Are there situations where process automation produces a worse result?

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A shortage of candidates amid a high demand for staff has for some time been a complaint made by businesses.

The competition for suitable people has led to their offering higher starting salaries for new staff.

But the question has to be asked: how are they going about the recruitment process?

For several years now, candidates have been assessed using AI (Artificial Intelligence).

This method has become increasingly sophisticated as candidates are now being asked to answer standard interview questions in front of a camera while the software behind it notes thousands of barely perceptible changes to posture, facial expression, vocal tone and word choice.

Some companies selling AI recruitment tools even offer a reactive, AI-powered chatbot that will conduct the entire interview process.

But there have been examples of eminently qualified people being rejected at the first hurdle by these methods and in one recently-reported case and employee with a long track record of work with various high profile publications dis covered his application had been rejected because he had not reached the required score in a test that seemed to bear no relation to the skills needed for the position.

He queried it unsuccessfully and after filing a claim with the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK was awarded £8000 in compensation. In his view the fault was in the software that was “weeding out good candidates”.

There have been reports of candidates who scored highly on most tests but found themselves excluded perhaps because of age, or an employment gap of longer than six months or because they were missing just a couple of skills from a very long list.

It must be remembered that software is written by human beings and human beings have inherent biases of which they may be unaware, not to mention that they can make mistakes.

At the moment there are no standards for checking whether an AI-based selection process is fair and unbiased although there are reportedly plans in both the UK and USA for bringing in national standards.

In the meantime, while the use of AI tools in the recruitment process may be useful at some stages potential employers should think carefully before applying them too widely.