The Catch-22 of Using Big Data for Hiring
Welcome to January, the time of year when many of us assess whether it’s time to do things in a different and more efficient way. If you are looking to grow your business in the New Year, you may be thinking ahead to potential staffing requirements and wondering how to accommodate future needs. In an effort to be efficient, many with the desire to hire the “right” candidate rely on Big Data to comb through the hundreds of potential applications received for any one position.
Working the System
Algorithms provided through Big Data applications have the ability to categorize the “right” candidates from the “wrong” ones, but as the reaches of Big Data continue to expand, so do the opportunities for job candidates to “game” the Big Data system. One example of this is the use of keyword stuffing to “trick” an algorithm into tagging a resume as a potential right candidate.
A Growing Entity
As Big Data continues to evolve into a force of its own, another aspect holds the potential to carry risks far greater than keyword stuffing. This comes in the form of algorithms designed to vet job candidates electronically, carrying the potential to exclude certain employees as a result of the programming, according to an article in JD Supra Business Advisor.
An October 2016, a press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warned, “Big Data has the potential to drive innovation that reduce bias in employment decisions and help employers make better decisions in hiring, performance evaluation, and promotions,” said Chair Jenny R. Lang. “At the same time, it is critical that these tools are designed to promote fairness and opportunity, so that reliance on these expanding sources of data does not create new barriers to opportunity.”
Creating a Balance
While there’s no doubt the use of Big Data in hiring is here to stay, the warning from the EEOC creates a new imperative for staffing recruiters and the programmers writing algorithms for job search purposes. As a result, both parties must remain aware of the potential for inadvertently creating discriminatory practices. This becomes further complicated when considering the number of staffing recruiters using third-party software to make hiring decisions. Any discrepancy engaging on the basis of race, color, sex (gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), age (40 and older), gender and/or disability carries the potential for discrimination claims.
Tips to Avoid Discriminatory Hiring Practices
- Consider EEOC guidelines when promoting, recruiting and hiring
- Consistently analyze and apply relevant functions, duties and capacities to hiring practices
- Collect proportionate data designed to address the inclusion of protected classes
- Carefully promote and communicate job openings to all potential eligible candidates
- Continuously monitor recruiting through third-party vendors as to not exclude protected classes