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Do AI-Powered Hiring Tools Require Human Audits?

Although employment discrimination is illegal in the United States, it’s a practice that occurs more than most jobseekers realize. It’s a claim that’s difficult to prove, so most unsuccessful applicants simply continue their job search elsewhere with giving it a second thought. Even more disturbing is the recent trend of using AI-powered hiring tools to automate the unlawful discrimination.

The problem is big enough that it’s caught the attention of lawmakers in New York City, who just passed a bill requiring human auditing of any software vendors selling AI technology for the express purpose of hiring or recruitment. Proposed audits, known as bias audits, are specifically aimed at eliminating automated, AI-driven employment discrimination.

What Are Automated Hiring Tools?

In many cases, the typical recruitment and hiring process is a long, tedious endeavor. Not only do hiring managers need to place an ad, but they often need to sift through endless piles of resumes in order to find the perfect candidate. Combine this with candidates who lack the appropriate experience, unresponsive applicants, and even downright fraudulent resumes, and it’s easy to see how the process can quickly grow out of hand.

AI-powered hiring tools were introduced as a result of issues like this. Instead of taking time away from a hiring manager or recruiter’s daily schedule, organizations can rely on automated software to handle much of the busywork. When used correctly, the hiring manager is left with a shortlist of exceptional candidates who have already passed through their filters.

But the system isn’t perfect. Some unqualified applicants might still squeak by and, conversely, some great candidates might be mistakenly disqualified by an AI-powered system. In some cases, experts suspect that these AI-driven systems are being told to filter out candidates based factors like age, gender, or religion – a practice that is highly illegal.

Examining the Bill

The bill, which was originally introduced back in 2020, was passed by the New York City Council with a vote of 38-4. If it is approved, the bill will officially go into effect into January 2023. It requires that all vendors who supply AI-powered hiring software pass a yearly audit. The bill also requires companies that use such tools to inform job candidates about their usage, including the exact information that was used to determine the eligibility or suitability for the job in question.

While it certainly has the best intentions, the bill has some shortcomings of its own. Not only is it incredibly vague when addressing their proposed bias audits, but it fails to define some key terms that are used in the bill. It also doesn’t address every type of potential discrimination, such as those that result because of an applicant’s age or disability status.

New York City’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has already expressed his support for the bill. Since it has already received the majority vote from the council, however, his signature is not technically required in order for the bill to go into effect.


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