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AI and Employment Background Screening: Why It's a Bad Idea

June 20, 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful technology that can perform tasks that humans can’t or don’t want to do. It offers many previously unavailable, low-cost solutions for companies. However, AI is not a perfect solution for every problem, and certainly comes with numerous limitations and risks in some areas. One of these areas is in the employment background screening process, which requires careful consideration when making critical hiring decisions.

Employment background screening verifies the information provided by job applicants, such as their education, work history, criminal records, and references. Some background screening companies are implementing AI to automate and enhance this process in various areas. However, using AI to automate certain processes could potentially have serious consequences for both employers and applicants.

Here are three reasons AI should not be used in the employment background screening process:

  1. AI could potentially be biased and inaccurate. AI systems are trained using data sets that may not reflect the diversity and complexity, nor the broadness of real-world scenarios. This can lead to unintentionally unfair and discriminatory decisions which affect people's chances of getting hired for a role they are perfectly qualified to fill. An AI system could potentially reject a qualified applicant based on their race, gender, age, or disability, without any human review or explanation.
  1. AI can be invasive and unethical. AI systems may collect and use personal and sensitive information that is not relevant or necessary for the job. This can violate a candidate’s privacy and dignity, and potentially expose them to potential harassment or discrimination. For example, an AI system may scan an applicant's social media posts and infer their political views, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or health conditions, and use them as criteria for hiring or rejecting them for a role.
  1. AI can be unaccountable and unclear. AI systems may not provide clear and transparent explanations for decisions or allow human oversight and intervention. This can make it difficult for employers to justify their hiring decisions, and for applicants to challenge them if they feel they were treated unfairly. For example, an AI system may generate a score or a recommendation for an applicant based on a complex algorithm that is not disclosed or understood by anyone.

Essentially, although there are promising areas in which AI could supplement and improve the screening process, it should be avoided in many more, as it is not a reliable, ethical, or transparent tool for assessing people's suitability for a job. Instead, employers should use human judgment and discretion, and follow the best practices and legal standards for conducting background checks. This way, they can ensure that they hire the best candidates for their organization, while respecting their rights and ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations.

We are currently offering a free 30-minute screening program review with our compliance experts. Schedule today and we'll step through every aspect of your screening program and where you may be able to improve. There is no obligation or risk involved, and you'll receive a free report you can review with team members following the consultation.

Schedule your free review


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