Ensuring fair and ethical AI in hiring: The role of audits 

Using artificial intelligence (AI) for hiring has changed how companies hire people globally. AI is good for making things faster and fairer, but there are worries about hidden biases in these systems.

Nonso Onowu on November 11, 2023 Average reading time: 4 min
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Ensuring fair and ethical AI in hiring: The role of audits 

Sometimes, AI unintentionally likes or dislikes certain people based on things like gender, race, age, or other factors. This has led to discussions about needing fair and ethical AI in hiring. As rules get updated to deal with these worries, audits become an essential tool to make sure AI in hiring is clear and accountable.

The Downside of AI in Hiring

Let’s say a big online store used a fancy AI system to hire new workers. The system, meant to read resumes and predict good candidates, accidentally started favoring people who went to famous universities. The company didn’t realize this was happening, and it meant they might miss out on really good workers from other schools, creating a bias against diverse talent. 

To tackle these issues, laws around the world are getting updated to match the digital age. These rules aim to make companies responsible for any biases in their AI systems and ensure everyone gets a fair chance.

Why Audits Matter

Audits are like a deep check-up for AI algorithms used in hiring. They look closely at how AI affects hiring and find any biases. Audits help make sure everything is fair and clear, giving confidence to both companies and people looking for jobs.

New York takes the lead in biased AI

New York City introduced a groundbreaking law on July 5, 2023, which mandates employers to conduct yearly third-party audits of their AI hiring and promotion systems to check for bias. The results of these audits are made public to prevent discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity.  

Experts believe that more states and regions will pass similar laws soon, possibly expanding the audit requirements to include age and disability bias, putting a stronger spotlight on HR departments. 

Essentially, the responsibility for these AI bias audits falls on employers, not the technology vendors. Even when not required by law, HR departments should lead the charge for audits to show their commitment to reducing bias and complying with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. 

Experts emphasize the significance of independent audits in addressing AI bias within the realm of recruiting. Organizations like Pandologic, which employ AI tools, have taken proactive steps to audit their systems. Pandologic engaged AI experts to evaluate their recruiting chatbots and algorithms, shedding light on valuable insights for mitigating bias and the importance of transparency regarding AI’s role in the process. 

The audit uncovered that Pandologic’s job advertising algorithms carry minimal bias risk. Additionally, their conversational AI chatbots exhibited minimal bias due to their use of objective yes/no screening questions, which are screening questions are questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and are designed to gather specific, factual information.

In the context of AI-driven hiring processes, these questions are often used to screen job applicants efficiently and objectively, this underscores the importance of ongoing scrutiny as AI systems continue to evolve.

By using objective yes/no screening questions, companies aim to minimize subjectivity and bias in the early stages of the hiring process. These questions help streamline the assessment of candidates based on specific qualifications or requirements, contributing to a more objective and standardized evaluation of applicants.

However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of these questions depends on their design and the overall fairness of the AI system’s algorithms. Regular audits, as mentioned in the example, are crucial to ensure that even seemingly objective processes remain free from unintended biases as AI systems evolve.

Based on the audit experience, ethical best practices in AI for recruitment involve mapping recruitment workflows to identify potential risks, assessing vendors’ commitment to bias reduction, incorporating candidate feedback mechanisms, maintaining human oversight of AI processes, and conducting workforce demographic surveys to gauge the impact. 

Regular external audits play a pivotal role in ensuring that recruiting AI aligns with ethical standards and societal norms.

As AI’s presence in the hiring process expands, independent oversight becomes increasingly crucial. Audits serve to uphold fairness and help in reducing potential legal and reputational risks. 

What kind of steps can organizations take to prevent bias in AI? 

How can companies make sure AI doesn’t show bias in their hiring process? To avoid issues and do things responsibly, the British Council on Minimizing AI Bias has some tips. Here are the best practices for organizations:

  • Build ethics into AI from the start through privacy and bias mitigation in development. Train product teams on responsible AI principles. 
  • Incorporate regular bias and ethics training for all staff involved in recruitment AI, from compliance to engineering. Promote awareness. 
  • Form diverse audit teams with legal, HR, data science, and other experts. Cognitive diversity enables thorough AI examinations. 
  • Collect extensive data including recruiting workflows, interview information, and application materials. Continuously monitor data and algorithms for issues. 
  • Document every recruitment stage in detail, from sourcing to hiring, for transparency and audit evidence. 
  • Partner with external AI auditing specialists for unbiased assessments. Use monitoring platforms to continuously evaluate AI systems. 
  • Listen to candidates by gathering feedback during application on their AI experience. Address concerns quickly. 
  • Maintain human oversight over AI tools to enhance experiences. AI should augment recruiters, not replace them. 
  • Survey workforce demographics to accurately evaluate AI impact on diversity and inclusion. 
  • Taking a proactive, holistic approach to AI auditing upholds ethics and compliance in recruiting. 


Auditors on AI wanted?

Choosing an experienced, impartial auditor is key to a robust AI audit. Look for auditors with expertise in data analysis, AI systems, relevant laws, and ethical standards. They should have no financial ties to your organization. Maintain transparency and communication with HR leadership throughout the process. 

AI auditing should be an ongoing commitment, not just an annual checklist item. With AI constantly evolving, more frequent audits may be wise to catch issues arising from changes. As AI proliferates in hiring, auditing for bias is crucial. Audits identify problems early, enabling prompt corrections.  

They demonstrate ethical practices and help organizations meet legal requirements. Audits also reduce legal and reputation risks by confirming fair, accountable AI systems. 

By selecting competent auditors, auditing frequently, involving stakeholders, and dedicating resources, companies can promote responsible AI and make ethics central to their culture. AI audits uphold inclusion, prevent discrimination, and build public trust. With some forethought, organizations can leverage audits as an opportunity for continuous improvement. 

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