Ethical Considerations in Modern Talent Assessment

September 25, 2019 Richard Justenhoven

First published on LinkedIn

Artificial intelligence has become ubiquitous in talent assessment, but it doesn’t come without concerns. Aon’s research suggests that the biggest reservation recruiters have regarding AI is the fear of replicating bias. When it comes to using emerging technology in talent assessment, ethical considerations must be paramount, particularly when it comes to those relying on AI.

Employers must be transparent with applicants about their use of AI in the hiring process. A “glass box”, or explainable AI in which all stakeholders understand what’s being measured and how those measurements are used makes education easier, reduces legal and regulatory risks, and reduces applicants’ anxieties about the talent assessment process. It also makes it easier to quickly course-correct when things go awry — for example, if unfair bias was introduced into the system.

Here are four crucial habits to adopt in order to employ AI in a fair and ethical way.

Insist on Informed Consent

Education can reduce candidate anxiety about the use of AI in talent assessment. Our research has found that people are comfortable with AI in hiring if organizations take the time to explain how the AI works, why it’s being used and the benefits of the technology for the candidate as well as the employer. Increasing applicants’ knowledge about the role AI plays in the hiring process lets them feel more comfortable with the process.

The need for education is particularly critical in the face of increasing calls for transparency regarding how organizations use applicants’ data. Organizations are required by law to obtain consent from job applicants in the European Union if they wish to apply automated decision-making strategies. Under the rules, video interviews require explicit consent from candidates that their data can be processed. Candidates also have the right to know what information is held about them, and the right to have their personal data rectified or deleted.

Greater transparency during the consent process can ease concerns about AI. Aon’s research suggests that providing such explanations can lead people to react favorably during the selection process by making them feel more informed and respected by the organization.

Build Systems to Counteract Bias, Not Reinforce It

Most people aren’t great at making hiring decisions. The likelihood of a hiring manager making a poor decision is 50%.  Only 14% of unstructured job interviews actually predict top talent, and 99% of candidates are hired based on first impressions.

Confirmation bias leads us to downplay or ignore anything that contradicts our preconceived ideas, while affinity bias drives us to ascribe positive attributes or infer greater potential to someone because they’re like us. They can all lead to poor candidate selection and create unfair hiring practices.

Used inappropriately, technology can actually replicate and amplify biases, so tread carefully here, especially when it comes to applying visual micro-expression recognition tools to predict broad constructs like personality or performance. However, when used carefully, emerging technologies have the potential to mitigate human biases that can unfairly influence the hiring process.

We recommend focusing on what people say, not how they look. Aon’s assessments apply Natural language processing  to analyze candidate responses in a systematic and comprehensive way, resulting in a written transcript that can be scored by the AI. Looking at the text, the AI removes any unconscious human bias while searching for evidence of good job-related behavior.

Educate Candidates on How You’re Using AI

Our research indicates that candidates are still skeptical about what an AI-driven assessment process entails and how it factors in hiring decisions, which in turn affects their reactions to an organization’s process.

This perception largely stems from a lack of knowledge about the various forms of AI, how they’re applicable to an assessment process and how AI can improve or hurt one’s chances to perform their best.

The more information applicants have about how your organization is using AI, the more likely they are to embrace it. Aon’s research has found that participants who were highly familiar with AI were equally as trusting of an AI-driven process as an assessment process without AI.

Seek New Opportunities for Human Connection

Organizations that adopt emerging technologies in hiring need to put additional focus on interpersonal contact during the selection process. This should include a strong emphasis on respectful, human treatment of candidates.

For example, even if an AI system is used to inform the decision-making process, applicants may find comfort in having open lines of communication with a contact person at the organization. Organizations that use AI in hiring will likely find they also need to increase the amount of interpersonal contact they have with applicants.

Our video interviewing solution vidAssess-AI works with a glass box approach. Watch this video to learn more.

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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