How to avoid discrimination in your hiring tech

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Articles

Technology is great but it still doesn’t have all the answers. 

At least it doesn’t when it comes to hiring technology as it relates to disability inclusion. And this is important. Why? The unemployment rate for disabled persons has always been outrageously high. In fact, in 2021 in the US, only 19.1% of disabled persons were employed.

The situation is worsened by the fact that technology used in hiring today unwittingly marginalises disabled persons, making it even harder for them to gain employment.

Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the UK’s Equality Act work to protect disabled persons from any form of discrimination. Regardless, the situation has become such a growing concern that the USA’s Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have recently re-emphasised the obligation of employers to avoid discrimination in their hiring processes. 

This duty extends to the use of technology and AI in hiring. 

So how exactly does hiring technology nurture bias and what can be done to avoid discrimination when using hiring software?  

How hiring technology can foster discrimination

Artificial intelligence is a product of natural intelligence; technology is the practical application of human knowledge.

Often, hiring technology, like all technology, reflects the state of mind of its developers. Consequently, the technology can amplify discrimination due to the biased variables and models upon which they operate. Let’s consider some examples.

An automated voice-based screener tests applicants based on their vocal responses to questions. If speaking is not a crucial requirement for the job, people with speech disorders or who are hard of hearing would be unjustly disqualified.

Software that operates on a facial recognition and analysis algorithm can be biassed against candidates who have autism and craniofacial distortions. Additionally, personality tests will wrongly screen out candidates who have mild and tolerable mental disabilities that would not impede their performance on the job. 

Hiring technology that analyses resumes can undervalue those with unemployment gaps. We are humans and things could go wrong healthwise at any time for anyone. Thus, the resume gaps could be a result of a disability or health condition for which a candidate shouldn’t be penalised.

Some hiring tests contain visual components. In the event that the job can be satisfactorily performed without a visual requirement, such a test could unjustly discriminate against visually impaired applicants. 

What’s more, poor phrasing of any questions could include unnecessary components for the specific role. It could enquire whether the applicant can stand for hours handling a task when that job could be satisfactorily performed by a person in a wheelchair. Sadly, an applicant who answers “no” to such a question might be disqualified.

These methods of screening are neither intrinsically wrong nor the prejudices intentional. However, they create undesirable outcomes all the same.    

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How to avoid discrimination in your hiring tech

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce discricimination in your hiring process and through your HR technology. Below are specific steps that can be taken to prevent discrimination when you use technology and AI in hiring. 

1. Evaluate your current tool for accessibility

The first step in ensuring accessibility in your hiring technology is to evaluate your current solution. Work with others on your team to check whether your tool:

  • Has an accessible interface (compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA Standards)
  • Does not operates on biassed data and variables
  • Meets disability inclusion requirements

Should the current hiring technology come up short, then it’s time to look for more accessible hiring technology alternatives. The search for better hiring tools should be carried out with the understanding that the new tool ought to prevent discrimination in hiring by compliance with accessibility best practices. 

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2. Involve HR in the software procurement process 

The HR team should work in close partnership with the organisation’s technology purchasing and procurement team. Such collaboration should further exist between the HR team and the marketing and advertising teams who are responsible for the advertisement of job ads. 

The importance of their liaison lies in the fact that the HR team will emphasise the essence of accessibility and accommodation practices. Eventually, all of the organisation’s processes will be tailored to meet disability inclusion requirements.   

Check any potential software for a Voluntary Product Accessibility Report, which outlines a product’s conformance with accessibility standards and guidelines.

The purpose of the Accessibility Conformance Report is to assist customers and buyers in making preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial “Electronic and Information Technology,” also referred to as “Information and Communication Technology” (ICT) products and services with features that support accessibility. (See the Award Force VPAT report.) 

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3. Apply accommodation policies

To further inclusivity in your HR tech tool, you should create a policy that addresses accessibility. 

Create a policy to give your applicants sufficient information about the type of technology used for assessment.  Then, it’s important to communicate how job candidates will be evaluated. Giving your job applicants detailed information helpsthem decide whether they need any type of  accommodation.

Your strategy should also include a detailed procedure for applicants to request reasonable accommodation. 

It’s possible that applicants who might need such accommodation could be hesitant to request it out of fear that doing so will compromise their chances of getting the job. It’s important to communicate that this will not have an undesirable effect to help  allay their fears.   

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4. Monitor the hiring technology’s assessment model and have a backup plan

Some hiring discrimination can stem from the technology’s assessment model, espsecially in AI tech. It is possible that the tasks and tests upon which the applicants are assessed have components that are not crucial for the performance of the job.

The outcome?

Discrimination against disabled person with regard to that unnecessary component!

Your responsibility is to ensure that those unnecessary components are eliminated from the tests. If this isn’t  possible, create a backup strategy. Typically, this plan includes a human element to reexamine any potential disqualified applicant.  

Any applicant found to be disqualified due to a biassed test should be included with the qualified candidates.    

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5. Provide an avenue for potential discrimination complaints 

Finally, to avoid discrimination in your recruitment software, it’s important to tell your applicants what to do if they believe they’ve been unfairly prejudiced. Explain how they should report it and to whom.      

Providing guidelines on how they can effectively relay their complaints about any discrimination proves that you’re truly committed to an inclusive hiring process.

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In closing, employers should ensure their organisations’ hiring technology is accessible and inclusive for disabled people. The entire hiring process can be be designed to meet the needs of any potential applicants.  

Besides becoming a more inclusive organisation, you’ll also protect yourself from winding up on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.

Disabled people make up a valuable yet untapped talent resource. Start today to ensure they have a fair chance at employment in your company.

Learn how Award Force can help you recruit and manage your pool of job applicants through an accessible and easy-to-use platform. 

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