New York City Proposes Regulating Algorithms Used in Hiring

January 17, 2021

According to Ars Technica, in a controversial move this week, New York City Council is seeking to limit the use of algorithms when it comes to making hiring decisions after it turned out the algorithms were couldn’t be proved to eliminate bias. 

Companies that sell such tools would have to perform annual audits to make sure their their algorithms aren’t discriminative. What’s unknown with this screening software is the intelligence and data model that is being used to evaluate these resumes.  

The proposal faces resistance from some unusual allies, as well as unresolved questions about how it would operate. Eric Ellman, senior vice president for public policy at the Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents credit- and background-checking firms, says the bill could make hiring less fair by placing new burdens on companies that run background checks on behalf of employers. He argues that such checks can help managers overcome a reluctance to hire people from certain demographic groups.

A good hire is hard, and we know that candidates already have to get past the ATS system which we have advocated for on this show.   If you’d like to hear more check out episodes 16 and 17 with rock star Richard Drosin.

To make matters even worse after I wrote this story another company that uses AI is halting its use of facial analysis to vet candidates. HireVue said it is killing off its facial expression algorithm software when it is performing job interviews. I’ve been on interviews that used HireVue in the past and I found it very unsettling.

Job seekers screened by HireVue sit in front of a webcam and answer questions. Their behavior, intonation, and speech is fed to an algorithm that assigns certain traits and qualities.

When asked about the reason for the removal, HireVue’s CEO Kevin Parker had this to say: 

“It was adding some value for customers, but it wasn’t worth the concern,”

This is very disturbing to someone old school like me.  HireVue is currently in use in about 100 companies and has screened more than 6 million last year.  I wonder how many times HireVue’s algorithm got it right vs. got it wrong.

What I would like to see is us go and use some common sense when it comes to hiring.  This is why we have interviews.  Wisdom will tell us that the resume isn’t the entire story.  There needs to be a culture fit in the organization for the candidate.  How is an automated system that scrapes keywords going to tell me if the candidate is going to do a good job ?

When will we learn that this is not a good idea.  Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. The next innovation in this space is an audio-based screening system being pioneered.

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