Nearly every Fortune 500 company now uses AI screening tools in hiring and 40 percent of all companies are expected to use AI interviews in choosing candidates this year.
While employers have turned to these tools as a way to enhance efficiency in filling openings, some have raised concerns that using algorithms in hiring can introduce bias into the search and hiring process.
“Mysterious ‘black box’ screening processes may produce results that are not much better than a random number generator, and algorithms easily allow bias to be introduced unintentionally when it comes to choosing employees,” explains Hilke Schellmann, a professor in NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the author of the recently released The Algorithm: How AI Decides Who Gets Hired, Monitored, Promoted, and Fired, And Why We Need To Fight Back (Hachette). “The oddest part is that it all happened so suddenly and quietly, with few people other than the vendors and software engineers and HR departments aware of what was happening.”
While the changes may have arrived without fanfare, their effects have definitely been noticed by job seekers, Schellmann says, who are finding it “more complicated than ever to stand out and even make it past the first few rounds,” especially if they “have a difference, whether through a disability, an accent, or a marginalized identity.”
Her research was inspired, in part, by personal stories about first-hand encounters with AI as gatekeeper in the hiring process.
“I didn’t set out to write an exposé on how AI is used to hire, monitor, and even fire employees,” explains Schellmann, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlantic, among other outlets. “But a Lyft ride in November 2017 opened my eyes. My driver mentioned that he’d applied for a job and earlier that day he had gotten a phone call from a ‘robot’ asking him three pre-recorded questions. I had never heard of ‘robot’ recruiters.
“Five years and hundreds of interviews later, I may know this world of AI and hiring better than anyone else. I’ve taken plenty of those one-way hiring tests like the one my Lyft driver had to take. I have gone from being hopeful that AI could perhaps reduce bias in hiring to just the opposite.”
Schellman stresses that stronger governmental regulations are needed to ensure fairness in tech-assisted hiring, noting that the “US lags behind Europe in establishing such guardrails.” But what can job seekers do to stand out in the meantime, as AI tools continue to make critical employment decisions in the US?
Armed with insights gained in her research, Schellmann provided NYU News with five tips—drawn from the book’s appendix—for how to increase your chances of making it past AI screeners and into an interview with a human.
Make your resume machine-readable
Having a great-looking resume has become easier with online tools, but simpler is better in the world of AI screeners. Rather than relying on a unique design, images, or color scheme, a goal for the resume you submit to online postings is to make it easy for a machine to read. Use a simple template without images, columns, or special characters such as ampersands or tildes.
Be sure to describe your previous experience with short, crisp sentences. And standard advice for resumes read by humans and AI screeners alike: Be declarative and quantify achievements whenever possible.
Make sure your resume matches the exact keywords in the job description
One way to ensure your resume makes it past the initial screening is to include the exact keywords used in a job description. AI-based resume screeners sometimes reject qualified candidates simply because their resumes do not include the exact criteria and keywords established in the job description.
There are tools to help you “see” your resume the way an AI screener might. Sites like Jobscan and others allow you to input a job description and compare your resume to that description to see if your resume matches the role. But beware of looking too good on paper. Aim for a 60–85 percent match because AI might filter out resumes that match the job description 100%, inferring they are a copy of the job description.
Promote your skills, not your schools
Companies are increasingly hiring based on skills and experience rather than relying on potentially biased markers like whether and where a candidate went to college. To give yourself the best advantage in this light, consider including a skills section on your resume to make it easy for an AI screener to match your skills to the position. A skills section on LinkedIn might also be helpful since recruiters often search for a specific skill and the location of a job when looking for talent.
Pay attention to the actions you take while interacting with a job platform
If you use LinkedIn and other job platforms, your behavior on the site will most likely be tracked.
LinkedIn and other job platforms use those signals to recommend people to recruiters who are qualified and are likely to apply and have interacted with the target company before.
Consider using Generative AI as part of your job search
While predictive AI screening may work against you, it is possible to use AI to your benefit in your job search. ChatGPT and other large language models can help polish resumes and write compelling cover letters tailored to the job description. Of course, if you go this route, edit the ChatGPT draft to make it sound more like you and add a touch of personality.
Another way ChatGPT can help you prepare is by suggesting commonly asked interview questions - and possible responses! Before you nervously face a human recruiter, you’ll have polished responses to job interview chestnuts like, “Tell me about a time you failed and how you bounced back,” and, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”