Home Moral guidelines Are AI recruitment tools ethical and effective? The pros and cons of ATS.

Are AI recruitment tools ethical and effective? The pros and cons of ATS.


Identifying the right talent remains a challenge for HR professionals and recruiters. Companies rely on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to perform tasks such as CV screening and interview scheduling. But are AI recruitment tools ethical and effective? Automated hiring practices have advantages and disadvantages.

AI-based technology and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have become indispensable tools for businesses around the world. According to Predictive Hire, 55% of recruiters have invested in AI recruiting. And most Fortune 500 companies are using AI technology to filter resumes before they get to hiring teams and recruiters.

In recent years, there have been concerns about the ethics and effectiveness of data analytics and AI-based recruiting tools. Companies that adopt applicant tracking systems run the risk of eliminating qualified candidates from the pool.

Additionally, there are growing concerns about the ethics of ATS: Is AI technology widening employment gaps between demographic groups?

How AI recruiting works

AI-powered recruiting software collects and filters hundreds of resumes. These are stored in a database accessible to recruiters. Depending on the system, HR professionals can manually review resumes, but recruiters typically skim through them and only take about six seconds per candidate. In a competitive market, those six seconds are crucial, but many systems don’t even allow it.

Recruiting software applies machine learning algorithms to complex recruiting data to optimize recruiting and make high-volume tasks more efficient.

Here’s a breakdown of how automated recruiting works:

  • Hundreds of applications are received, most of which are not qualified according to the requirements entered into the system.
  • Intelligent screening systems identify qualified candidates in minutes, scoring applicants based on keyword matching, algorithms and recruiting data.
  • Some recruiting tools can interact with candidates via automated messaging, answering questions about the position.
  • Recruiters instantly schedule interviews with candidates ATS deems qualified, using technology to organize and track interviewees.

Benefits for Applicant Tracking Systems

When organizations use AI-based technology and applicant tracking systems, they hope to find the perfect candidate for the vacancy while conserving resources.

AI tools can:

  • Help recruitment teams to process the maximum number of applications in a shorter time. Automated scheduling processes also save HR professionals time, increasing the chances of finding quality candidates.
  • Filter out candidates who don’t suit you. Sifting through hundreds of resumes has a higher error rate. Recruiters can lose focus over time, missing key details that can indicate a successful hire.
  • Help candidates experience a faster response time for HR teams, leading to higher acceptance rates.
  • Minimize operational costs. Since ATS can perform automated tasks, executives and business managers can focus on higher value work.

Ethical Concerns with Applicant Tracking Systems

The human component

The fundamental problem with automated processes is the lack of human intelligence; ATS cannot identify human potential or creativity. Instead, AI technology can filter out desirable talent that doesn’t structure their resume or application perfectly.

Diversity is the biggest concern when it comes to determining whether AI is effective and ethical. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are critical components of the workforce, and employers need to address hiring bias. For example, the ATS may weed out applicants who may not have access to the resources needed to build technologically perfect applications, leading to further ethical issues.

Among the many other setbacks caused by the pandemic, many women and marginalized groups have been left without work. While these demographics are improving, the job recovery remains uneven among marginalized communities.

Rushing to recover economically from the devastating losses caused by COVID-19, employers failed to consider the consequences of ATS and other automated hiring systems.

Machine learning algorithms often involve systematic biases, leading to unethical hiring practices:

  • In 2018, Amazon discovered that its AI software was demoting applications from women, excluding applicants from all-female colleges.
  • A 2018 study found that facial recognition technologies such as Face++ and Microsoft AI can analyze applicants’ emotions and personality characteristics. Black men, for example, were given more negative qualities than white men.
  • AI-based hiring processes raise privacy and protection concerns. By law, employers cannot inquire about physical disabilities, mental health, age, gender and marital status. However, this demographic information cannot inform hiring decisions. Yet automated systems can potentially access each candidate’s private information without their consent.

How to Limit AI Bias to Promote DE&I

New legal requirements

In 2021, the New York City Council voted to pass a bill requiring automated system audits. Candidates and employees will be informed about the use of automated assessment and assessment for hiring or promotion, among other requirements. Companies using ATS can follow New York’s lead in preparing for possible audits.


  • Identification of bias: The ATS is inherently “biased” against those deemed unqualified for the position. HR professionals must first identify performance gaps between groups, i.e. race, gender and other marginalized communities.
  • Assess Justifiable Bias: Observing eliminated applications does not address AI results. What are the root causes of observable differences in automated biases?
  • Mitigating biases: Documentation is essential in hiring strategies. Reports should include information about the company’s equity goals, disadvantages among demographic groups with ATS, identification of root causes, and information about targeted intervention.

The easiest way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, especially for companies that commit to using automated recruiting tools, is to use ATS to invite and stimulate diverse profiles.

Edit job postings to promote diverse talent and force tracking systems and applicants to remove photographs, names, and addresses from the pool to better focus on candidate talent and potential.

The New York City law will go into effect as early as January 2023. While companies can prepare for the event that similar regulations take place in their states, executive hiring can do more to ensure DE&I is a priority in the workplace.

Failure to monitor your company’s recruiting values ​​can result in a significant loss of time, money, and reputation. Assessing and auditing your hiring strategies is an opportunity to consider different AI tools that will streamline the process while remaining impartial and transparent.

Fair recruitment and promotion processes will foster trust and morale within the team, thereby enhancing employee retention.