed to sift through a lot of data – reviewing volumes of candidates and inquiries while potentially overlooking a valuable match. This is on top of adapting to new technology, keeping up with changing candidate expectations, and being on the front lines of the employer brand.

Rather, we can better the recruiting process to reduce bias that normally occurs when you must quickly sift and sort a volume of talent into different pools. By improving the process and tools used to support recruiters, we take the powerful capabilities of AI from hype to reality.

4 Real AI Use Cases That Build a Better Workforce
Intentional and unintentional bias does exist in your current hiring process – whether applied to race, nationality, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical ability. But working to reduce that bias doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch on how you identify skilled talent within your own hiring system. It’s about removing the filters that already exist in your process. Here’s how it works:

  1. Targeted Recruiting – Say your team needs to hire a software engineer in Dublin. Before the listing is posted, AI can predict potential challenges and suggest ways to optimise. How long did it take to fill this role previously? Which job sites are most effective? AI can ingest millions of job descriptions and offer the best ways to optimise your posting to remove heavily gendered words and align more closely to similar roles in the industry.
  2. Impartial Screening – Suppress at the very start of the process to ensure that all candidates and talent pool members are equitably considered for current and future job opportunities. AI can support sorting through talent based on experience and skills, not gender, sexual orientation, address, or social media activity. It supercharges your CRM.For all applicants in your system, that would mean they would enter and progress through the hiring process on an ‘even playing field.’ They would then be considered solely on the basis of their experience, skills, and interests without human or machine bias at play. At the same time, it would take some of the heavy lifting off of the recruiters with support in pre-interview knock-out questions and during virtual career fairs (a tool we at iCIMS have seen double within our customer base due to the impact of remote work).
  3. Enhanced Candidate Experiences – Remember the feeling as a candidate when you sorted through an organisation’s career page, trying to navigate through buzzwords and corporate jargon? It can feel discouraging to match your transferrable skills to a role that fits you. AI can quickly match a job seeker to a relevant job without the frustration of sorting through each individual job posting, whether through an AI-powered search or access to a chat bot 24/7. The result is a better experience for applicants and more precise candidate matches for recruiters and hiring managers. As the applicant progresses through the process, AI can automate their candidate status and answer additional questions via chat bot. For example, candidates are increasingly asking questions about remote and work from home policies, COVID preparedness and medical and personal leave paid benefits.
  4. Powerful Internal Mobility – Organisations are transforming their mindset from expending all their resources on pursuing external talent, to looking within the organization to identify and promote great people internally. AI is a great tool to help you understand the skills of your workforce more than you have before. Recruit your internal staff into opportunities that stretch, grow, or support their abilities – keeping your best performers with career flexibility and new opportunities.

Facing a Transformative Time in Business
There’s a reason why we keep bucketing the realities of this year into a vague, ‘everything that’s going on right now.’ None of it is easy and there’s never been a time where leaders have had to take such a critical look inward at their current operations.

One of those, eliminating bias to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, is good for business. Multiple, diverse viewpoints and experiences lead to better decision-making. And insights on cultural nuances result in relevant products, marketing, and experiences that directly impact business growth.

Technology alone won’t fix it – AI or otherwise – and frankly we don’t want technology to have full control. This transformative time gives us the opportunity to be honest about the systems and processes that no longer serve all of us, whether we are leaders, recruiters, or job seekers. Let’s think about how scalable tools such as AI can better inform a more diverse, inclusive workforce.

That’s real change and it’s definitely not scary.

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