Are AI recruiting tools ethical and efficient? The pros and cons of ATS.

Identifying the right talent continues to be a challenge for HR professionals and recruiters. Companies rely on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to perform tasks such as screening resumes and scheduling interviews. But are AI recruiting tools ethical and efficient? There are benefits and pitfalls of automated recruiting practices.

AI-powered technology and applicant tracking systems (ATS) have become indispensable tools for businesses around the world. According to Predictive Hire, 55% of HR managers have invested in AI recruitment. And most Fortune 500 companies use AI technology to filter resumes before reaching hiring teams and recruiters.

In recent years, there have been concerns about ethics and efficiency in data analytics and AI-based recruiting tools. Companies that use applicant tracking systems run the risk of removing qualified candidates from the pool.

In addition, there are growing concerns about the ethics of ATS: Is AI technology widening the employment gap between demographics?

How AI Recruitment Works

AI recruiting software collects and screens hundreds of resumes. These are stored in a database that recruiters have access to. Depending on the system, HR professionals can manually review resumes, but recruiters are generally short, taking only about six seconds per applicant. In a competitive market, these six seconds are crucial, but many systems don’t even allow that.

Recruiting software applies machine learning algorithms to complex recruiting data to optimize recruiting and make high-volume jobs more efficient.

Here’s an overview of how automated recruiting works:

  • Hundreds of applications are received, most of which are unqualified according to the requirements entered into the system.
  • Intelligent screening systems identify qualified candidates in minutes and assess candidates based on keyword match, algorithms and recruiting data.
  • Some recruiting tools can communicate with candidates through automated messages and respond to questions about the position.
  • Recruiters directly schedule interviews with the candidates ATS considers qualified, using technology to organize and track interviewees.

Benefits for applicant tracking systems

When organizations use AI-powered technology and applicant tracking systems, they hope to find the ideal match for the open position while saving resources.

AI tools can:

  • Help recruiting teams process the maximum number of applications in a shorter time frame. Automated scheduling processes also save time for HR professionals, increasing the likelihood of finding quality employees.
  • Filter out applicants who are not a good fit for you. Searching hundreds of resumes has a higher error rate. Recruiters can lose focus over time and miss important details that can indicate a successful hire.
  • Help candidates get faster response time for HR teams, leading to higher adoption rates.
  • Minimize operational costs. Because ATS can perform automated tasks, business leaders and managers can focus on higher-value work.

Ethical Issues With Applicant Tracking Systems

The human component

The core problem with automated processes is the lack of human intelligence; ATS cannot identify human potential or creativity. Instead, AI technology can filter out desirable talent who don’t structure their resumes or applications perfectly.\

Diversity is the number one concern when considering whether AI is efficient and ethical. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are critical components of the workforce, and employers need to address hiring biases. For example, ATS can eliminate candidates who may not have access to the resources to create technologically perfect applications, leading to other ethical issues.

Among many other setbacks caused by the pandemic, many women and marginalized groups have been out of work. While this demographic is improving, job recovery remains unfair among marginalized communities.

Rushing to recover economically from devastating losses caused by COVID-19, employers have failed to address the impact of ATS and other automated hiring systems.

Machine learning algorithms often involve systematic bias, leading to unethical hiring practices:

  • In 2018 Amazon found their Applications for downgrading AI software of women, excluding candidates from all-female colleges.
  • A 2018 study found that facial recognition technology such as Face++ and Microsoft AI can analyze the emotions and personality traits of job applicants. For example, black men were assigned more negative characteristics than white men.
  • AI-based hiring processes raise questions about privacy and protection. By law, employers are not allowed to inquire about physical disabilities, mental health, age, gender and marital status. However, such demographic information cannot inform hiring decisions. Still, automated systems may be able to access any applicant’s private information without their consent.

How to limit AI bias to promote DE&I?

New legal requirements

In 2021, the New York City Council voted to: submit an account that require automated system audits. Candidates and employees alike will be made aware of the use of automated assessment and evaluation for purposes such as hiring or promotion. Companies using ATS can follow New York’s lead by preparing for potential audits.


  • Identifying bias: ATS is inherently “biased” against people deemed unqualified for the position. HR professionals must first identify discrepancies in outcomes between groups, ie race, gender and other marginalized communities.
  • Assess justified bias: Observing eliminated applications does not relate to AI results. What are the root causes of the observable differences in automated bias?
  • Reducing bias: Documentation is vital in recruiting strategies. Reports should include information about the company’s fairness goals, disadvantages among demographics with ATS, root cause identification, and information about the targeted intervention.

The easiest way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, especially for companies committed to using automated recruiting tools, is to use ATS to invite and promote diverse profiles.

Edit job listings to promote diverse talent and require both tracking and applicants to remove photos, names, and addresses from the pool to better focus on applicants’ talent and potential.

The New York City law will go into effect as early as January 2023. While companies can prepare for the event that similar regulations will take place in their country, hiring executives can do more to ensure DE&I is a priority in the workplace.

Failure to monitor your company’s recruiting values ​​can lead to significant loss of time, money and reputation. Reviewing and auditing your recruiting strategies is an opportunity to consider various AI tools that streamline the process while remaining unbiased and transparent.

Fair hiring and promotion processes will boost trust and morale within the team, strengthening employee retention.

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