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Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) Help Companies Achieve Better DEI Outcomes in 2021?

Artificial intelligence-based hiring software is critical for organizations to achieve better DEI outcomes in 2021.

The events of last year have been transformational for HR. In addition to redefining the nature of work, 2020 was also a landmark year, shedding light on some of the greatest social inequalities in current times. As organizations now look to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable world, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) will play a central role in determining future success.

Depending on the study you look up, DEI can bring up to 33 percent more profitability. It is no secret that DEI is good for business. However, organizations are still struggling to meet their DEI goals.

Why Organizations Struggle with DEI in Recruitment

A photo of four white dogs with the caption "Welcome to our panel about diversity and inclusion."

Source: Makeup Museum

A big reason why DEI initiatives fail is that a significant portion of the hiring process still has unintentional bias built-in. Multiple academic researchers have found that hiring managers still hold certain biases against underrepresented minorities. A 2004 study of racial bias found that resumes with names commonly associated with racial minorities (such as Jamal or Lakisha) generated fewer interview requests than resumes with white-sounding names like Greg or Emily.  

Studies like these have been carried out multiple times over the past two decades, often with similar outcomes. The “resume audit” method, as it is commonly known, is limited in its scope when uncovering bias. The method can only be applied to organizations and employers hiring through job ads – willing to interview unknown candidates. These employers are typically less selective and are often looking to hire for entry-level roles.

A more recent study by Judd Kessler and Corinne Low that explored hiring preferences at larger, more prestigious organizations found that candidates who held internships at well-known firms ( like Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Google) rather than standard internships or jobs before the junior year (the kinds that pay money – servers, lifeguards or barista) were viewed more favorably. This introduces an element of socioeconomic bias. Interestingly, this bias is most common across big-name organizations that are actively trying to incorporate DEI into their hiring process.

Consider the fact that on average, a single job post can have as many as 250 applicants. That means an organization hiring for 10 open positions can have well over 2000 applicants. In the interest of efficiency, recruiters limit their talent pools to less than 20 percent of total applicants. The basis for selection here can range from ivy-league schools to employees of competitor firms and employee referrals. These groups tend to be homogenous.

And here’s where artificial intelligence (AI) holds promise.

Leveraging AI in Recruitment for Better DEI Outcomes

Artificial intelligence has been around for a while. However, the recent advances in machine learning (ML) have led it to find numerous applications in HR. More specifically in recruiting. Marrying ML to recruiting automation (resume parsing, interview scheduling or talent assessment) has made it possible for organizations to address unconscious bias and drive DEI forward.

That said, there has been a learning curve for organizations applying AI to hiring. Amazon famously abandoned its AI recruiting software after discovering that the training datasets had unconscious bias programmed into them to favor males over other genders. However, in 2021, our understanding of AI and how these algorithms work are much better. Simply put, AI and ML algorithms follow the GIGO rule – garbage in, garbage out. So, the training data used to prepare the algorithms is representative of the final outcome. Historical datasets with bias built-in will provide a biased outcome.

Smart hiring platforms like Yobs are helping recruiters overcome traditional limitations of AI software by eliminating unconscious bias from the hiring process. Ethical AI, designed with a set of guiding principles to make AI auditable and beneficial to everyone, is key to integrating DEI in the hiring process.

Another way AI helps organizations hire more fairly is its ability to ingest information at scale and predict whether a candidate poses characteristics that are relevant for success in the job. Unlike humans, algorithms are not constrained by time, so they don’t need to shrink the hiring pool to make faster decisions. AI-based hiring can help recruiters automate the top-of-the-funnel process of all eligible candidates. A human brain in contrast can only process a fraction of information at a time.

Most AI algorithms are continuously learning, which means these models can be optimized to predict job success while ensuring diversity in the candidate pool. With analytics and visualization in the mix, recruiters can also gain visibility into how the data through the applicant tracking system (ATS) flows into the AI software and understand how their selection processes address DEI goals.

AI for DEI: Getting Started

While AI holds great promise for recruiters looking to improve DEI outcomes, it is not by any stretch of the imagination a magic bullet. Over this past year, organizations have turned to new forms of recruiting and interviewing over video – a potentially problematic solution when paired with AI (read: facial recognition and bias).

The key to succeeding with AI recruiting for DEI is integrating DEI into the organizational fabric. AI follows.

When evaluating an AI recruiting solution, we recommend asking potential vendors how their training data is determined and what sources they use. It’s also important to understand customizability for your hiring use cases.

Our final word of advice is prioritizing your business objectives and linking them to the expected outcome (DEI in this case) of your AI recruitment software.

Looking to tap into missed talent opportunities? Let’s talk AI – book a demo to understand how Yobs is revolutionizing recruitment for high-performance companies.