This AI recruitment tool detects potential, not experience

Silicon Valley startup Eightfold believes that focusing on experience alone is limiting.
8 October 2020
  • Businesses continue to utilize AI for recruitment, overcoming human biases and considering all applicants
  • Silicon startup Eightfold.AI is one such enterprise hoping to lead the way in the AI recruitment revolution
  • Its AI ‘Capability Matrix’ informs a more holistic approach to hiring, rather than looking solely at experience

If AI is well equipped to expedite arduous onboarding processes, is it equally adept in the actual hiring process? Strap in.

Employers the world over have long dreamed of harnessing technology to widen their recruitment net. To what end? Well, to get the best talent in the door, to reduce reliance on human recruiter subjectivity, to achieve a more diverse, representative, and sustained employee base.

The reality is that recruitment technology and AI can too readily propagate historical bias’ in hiring. The humans feeding the systems with data are blind to their own prejudices working their way in. This principally disadvantages women, minorities, and more elderly applicants, and is well documented. For example, Amazon canned a promising AI program which, in its little whittling process, was consulting 10 years’ worth of successful applications. No heed was given to the fact those applications were male-dominated until too late, and that the machine was unfavorably rejecting women because of this.

Beyond bias, another objection to broader uptake of recruitment AI is the fact that last year, UK regulators pushed forward a regulation that requires businesses and organizations to explain the decision made by AI. With historical frailties rife, businesses are likely to be risk-averse when it comes to using AI in their recruitment – if a mistake, bias, or trend is undetected then questioned, a big fine could be on the cards.

All that being said, the use of AI in recruitment – both on a grand scale and in smaller businesses – will help to address the fact jobs are receiving more applicants than ever before. What’s more, with Covid-19 jeopardizing jobs and increasing numbers seeking work, AI may be the answer for placing the right people in the right positions, whilst getting around some of humankind’s more troublesome hiring practices

A promising field

AI can eliminate unconscious human bias. Yes, we just wrote that AI can amplify bias, but the beauty of machine intelligence is that we can design it to meet certain beneficial specifications. AI practitioners continue to develop design principles for making AI ethical and fair (i.e., beneficial to everyone). One key principle is that AI can be designed to be auditable, and the bias found in it can be removed. Such transparency will keep recruiters and HR professionals on their toes, and rightly so. We can’t eradicate human bias in its entirety, but we can identify and amend it in our AI, leading to a more diverse workforce across enterprises.

AI can assess the entire pipeline of candidates. Shrinking the initial pool of candidates is an oft-rushed process with the sole purpose of making things manageable for the manual recruiter. There’s nothing more damaging to jobseekers’ morale than putting the time and effort into a job application to not even be sure it’s been given the time of day. With the right technologies and regulations, we can strive for a world where it’s possible (if not mandatory) for the entire pipeline to be reviewed fairly. AI can make that happen.

AI can be programmed to assess one’s capability to succeed in a role, rather than just one’s historical expertise. And other such variations of holistic assessment. This is, surprisingly, considered forward-thinking in the world of recruitment. I’m sure experience ranks in the top considerations for most organizations putting a job to market, so how can you read the future and predict success and evaluate on that basis? AI’s role here is worth some further exploration, and there are a number of enterprises pioneering in this field. is one of them.

A Silicon Valley startup, Eightfold use deep learning AI in the form of a proprietary ‘Capability Matrix’, matching the right individual to the right job based on their fit and potential. In doing so, the functionality addresses many of the challenges plaguing both recruiters and job seekers today, including key diversity and inclusion problems. To learn more, TechHQ spoke with Eightfold’s President, Kamal Ahluwalia.

Capability, not experience

Kamal Ahluwalia, President at Source:

“Today the half-life of skills is just 4-5 years and dropping, so for all the companies looking to develop their talent for the future, just looking in the rear-view mirror – in other words, what skills people have listed in their resume – is not enough,” said Ahluwalia, “We recognized this is a fundamental flaw in recruitment practices. Unfortunately, today’s legacy solutions and investments that companies have made are inadequate for today’s business needs.”

Someone who has done a job in the past may not have the skills needed to be successful in that same role in the future. Instead, the startup is looking to make a candidate’s capability – not their direct experience – the first consideration for recruiters.

The key, Ahluwalia explained, is understanding the context: is a particular individual able to learn the skills required for a particular job? What is this person lacking? Can those gaps be filled quickly by shadowing an expert, or taking a class? Are there other individuals within the company or outside who have all the capabilities needed, or are these new capabilities?

“All of these questions and more are addressed by our AI models to make recommendations,” said Ahluwalia. The AI techniques used are enabling customers to tackle diversity, equality, and inclusion issues. Algorithms are EEOC compliant, so personal information around sex, age, ethnicity, pedigree is not considered by the AI.

“We are looking to solve problems for both the employer and the candidate and employee. Resumes are self-attested documents. Our algorithms are able to surface the skills an individual has and can quickly learn to compare these skills against the skills needed for a role. This information allows the hiring manager to run a focused interview process and make an informed decision. It also allows the candidate or employee to take a class or complete a project to address their weak areas,” Eighfold’s president said.

“More importantly, this transparent AI enables the individual to determine what career they want to pursue, and enable them to do what it takes to pursue their aspirations.”

Eightfold’s approach is empowering for both the individual, who is given an indication of areas for their own self-development, and the employer, who is given considerations for more diverse candidates based on capability. “We can do all this with a single AI platform,” Ahluwalia said. “That is very different from the various point solutions you find in the market.”

With more businesses recognizing the importance of a hiring revolution – and developing the tech to make for more comprehensive recruitment decisions – there is plenty of hope for AI in this field in the future.