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Bias, especially unconscious bias, has always been an issue in recruiting. No matter how unintentional, bias can keep suitable candidates out of jobs, while preventing companies from securing top talent. The good news is that recruiters have taken many steps in recent years to combat bias, from removing gendered language in job advertisements and introducing blind resumes, to using applicant tracking software and selecting diverse interview panels.

Innovative technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is also becoming increasingly important in refining the recruitment process and ensuring the best possible outcomes for both candidates and employers. And, as we’ll see, new tech start-up Pymetrics has created an AI-enabled platform that matches candidates and jobs based on their innate talents and traits, rather than age, appearance, gender, and race.

Let’s look at unconscious bias and why Pymetrics is doing to combat it.

Why unconscious bias matters

We form judgements and opinions on people all day long and, no matter how objective we think we can be, we still make subtle assumptions about a candidate’s suitability, competence, and cultural fit based on factors like race, religion, and alma mater. We are automatically drawn to people who share characteristics with us, and that can affect our decisions about whether to progress a candidate to the next round or not. Unfortunately, that can have serious consequences.

That’s because creating a diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. For example, organizations with the most gender diversity outperform those with the least by 15 percent. Meanwhile the most ethnically diverse outperform those who are least diverse by a huge 35 percent.

What is Pymetics doing to overcome bias?

Tech startup Pymetrics is using AI to remove unconscious bias in the recruitment process. It uses “brain games” based on neuroscience to try and eliminate common biases, including classism, racism, sexism, and ageism. The company’s algorithms don’t take into account a candidate’s school, gender, ethnicity, or age. Rather, they measure 70 cognitive and emotional traits, including things like attention to detail, focus, memory, and risk-taking behavior to find the ideal candidate for a position.

Pymetrics creates its algorithms by testing 100 to 150 of a company’s top performers in a series of neuroscience-based games that measure traits like risk aversion. Once the games are complete, it creates a custom algorithm that reveals a trait profile for the perfect person for the role.

When a candidate applies for a job, they are asked to play the same series of games. Recruiters can then compare the candidate’s results with the benchmark the internal games have created. Candidates with the closest scores to the benchmark then move forward in the recruitment process. This process is used to ensure that candidates are assessed on their potential, rather than their resume.

Potential challenges

While platforms like Pymetrics can certainly reduce bias, if a company’s top-performing employees are, for example, all young white males with Ivy League educations, the algorithm could produce a candidate profile that reflects that and is skewed toward the same. For that reason, it’s important to continually check and correct algorithms to prevent this from happening.

It’s also important to remember that AI is unlikely to ever replace the human side of recruitment. It is a tool to help eliminate unconscious discrimination at the first hurdle and currently cannot account for the nuances of hiring. In saying that, recruiters have to remember that they and their employers are responsible for complying with Equal Opportunity laws and can’t just “set it and forget it” by using AI to improve diversity in the workplace.

The increasing importance of tech in HR

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in recruitment, and smart companies are quickly realizing the benefits it can bring. While human HR professionals are unlikely to be replaced by machines anytime soon, innovative tools are transforming the industry, and raising the bar in hiring practices and outcomes.

What technology is your company using to help foster diversity?

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  • Courtney Simmons

    this was what I worried about when the article indicated that they were basing the assessments on internal performers:

    While platforms like Pymetrics can certainly reduce bias, if a company’s top-performing employees are, for example, all young white males with Ivy League educations, the algorithm could produce a candidate profile that reflects that and is skewed toward the same. For that reason, it’s important to continually check and correct algorithms to prevent this from happening.

    How is Pymetics ensuring that they have a) a diverse representation of talent creating the “grid” that is used to evaluate new candidates and b) validating and check/balance/correcting algorithms as it mentions they are doing in the article?

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