How AI Can Improve Interviews, Diversity and Productivity

AI can enhance HR operations, so why do many leaders feel anxious about embracing it?
By: | November 9, 2018 • 5 min read
AI and HR

While nearly all HR professionals agree that artificial intelligence may prove time-saving and helpful, they remain cautious about adoption. With HR such a vital function to every company, there is some anxiety around AI and how it will add value before embracing the new technology.

AI stands to radically enhance HR operations, so why do many of us feel anxious rather than eager to embrace it? For some, concerns about AI commandeering the workplace may be more rooted in age-old fears about technological evolution than in the reality of what the tools are poised to do for us.

AI tools have the potential to enhance and streamline HR work, affording us new and better opportunities. Analyzing AI capability demonstrates a symbiotic picture rather than an AI domination scheme. Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, explains:  “AI tools have the potential to help companies identify hard-to-find candidates at scale, correct subtle gender and other biases in hiring, and provide powerful and scalable solutions to the growing problem of ‘resume overload’ facing HR teams. Many AI solutions today are affordable and easy-to-use, and we expect to see much broader adoption in recruiting and HR in 2018 and beyond.”

Imagine how you might evolve your team if the functions Chamberlain mentions were taken off your plate. AI affords us tremendous capacity to enact more meaningful work by absorbing that which bogs us down. This is an exciting development, both for HR professionals and the people we recruit.

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I was initially inspired to pursue this topic after hearing how Janna Biagio, director of people for Celmatix, used AI to automate routine HR processes for only $20,000 a year. This freed her HR administrative assistant from doing some of the rote work that her role demanded, enabling her to advance to a more senior role on the team.

While AI stands to simplify and streamline operations, “to AI or not to AI” is still a challenging question organizations face. While some companies are investing in AI solutions, more remain curious about the measurable benefits AI can provide, which tools to consider, when to begin implementing these solutions and how to successfully adopt the new technology.

Increasing productivity and building trust

 Biagio explains that her company uses AI technology “to accomplish repetitive admin tasks that take effort away from their strategic work.” She further notes: “AI wasn’t something we actively pursued, but after seeing its benefits, it is definitely the face of HR in the future.”

She points out that scheduling, recruiting and onboarding are all HR functions that can be enhanced by AI, and emphasizes: “transparency and having employees trust the new technology is an important success factor.” Certainly, success stories like that of her admin revise the narrative around AI adoption, helping to calm fears and build trust.

AI for inclusivity

AI tools can be game changing when it comes to streamlining resume review. Biagio explains: “AI can help make intelligent decisions during the screening process. In the future, AI will help identify resumes, displayed perhaps in the order of relevance for hiring managers. It removes human error and fatigue when reviewing dozens of resumes.”

AI enacts a pristine, bias-free review process when properly tooled. “Critically, people still set the parameters of AI tools,” Biagio says. “So AI is as good as the people making the rules behind it. You need to set the system up appropriately, so people who come from non-traditional backgrounds, for example, aren’t filtered out.”

Additionally, she says, AI can help when it comes to metrics for tracking diversity and inclusion. She points out that “although people teams should always be responsible for listening and responding to diversity and inclusion issues, AI might help with some of the analytics and themes.” She cites safeguards against unconscious biases, people analytics and metrics among these themes.

Once again, human and AI collaboration is powerful.

How AI enhances culture

Celmatix uses an AI bot, Diana, to conduct some fundamental hiring operations. “People often don’t know they’re talking to a bot,” Biagio says. “And once they find out, they’re enticed to ask more questions. They tend to treat our bot like other co-workers. ‘Diana’ sounds like a human, so much so that candidates ask for ‘Diana’ when they arrive. Initially we worried that we were being deceptive in some way, but when people learn she’s a bot, they’re amused and delighted.”

Imagine how it informs the questions candidates pose to interviewers when Diana is involved in their interview process. The fact that the bot serves this function, and the company is still hiring, undoubtedly quells concerns about AI’s role and seeds some interesting queries about company culture.

Being an early adopter has attractive cultural advantages: It’s impressive to point it out to candidates that your team is using technology to evolve and to grow opportunities. It speaks well of culture to harness tech in the interest of cultivating better opportunities for employees.

How AI can impact interviews

The more interviews change, the more they stay the same. While AI has a tremendous screening capacity, human touch is still a key factor for many adopters. Chuck Edward, head of global talent acquisition at Microsoft, says there is a major difference between large and small companies, but for both “you need to commit to how much of your screening/selection process you turn over to technology, versus having a mixed/hybrid model.”

Interestingly, the human touch still maintains a prominent role when it comes to hiring at Microsoft. Edward says. “We still rely heavily on interviews. The more we’re screening on dimensions of culture and leadership attributes, versus skills, the more human judgement matters. We want real people to help in the screening process, and also to help sell our culture and our company. This is a big part of creating the fabric of who we are as a company—and frankly, I’m skeptical how much AI can help with this part of the process.”

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Enacting quintessential HR work still anchors the interview process at Microsoft. This is heartening to learn, if you feel concerned about adopting AI. It’s another indication of how the technology can work in concert with staff.

Nuts and bolts

It can be overwhelming to figure out how to adopt AI tools, Biagio explains, adding that the following tools help the team at Celmatix:

  • Donut.ai: This onboarding tool helps companies meet the needs of new staff. It ensures that employees’ learn all they need to on their first day of work (reminding them to claim their benefits, for example, and enroll in healthcare plans). The tool also checks in with new staff to see how they’re doing in their new roles.
  • MyAlly.ai: Diana is a MyAlly.ai bot. These recruiting tools schedule interviews and answer candidates’ questions. If the bot gets a question it doesn’t understand, it will pose it to a team member. The bot can quickly maneuver through Google Calendars and identify fitting time slots, even when working across different regions and time zones.
  • TapRecruit: This tool helps generate job descriptions that are gender neutral, concise and relatable. If there’s language that might discourage female or minority candidates, this tool will point it out. It can also be used for performance management.

Embracing AI

There’s a pervasive fear that AI will devour jobs, but the reality is much more nuanced. I’m excited about the future of this technology, and how it positions us to evolve the next generation of HR initiatives, scholarship and training.

Mikaela Kiner is the founder and CEO of uniquelyHR, providing fast-growth companies including startups and scale-ups with flexible HR services from consulting to leadership development and executive coaching. Prior to founding her company, Mikaela was an HR leader with several iconic brands including Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, PopCap Games and Redfin.

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