Computers Aren’t Sexist: AI + Recruiting

Recently it was reported that Amazon had scrapped their machine learning recruitment system because it was favoring male candidates. Their machine learning team spent years developing a way to automate the hiring process using a decade worth of past Amazon employee resumes; they would soon learn in doing so the system had taught itself to strategically weed out female candidates. For instance, any resume with the word ‘women’s’ in it was immediately downgraded and scored lower.

What gives? Learned historical data based on past hiring decisions will always produce a biased system because human beings are inherently, and (mostly) unconsciously biased.

Using our own AI technology, TalentWorks pinpoints the biases of hiring managers by analyzing and sampling 100,000+ jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. In doing so we’re able to identify the norms and outliers of the industry such as the number of applications per interview and how that relates to the greater labor market. Example: Racial bias.

How much does race still matter in the US job market?

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After analyzing thousands of job applications, outcomes and applicants, we discovered several key things:

  1. Non-white job applicants got 2.3x fewer interviews than their white counterparts;
  2. For non-white job applicants, if a resume mistake reinforced a racist stereotype, it basically disqualified them.

Through our data, we’ve found the following contributes significantly to combatting racial bias:

  • Limit the number of collaboration-oriented words in your resume, such as, “team player”, “helped”, and “assisted”. Doing so will improve your chances for objectivity by 63%.
  • Anchor your experience by using industry buzzwords and acronyms. This increases objectivity by 34%.
  • Use concrete numbers; specifically, for every 3 sentences use 1 number to demonstrate your impact. Especially for people of color, quantifying the impact that you made with numbers helps remove subjective bias (+23% boost).

Returning to gender bias, we’ve actually found that resumes with obviously female names had a +48.3% higher chance of getting an interview. Names such as ‘Monica’, ‘Zoe’, ‘Ashley’ and ‘Evelyn’ had a significant boost over men comparatively.

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This isn’t incredibly surprising when compared to what happened at Amazon, another tech company with a stark talent problem (men make up 73% of professional employees and 78% of senior executives and managers). The greater labor market suggests that there is an immense benefit for hiring womenWomen are outperforming men in school, and most recruiters are women (who want to support other women).

‘Tech’ is just one industry Talentworks analyzes. Our data is based on thousands of applications, applicants and outcomes across 681 cities and 140+ different roles/industries. Artificial intelligence and deep learning are the future of recruiting. We hope to empower jobseekers to find their ideal position.

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the number of years of experience, job level and employment type for each job using TalentWorks’ proprietary parsing algorithms. We then used a blended Gaussian-linear kernel to calculate experience densities. Finally, we used an averaged ensemble of multiple independent RANSAC iterations to robustly calculate inflations against outliers. This was done in python with pandas, sklearn and scipy and plotted with bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

We can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x right now with ApplicationAssistant. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our findings. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this data but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

How to overcome a hiring manager’s bias

In an ideal world, candidates would compete for jobs on an even playing field. Unfortunately, hiring managers are human and predisposed to inherent bias. If your resume makes it through the ATS (“applicant tracking system”) what type of biases exist and is there anything you, the jobseeker, can do?

Bias #1: Ageism

Our data suggests that your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Yes, it’s illegal for companies to base hiring decisions around age, but it inevitably happens. Although The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows legal protection against employers blatantly adding age preferences in job listings, many older workers will hear such things as “You wouldn’t be happy here” or the ever present “You’re too qualified” that are thinly veiled ways of saying your age matters.

So, what do you do if you’re nearing 35? We highly recommend leaving out your graduation dates on your resume and LinkedIN page.

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Bias #2: Resume ‘Blemishes’

More than age, race or experience, having even one employment blemish (such as a firing or layoff) was the biggest factor affecting the job search.

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Candidates who were fired, laid off or quit in the first 15 months of a job were 43% less hireable when applying to new jobs. Comparatively, their callback rate for interviews was 55% less than people who did not have a resume blemish. Averaging across industries and cities, getting fired meant roughly same as wiping out ~5 years of experience for them.

If you’re applying to jobs with a recent blemish on your resume we recommend concentrating your search around smaller companies. Applications to companies with <500 employees had a 192% higher interview rate. For every additional 1,000 employees, the hireability for people with work blemishes dropped by 19%.

Bias #3: Your Name

If you’re Asian or Hispanic-American and make a resume faux-pas on your resume (such as a misspelling or forget to include your email address) you are penalized much more than white applicants.

Force an objective mindset if you have a non-white name and you’ll increases your interview rate up to +199%. This roughly translated to closing the racial discrimination gap in hiring by 54% (a 1.6x race penalty vs. 2.3x originally). How do you force objectivity? Using concrete numbers to demonstrate your impact will boost your hireability by 23% and help remove subject bias. Also, adding industry buzzwords and acronyms will give you 34% hireability boost.

Conclusion

It’s hard enough that employers give a resume about 6 seconds to decide whether they’ll proceed, but throw in age, a layoff, and an “exotic” last name and the odds of an interview are stacked against you significantly. Take care that you’re being reviewed as fairly as possible by formulating a resume that stands up to potential bias in the hiring world.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

Can I include something in my resume that isn’t 100% accurate?

Dear Sarah,

I’d like to apply to a position where I’m sorta familiar with the technology required to do the job. Would it be “okay” to say I’m well-versed and then learn on the job? I believe I’d otherwise be a great fit.

Best,

Fibber Mcgee

Hi FM,

Sure, you can speak to your fake skills in a resume to land a job…but, you really shouldn’t. Seriously

According to HireRight’s 2017 employment screening benchmark report, 85% of employers found their candidates had lied on their resume; this is a 25% jump from five years ago!

Though it may seem innocent, embellishing skills on a resume will inevitably put you in an awkward position where at the very least you’ve started a professional relationship with a lie. If the hiring manager finds out you puffed up your qualifications, they’re likely to fire you.

Some of the more crazy fibs we’ve seen have ranged from falsifying university degrees (and graduation dates) to completely stolen work histories where the resume and cover letter don’t match at all. In an age where we’re more connected than ever, it only takes a quick Google search on the part of the recruiter to learn about candidates if there’s any ambiguity. Also, it’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to contact people via LinkedIN that aren’t your listed references; there are no laws restricting them from doing this. In fact, 70% of employers do independent background checks on future hires such as snooping their social media accounts.

It’s been said on this blog numerous times that making your resume machine parsable (with the same exact words from the job description) is fundamental. We’ve also emphasized how important it is to apply to jobs even if you only have 60% of the job qualifications. Of equal import is understanding that lying your way to an interview is absolutely not worth the risk.

All the best!

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