Your AI HR Partner: Welcome To 21st Century Job Recruitment

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This week’s article is written by Neil Sohota, IBM Master Inventor, United Nations (UN) AI Advisor, author of the book Own the A.I. Revolution, and Professor at UC Irvine.  It is a companion piece to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled How to Own the AI Revolution which aired on August 23, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

In the near future, we will have AI bosses. What most of us do not realize, though, is that AI is already prevalent in the recruiting process. This is not the keyword searches in our resumes or an automated process to manage hundreds of applicants. Organizations now leverage AI to help with the recruitment and interview process, and some AI systems are even assisting with background checks to review people’s digital personas. That’s why we’ll be taking a dive into some of the AI tools that HR recruiting teams are using and how they’re using them. Because, if you are looking for a job, you’ll have to convince a machine that you are a worthy candidate… to even be considered as part of the recruitment pool.


Would You Like to Play a Game?

At O’Melveny & Myers (OMM) law firm, they’ve taken a new approach to recruitment. Partnering with Pyemetrics, law students now register to play a set of games rather than just submit a resume to a job opening. Oh, there is a catch. The game is administered by an AI system. Darin Snyder, OMM Partner and one of the firm’s diversity leaders, shares, “We didn’t set out to tap into AI. We set out to find a tool to help us improve the recruiting process and increase the pool of diverse candidates.” Snyder has practiced law for over three decades and has interviewed thousands of law students. For most hiring managers, the two key focus items are qualifications and fit with the team and corporate culture. To check qualifications, companies can interview, run mock scenarios, and so forth to validate a job candidate’s capabilities. However, how do you know if someone has the potential to succeed in the environment, especially when most people don’t behave like their normal selves during an interview? Enter AI.

Many organizations are tapping into the psychographic profiling and neurolinguistic capabilities of AI to assess if a person would mesh well the team and company culture. So much so, that some of these enterprises have changed their recruitment process to identify the fit first before even looking at resumes. At OMM, using AI gives the firm an objective data point to see if a person would not just survive but rather thrive at the firm. “We look at grades. We look at transcripts. We look at writing samples, and we have people interview with a lot of different folks. But it’s not really clear that we’re doing a great job of identifying the full range of people who will succeed at OMM and embrace the unique way that we like to practice law,” points out Snyder.

Just a year-and-half into the process, there isn’t enough data yet to see how effective OMM’s approach has been. However, many critics of using AI for recruitment worry that it will cause a disparate impact. If the history of the company is based on successful employees that do not represent a diverse group, this might bias the system against underrepresented communities. This is a legitimate and critical AI training question, but we can glean some insight on the impact from the motivations on why companies are turning to AI. In OMM’s case, one big reason to use AI is to improve diversity and inclusion. “One of the things that’s very frustrating about the recruiting process is that we only get access to a very tiny percentage of the candidates of all of the law students in the country,” Snyder shares. By using this AI tool, OMM has been able to review candidates they normally would not normally have seen. For OMM, this has greatly expanded the pool of job candidates and should, at least in theory, help improve their diversity. Hopefully, in another year-and-half, they will have more data to see how effective it has been.


Reviewing Your Digital Persona

Each person is a data factory, generating 1.7MB per second. Most of this information is unstructured. For a company that is doing a background check, how does someone sift through all that data, especially when there may be an incendiary social media post from six years ago lurking? Meet Ben Mones, Founder and CEO of Fama who has developed an AI tool to help to confront this very reality. “I started Fama to solve a problem that I faced with my prior company.” Mones missed a critical risk on a new hire that was plainly available on this person’s social media. “If only we had seen it,” Mones laments, “we could have avoided a costly and painful mistake that impacted our entire organization.”

After chatting with a few of his peers, Mones realized that many other companies had experienced similar “missed hits” in the screening process and had the scars to prove it. HR wanted to do social media screening, to help avoid the mistakes of their past, but lacked the time, technology, and know-how to incorporate this sort of screening into their workflow. So Mones started Fama, which offers an AI-enabled software solution to help businesses bring publicly available web data into the screening process. Based on the requirements provided by the client, Fama’s AI flags any job-relevant content for a human to review. “Fama’s AI is a supplement and complement to human actions and decisions,” states Wendy Halson, VP of Customer Success at Fama. Without providing a score, or a thumbs up or down, Fama helps HR and talent acquisition professionals build a company on their terms, unearthing insights that companies already profess to care about. Mones points out that most people have nothing to worry about. The real challenge lies in that small percentage of people who have made it publicly acceptable to say racist, sexist, or other inappropriate things. “You’ve worked very hard to build a good corporate culture. If you ignore this step, it takes only one incident to wreck everything,” Halson points out.

Sadly, many companies have experienced such events, and the sports world is seeing a flood of these cases coming to light. Some notable teams have seen their brands tarnished and fans alienated by executives who have behaved in ways that are in stark contrast to their fans and their franchise’s values. AI tools like Fama have accelerated the speed and comprehensiveness to perform the screening checks while also reducing costs and risk to the company. Moreover, Mones shares, “The net new insight in talent screening has increased retention rate to over 97% for those employees.” Meaning, companies seem to be building deeper trust and commitment to these hires.


The Future

While we may not have an AI boss… yet, AI is already playing a key role in the recruitment and hiring process. OMM and Fama are the trailblazers when it comes to AI and HR, and they are only the beginning. There are many startup companies looking to drive the digital transformation of talent management. For instance, an AI engine is in development to look at the skills, knowledge, capabilities, and personalities of employees and determine who would be the optimal mix for a project team. There’s also an AI assistant in the works to partner with employees to chart out their career paths and help locate training and skill development opportunities for them to advance to the next level. In fact, one company is even working on an AI agent to persuade high performing employees not to leave a company for a job elsewhere. Perhaps, we may even solve some of our biggest diversity and inclusion challenges, at all levels of an organization, with the help of an AI HR representative. The future is looking bright for talent management powered by AI.


Neil Sahota (萨冠军) is an IBM Master Inventor, United Nations (UN) AI Advisor, author of the book Own the A.I. Revolution, and Professor at UC Irvine.  Over his 20+ year career, Neil has worked with enterprises on business and marketing strategies to create next generation products/solutions powered by emerging technology as well as helping organizations create the culture, community, and ecosystem needed to achieve success such as the UN’s AI for Good initiative. Neil also actively pursues social good and volunteers with nonprofits. He is currently helping the Zero Abuse Project prevent child sexual abuse as well as Planet Home to engage youth culture in sustainability initiatives.


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