Use of AI in UK job interviews raises ethical concerns

  • Several UK companies have begun using Artificial Intelligence to analyse video job interviews, raising ethical concerns over hiring practices.

    The vast majority of recruitment in the UK involves a face-to-face interview, and over the years interviewers have been trained to watch for various signs and signals from applicants in their wording, tone, and body language in response to questions. The Telegraph recently reported that several companies including consumer goods firm Unilever are now using AI to do this job in the UK.

    Prospective candidates are asked a set of identical questions in a video interview via a smartphone or laptop, and an artificial intelligence program analyses data on their responses. The applicant's face video and audio responses are broken down into thousands of data points that are compared with previous applicants who later went on to be successful in the job.

    The technology was created by US tech firm Hirevue, who claims it makes the hiring process free of human bias and provides a more objective indicator of future performance. The tech has been mocked on social media recently as "digital phrenology" and several experts in the AI field have been publicly warning against using AI to recruit in this manner.

    Big Brother Watch's Legal and Policy Officer Griff Ferris commented on the issue to the Telegraph recently, saying "As with many of these systems, unless the algorithm has been trained on an extremely diverse dataset there's a very high likelihood that it may be biased in some way, resulting in candidates from certain backgrounds being unfairly excluded and discriminated against."

    AI is extremely good at classifying things into categories based on objective data, but the data used to train the AI may include all of the firm's usual hiring biases and the AI will simply learn those patterns and do more of the same. The system risks reinforcing existing biases rather than eliminating them. Tech giant Amazon abandoned its own attempt at an AI-based hiring system last year when its model turned out to be implicitly sexist. 

    There are also still questions over how the use of AI will interact with an employer's legal responsibilities, which are much stricter here in the UK compared to the US. If a company allows a black-box AI to make recruiting decisions and then finds itself in a legal challenge over discrimination and disability laws in the UK, it may have difficulty proving that the hiring process was fair.

    Source: Telegraph

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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