Is AI the enemy of diversity?

Faced with 5,500 job applications a week during its peak delivery season, parcel carrier Yodel needed to create a process that handled them quickly and consistently to avoid a festive recruitment meltdown. “Hiring at that sort of volume means it’s impossible to run a smooth process delivered solely by humans,” says head of resourcing Ben Gledhill.

Working with a supplier, the business developed a bot that helps candidates understand which role is right for them and matches them to an opportunity based on location. Another bot looks at the original application and asks additional questions. An impressive 92 per cent of candidates now complete the process, compared to the 58 per cent that used to get through manual telephone screening, and 97 per cent say they are happy with it.

“We still believe that human involvement is essential to the recruitment process – for instance, in driver assessments – but that initial filter through the bots now ensures we’re speaking to the right people about the right roles,” adds Gledhill.

With bots such as this offering to lower costs, speed up hiring and even smooth the candidate journey, it’s no surprise artificial intelligence (AI) investments in recruitment are big business. A well-constructed algorithm can relieve recruiters of many time-consuming and repetitive tasks: from screening CVs to answering frequently asked questions and even covering initial selection stages. “AI can now hold the conversation a recruiter might have. A good chatbot is not just answering FAQs, it sees something in your résumé and finds a role that relates,” says Ben Eubanks, author of Artificial Intelligence for HR.

Often the companies selling these tools make even greater promises; that they’ll reduce or even eradicate the role of unconscious bias or human ‘gut feel’. After all, a machine can’t make judgements about a name or choice of university or make a guess at an individual’s age. “As humans, we’re not good at judging people without bias – that’s human nature – so assessments and other tools, or blind CVs, can take out that bias,” adds Eubanks.

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