Concern about bias doesn’t dampen HR professionals’ interest: Results from the EMEA HR Manager AI & Bias Pulse report

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4 mins, 26 secs read time

Ever get the sense that the person you’ve been exchanging emails with isn’t actually a person at all? For today’s job seekers, there’s a strong possibility that the majority of their interactions are with an artificial intelligence (AI) system rather than a human recruiter. In an uncertain economic environment where human resources (HR) professionals are being asked to do more with less, many are turning to AI to fill in the gaps. However, it’s no secret that there’s often bias in AI hiring.

The 2023 Greenhouse EMEA HR Manager AI & Bias Pulse report highlights how HR professionals are turning to AI to boost efficiency, find the most suitable and skilled candidates and reduce bias (or increase it, depending on who you ask!). We surveyed 1,700 HR Managers in the UK, Germany and Ireland to understand their assessment of this trending technology. Explore our findings here.

There’s no question: (Almost) everyone is experimenting with AI

It’s clear that many HR professionals are keen to experiment with AI: 89% say they currently use AI tools in their HR departments and 69% say they’re using this technology multiple times a week, if not every day.

When it comes to how HR pros are using AI, by far the largest use case is generative AI (59%), followed by digital admin software (49%) and resume filters (48%). And when asked how much interaction candidates have with an AI system rather than a human recruiter, 46% of respondents said all or the majority of interactions are with an AI system as opposed to only 11% of respondents who said this is never the case.

We saw similar results in a Greenhouse candidate survey earlier this year, where 48% of respondents said that they had used or were considering using generative AI for job searches. In the same survey, more than one-third (35%) of candidates said it felt fair to use AI since companies were probably using it to sort through their resumes.

Despite widespread adoption, distrust of the technology is still strong

While AI adoption numbers are high, a significant number of HR professionals remain distrustful of the technology. Nearly half – 47% of survey respondents – said they cannot fully trust AI hiring tools. And close to 1 in 2 respondents are worried about the over-reliance on AI without enough human oversight. What exactly are their concerns? Around 40% of HR managers believe AI introduces bias against historically underrepresented groups and over one-third (35%) say that AI has made the wrong decisions on candidates.

The apparent contradiction between wide adoption and significant distrust may be due to the range of AI tools available. A quick refresher: a simple way of defining AI is an automated system that performs a task you’d typically expect some human intelligence to perform. In a recent Greenhouse webinar on navigating AI and bias, Samantha Lawrence, Senior Vice President of People Strategy at Hired, explained that the Hired platform has been powered by an AI matching process for the past ten years and Jackye Clayton, VP of Talent Acquisition and DE&I at Textio said her company uses AI to identify biased language. But Samantha also emphasized the importance of exercising caution when it comes to AI and decision-making.

We need to make sure AI is not the sole determining factor in hiring or firing decisions or the only tool being used when evaluating promotion criteria.
–Samantha Lawrence, Senior Vice President of People Strategy at Hired

The role of human bias can’t be ignored

HR managers are concerned about AI’s potential to introduce bias into the hiring process, but it’s important to address the elephant in the room: the fact that human bias is still a powerful factor in hiring decisions.

A large majority – 68% – of respondents say a candidate's education influences their hiring decisions.

Only 12% of respondents say education does not influence their hiring decisions at all. Similarly, 55% of respondents acknowledged that a candidate sharing similarities with their own background could sway their hiring decisions, underscoring that affinity biases play a large role in recruitment practices.

These responses are a powerful reminder that AI is not the antidote to bias. That responsibility starts and ends with humans. If you’re looking for ways to limit bias in your own hiring process,

structured interviews can help ensure that your hiring teams make decisions based on a candidate’s skills and potential to be successful in the role rather than factors like educational background or similarity to the interviewers.

“While AI hiring tools offer intriguing potential, our report reveals that there are still considerable concerns around inherent biases leading to poor and unfair decisions that must be addressed,” said Colm O’Cuinneain, GM of EMEA at Greenhouse. “Companies should be prudent in their adoption of AI for hiring, ensuring ample human oversight and transparency. Fair recruitment requires meticulous diligence and structured hiring processes, not hasty automation without human consideration. The industry should be thoughtful about how to utilize emerging AI tools, making sure to uphold the highest standards of equitable, inclusive and fair hiring.”

How does your HR team stack up when it comes to AI, bias and other trending topics like skills-based hiring? View the PDF to explore all the survey findings.

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Dinah Alobeid

Dinah Alobeid

is the Senior Director of Content and Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has over 16 years of communications and content experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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