There are numerous hiring-technology products available in the market that claim to eliminate biases in the hiring process. While it’s true that these services can reduce biases to a certain extent — by concealing specific parameters on resumes — they are not foolproof.
For one, humans are inherently prone to biases. Some common biases, for instance, include language bias, where preference is given to candidates who speak the same regional language as the recruiter; or where proficiency in English is preferred over other regional languages.
Similarly, certain educational institutions, even at the school level, are often favoured (on a resume) and can be a significant source of bias. There are several other biases related to caste, religion, gender, age, appearance, regional origin and networking connections that can also influence hiring decisions. For instance, hiring managers may unconsciously prefer candidates who are similar to them in background or experience, even if those similarities don’t actually make a person better for the job.
Indeed, while hiring products can help reduce biases in the initial stages of the recruitment process, human intervention remains essential at a certain level, and biases can still emerge even during such interventions. Therefore, what’s equally if not more important is a fundamental shift in mindset.
Technology can assist, but it cannot fully address the deeply ingrained biases that humans may carry.
To create a more inclusive and fair hiring process, it’s crucial for organisations to actively promote diversity and inclusion, provide bias training to their employees, and foster a culture that values equality and meritocracy.
“Starting from the realm of unknown biases, there are the subconscious influences that often go unnoticed but significantly impact hiring decisions. Blind spots occur when individuals overlook the biases they possess, believing their judgements to be accurate”
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group
Ultimately, addressing biases is as much a human and cultural challenge as it is a technological one. However, even with better technology and efforts to be fair, biases still crop up. These biases can be subtle and unintentional, but they can have a big impact on who gets hired. Due to these biases, it becomes harder to build diverse and skilled teams, which are essential for a company’s growth.
Common biases in hiring often stem from default inclinations, where individuals tend to gravitate towards those who resemble them in various aspects. This likeness may be rooted in personality traits or other dimensions that create an implicit preference for candidates who share similar characteristics.
Inequalities and social backgrounds can also lead to biases, where assumptions are made based on a candidate’s origin or background, affecting their evaluation.
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group, states, “Starting from the realm of unknown biases, there are the subconscious influences that often go unnoticed but significantly impact hiring decisions. Blind spots occur when individuals overlook the biases they possess, believing their judgements to be accurate. The need to align hiring decisions with competencies is crucial, as these unknown biases can unknowingly steer choices.”
“Even as AI and technology are integrated into hiring practices, human involvement in the final decision remains significant. However, the tools and algorithms used in these processes can also carry biases, as they are often created by humans and trained on historical data that may contain inherent biases”
Amit Sharma, senior HR professional and former HR head of a large automobile company
Artificial intelligence has undeniably made significant strides in numerous fields, but it has not been able to entirely eliminate biases in the hiring process. Despite the optimistic outlook for AI tools and technology to revolutionise fair and unbiased hiring practices, the actual situation is much more intricate. While these advanced systems have certainly brought efficiency and objectivity to the recruitment process, they are not a cure-all for the deeply-ingrained biases that have long influenced hiring decisions.
Furthermore, industry experts argue that technology itself can sometimes exacerbate biases in hiring. It’s essential to recognise that technology is a tool developed and utilised by humans, and if not designed and implemented carefully, it can inadvertently perpetuate biases. Therefore, truly fair and unbiased hiring practices require not only advanced technology but also ongoing vigilance, ethical considerations and a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Amit Sharma, senior HR professional and former HR head of a large automobile company, says, “Even as AI and technology are integrated into hiring practices, human involvement in the final decision remains significant. However, the tools and algorithms used in these processes can also carry biases, as they are often created by humans and trained on historical data that may contain inherent biases.”
“In essence, the hiring process is a complex interplay of personal biases, organisational goals and the evolving role of technology”
Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, CHRO, Bhilosa Industries
One fundamental challenge lies in the data upon which AI systems are trained. Historical data often carries the imprint of past prejudices and inequalities, and if not meticulously cleansed and corrected, this data can inadvertently reinforce existing biases. Moreover, the algorithms themselves, though driven by mathematical logic, are not infallible. They may inadvertently perpetuate biases due to the patterns they extract from this imperfect data.
Another significant factor in the persistence of biases in hiring is the human element. Even as AI takes on more substantial roles in pre-screening, matching and shortlisting candidates, human recruiters and hiring managers still wield considerable influence. Unconscious biases, stemming from deeply-ingrained societal norms and personal experiences, can seep into the decision-making process at various stages, from selecting the criteria for job postings to evaluating candidates during interviews.
Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, CHRO, Bhilosa Industries, believes that while there are progressive organisations that strive for unbiased hiring, certain biases persist due to the influence of individuals making hiring decisions. Some roles may still be subject to biases, such as assuming that men are better suited for certain positions or vice versa.
Mukherjee also believes in the idea that AI may introduce its own biases, leading to potential errors in candidate evaluations.
“In essence, the hiring process is a complex interplay of personal biases, organisational goals and the evolving role of technology. My viewpoint is that there is a need for a holistic approach that utilises AI and tools as inputs but relies on comprehensive evaluation methods to make fair and unbiased hiring decisions,” opines Mukherjee.
“Biases that favour candidates resembling hiring managers persist. Furthermore, DEI biases, such as gender-based assumptions, still endure, casting a shadow over the potential for AI to mitigate such prejudices”
Sujiv Nair, global CHRO, Re Sustainability
Sujiv Nair, global CHRO, Re Sustainability, observes, “Biases that favour candidates resembling hiring managers persist. Furthermore, DEI biases, such as gender-based assumptions, still endure, casting a shadow over the potential for AI to mitigate such prejudices. Despite the promise of AI, these entrenched human biases continue to undermine efforts towards fair and inclusive hiring practices.”
Biases in hiring processes hinder diversity, stifle innovation and perpetuate inequality within organisations. Recognising and addressing these biases is pivotal for cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Biases in hiring continue to be a challenge in the ever-evolving landscape of recruitment. Despite society’s strides towards greater inclusivity and fairness, the hiring process often grapples with these hidden biases that can sway decisions. These biases, whether conscious or unconscious, have the potential to compromise diversity and hinder the selection of the best candidates.