Vendor Hopes to Combat ‘Societal Distrust’ of AI

The past two years have not been kind to tech companies. Although they continue to book huge profits, giants like Facebook and Google are under withering assault from privacy advocates and ordinary citizens alike concerned that their personal data is being used in nefarious ways. Then there’s artificial intelligence: Although AI is promoted as a better way to find qualified hires than traditional methods, critics—and even some tech companies themselves—say that algorithms can also be highly susceptible to bias.

Loren Larsen wants to help alter AI’s negative perception.

Larsen, chief technology officer at HireVue, recently announced the recruiting-tech vendor’s first ever Expert Advisory Board to help it guide ethical AI development and advise it on issues such as diversity and inclusion, algorithmic bias and privacy.

“The topic of ethics and AI is very big in the media today,” he says. “There’s an assumption that companies like us don’t know what we’re doing, that we’re just out to make a buck. That’s not what we’re about at all.”

Although HireVue and its ilk certainly do want to make money, says Larsen, they’re also committed to doing the right thing.

HireVue was among the first startups to pioneer video interviewing. Since then, the company has moved on to AI-based assessment tools.

One of the biggest disconnects that Larsen sees is what he says is a “mistaken impression” that traditional screening and hiring processes are fair and unbiased.

“There is so much bias in resume reviews and face-to-face interviews, and people don’t even know what they’re looking for,” he says. “When you ask hiring managers what predicts success in a given role, you’ll get all kinds of answers.”

Algorithms, however, can be trained to notice what actually matters in a job and will get better over time, says Larsen. They’re also more consistent than their human counterparts.

“People somehow think the status quo is OK, but it clearly isn’t,” he says. “AI can actually measure things that matter.”

HireVue’s board includes experts in AI, organizational psychology, data security and ethics. It includes the University of Utah’s Suresh Venkatasubramian, a computer science professor who’s also a board member of Utah’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Other members include Sheryl Falk, a partner at Winston & Strawn who helps lead the law firm’s privacy and data security task force, and Michael Campion, professor of management at Purdue University and past president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The board will meet twice a year and will be available for regular consultations with HireVue employees, says Larsen.

“Right now there’s a lack of understanding about whether algorithms make the world more fair or simply propagate existing biases,” he says. “The issue of trust around this topic is very important, and we’re hoping the board can help us figure out ways to communicate that.”

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