Is AI better than the human touch in recruitment?

What are the potential pitfalls of using artificial intelligence to find new employees? Chris Cuckney reports

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Artificial Intelligence-powered tools like ChatGPT are finding their way into almost all areas of business and HR is no exception. Despite AI being a relatively new technology for most businesses, many are already reporting a number of benefits including improvements in productivity, savings in costs and reductions in human error.

AI could be used to assist in most aspects of HR, including streamlining processes, drafting documents and salary benchmarking. While there are undoubted benefits, businesses should approach AI with a degree of caution before taking the human aspect out of HR. One area where this is decidedly apparent is using AI in the recruitment of new employees. 

A foolproof system?

When it comes to recruitment, more and more businesses are using AI to identify the most suitable candidates for a vacancy. AI can review job applications, CVs and cover letters and identify suitable candidates almost instantly by conducting a keyword search against the requirements for the role. 

This has obvious advantages; it will save managers and HR teams from having to manually review applications, which will save time and money, and in theory it should produce an objective result that isn’t based on any unconscious or personal bias that unfortunately can sometimes creep into the recruitment process. 

However, AI isn’t perfect. By its nature, AI learns as more data is entered into it and there have been instances where this has inadvertently resulted in its selection being tainted by discrimination. 

As was the case at one well-known technology company, AI established a pattern that more men than women were applying for vacancies across the company, and it effectively ‘taught itself’ that men must be preferable to women in that sector and started downgrading all the female applicants.

You could conceivably see the same outcome happening for disabled applicants or women returning to work from a career break, with AI effectively categorising them as being less suitable. This is particularly relevant where a business may need to make reasonable adjustments to assist people with disabilities, as AI will not be equipped to assess their individual needs or whether a particular adjustment is reasonable to make.

So, while AI is helpful as an initial screening tool, it is not a perfect system and overreliance on it in the candidate selection process could carry a discrimination risk. To protect against this risk, a human element should remain in place to give ultimate oversight of the selection process. This will enable swift identification of any discriminative patterns that begin to emerge through the use of AI and ensure they are rectified.       

A chance to reconsider the recruitment process

AI is gaining a great deal of traction among jobseekers too, particularly as everyone has free access to ChatGPT. For jobseekers, the advantages are just as clear. AI can tailor CVs and complete electronic job application forms. By inputting a CV and a copy of the job description, AI can also produce cover letters within moments. All of which is an appealing prospect to anyone going through the arduous task of finding a new job.  

Everything suggests both employers and jobseekers are going to be using this technology for the long-term, and therefore this might be an opportunity for businesses to reconsider their approach to recruitment more broadly. For instance, if a cover letter can be produced so easily without any real effort from the jobseeker, do they still serve a practical purpose for the employer? 

In reconsidering their recruitment process, all businesses will differ in how much they want to rely on AI. Some might fully embrace it and go as far as incorporating automated Q&A tools that  jobseekers can use to ask questions about the role before applying, or even use AI bots to conduct the first round of job interviews. Others who want a more considered approach to AI might wish to continue with their existing process, in which case they might consider asking jobseekers to formally declare whether they have used AI in their application.


In a difficult economic climate, with businesses feeling the financial pressure, using AI to save on costs and resources is very tempting. There are clear benefits; but businesses need to strike the right balance and shouldn’t remove the human element entirely, particularly in the context of human resources where the risks of discrimination will be higher.

Chris Cuckney is a solicitor at Devonshires