Is AI in Hiring Unintentionally Excluding Top Talent?

May 15 2024
5 min read

It’s no secret that more employers are using AI in the hiring process. Whether they utilize body language analysis, gamified tests, CV scanners, or some combination of them all, employers want to automate and streamline the process of finding and hiring the best talent. Regardless of the method or methods chosen, job applicants generally reply to the prompts and then AI, not a human resource manager or any other human being at all, decides if they’re moving forward in the hiring process or going home. And while the efficiency it brings is a welcome relief to busy employers, the lack of human oversight in the process increases the risk that contrary to employers’ intent, they are actually missing out on top talent due to inherent biases built into AI.

Ready to work with a background screening provider who can help you navigate through the complexities of AI in the talent acquisition lifecycle? Schedule time to Speak with Our Team and get started today.

Increased Use and Risks of AI in Hiring

As discussed above, HR and resourcing teams have been quick to adopt AI and automation tools as a way of speeding up the management of large numbers of applications. But how many are actually using AI in the process? According to a study conducted by IBM late last year of 8,500 global IT professionals, 42% of companies were using AI screening “to improve recruiting and human resources,” while another 40% were actively considering it. If those considering it move from thought to action, that would mean over three quarters of IT employers would be using AI in some form in the recruiting process.

With that kind of vast utilization, the impacts, both positive and negative, are far-reaching. SHRM recently noted, “As useful as such tools can be, they also pose novel risks in terms of the potential for bias, discrimination and digital exclusion (the latter being where candidates lack the requisite knowledge of, or access to, technology).” And employees are now living this reality. A February 2024 report from Rutgers University’s Heldrich Center for Workforce Development noted that 71% of workers are concerned about the impact of AI on jobs and just as many are worried about employers using the tech in hiring and promotion decisions.

Are Employers Losing Top Talent Before They Get in the Door?

While there has been much public concern about AI taking jobs away from humans, there are other risks, especially as it relates to an employer’s hiring practices. Many leaders anticipated that AI recruitment technology would eliminate biases in hiring practices. Yet, contrary to these expectations, there are instances where the opposite appears to be happening. There are many instances that are now suggesting that these tools are mistakenly filtering out highly qualified job applicants, increasing concerns that the software might be inadvertently eliminating top candidates.


As noted in a BBC article, Hilke Schellman, widely cited author of Algorithm: How AI Can Hijack Your Career and Steal Your Future believes that the largest risk AI poses is not, in fact, machines taking employees’ positions, but rather prospective employees not getting roles in the first place. Just like the positive impacts can reach further, faster, so too can the negative ones. “One biased human hiring manager can harm a lot of people in a year, and that's not great. But an algorithm that is maybe used in all incoming applications at a large company… that could harm hundreds of thousands of applicants.”

Neglecting to address these risks could result in AI tools inadvertently undermining an employer’s goals—excluding, rather than attracting the most qualified candidates even before their CV, resume, or application reaches a human’s desk.

Three Ways to Secure Top Talent

As employers continue to weigh the pros of automation and efficiency with the cons of potential bias that can exclude qualified applicants, they can take proactive steps to minimize risks and promote fairness in their organization’s hiring practices. Here are three strategies to help ensure the top talent isn’t walking out your door (before they even enter):

1. Increase Human Oversight with Accountability and Transparency.

Establish clear guidelines and protocols for addressing instances of bias or discrimination and hold hiring managers and personnel accountable for their decisions and actions during the recruitment process. This will help support a culture of transparency where employees feel comfortable reporting concerns or raising questions about what is happening in the hiring process.

2. Proactively Audit for Bias.

Conduct regular audits of the hiring process to assess its effectiveness and identify any areas where bias may be present. Solicit feedback from candidates and hiring managers to gain insights into their experiences and perceptions and use it to make improvements and adjustments as necessary. This may involve using diverse and representative datasets, as well as blind recruitment measures (removing all identifying information) during model training.

3. Data Tracking and Analysis.

Collect data at each stage of the hiring process to monitor for any patterns of bias. Analyze metrics such as candidate demographics, interview outcomes, and hiring decisions to identify potential areas of concern. Use this data to make informed decisions and implement corrective measures as needed.

As background screening vendors, we neither use AI in our background screening processes nor recommend that employers do so. Working with Orange Tree, employers can rest assured knowing that they can lean on us as their partner in compliance and that their background checks will be conducted the right way.

Why Orange Tree?

Orange Tree Employment Screening helps companies win their race to fill open positions by providing fast and easy background check and drug testing services. We are committed to helping our clients stay updated with compliance, such as with the AI regulatory landscape, create safer workplaces, mitigate financial risk, and avoid legal exposure. We forge long-term partnerships with our clients by offering a full range of technology-led screening solutions predicated on best practice and legally defensible screening programs. To get started with a background screening program tailored to your needs, you can schedule time to Speak with Our Team.