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The Case for Artificial Intelligence in Recruiting IT Talent

More AI tools are becoming available to help recruit and hire new technology staff. They take some of the burden off management to find the right people and also reduce bias in the process.

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A s the United States emerges from the pandemic, many state and local government agencies are struggling to hire and retain workers. Not only have many retirement-age employees decided to accelerate their plans to retire, but agencies face stiff competition for workers from the private sector. As a result, for a number of key positions, especially those in IT, many government agencies are receiving fewer qualified applicants than the number of jobs available. To address this challenge, government agencies should start making use of AI tools to improve how they acquire and retain workers.

A growing number of tools make use of AI to help organizations recruit and hire talent more effectively. First, AI can help candidates and employers find one another. Job boards like ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn use recommendation algorithms to suggest candidates and job openings, and services like Textkernel can parse resumes with natural language processing to build semantic search engines that allow recruiters to search for concepts like “IT security” rather than specific keywords or job titles. For example, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Defense and Veterans Affairs worked with the private sector on an AI challenge to help employers hire veterans who have valuable skills but whose profiles might not show up on a typical search based on their previous job titles.

Agencies can also use applicant tracking systems, such as those offered by Oracle, SAP and Workday, to help recruiters and hiring managers be more efficient by digitizing the hiring process. These systems can help manage job postings, sort and rank candidates, and automate many routine tasks such as scheduling interviews. Some even offer chatbots, providing job seekers with immediate feedback on the status of their application or answering questions about the employer or position. The result is that hiring managers can move faster, increasing their productivity, making offers to qualified candidates sooner and obtaining higher acceptance rates.

One of the most significant innovations in AI and hiring is the use of automated video interviews. An update to the traditional phone interview often used to narrow a field of candidates, automated video interviews present applicants with a set of pre-recorded questions that they can then record responses to. Hiring managers can then review the responses, or for openings with many qualified applicants, use a tool like HireVue that uses speech analysis to assess and rank candidates’ responses.

Since human bias at every stage of the talent life cycle can create biased outcomes, AI can also help employers create fairer employment practices that promote diversity and inclusion. Addressing bias in hiring should be a priority for government agencies. A recent study found that Black women were half as likely to be hired for state or local government jobs than white men. AI tools can, for example, help identify if a job description uses words that may discourage women from applying and suggest more neutral alternatives. Employers can also use AI tools to redact demographic and socioeconomic indicators from candidates’ job applications to combat unconscious bias.

Employers can also use AI to help decide how to appropriately compensate workers, helping them make more competitive offers and retain valuable employees based on changing market demands for specific skills. In addition, AI can help employers identify and address wage gaps between individuals with equivalent experience and performance and forecast their future employee costs so that they can keep their workers with highly sought-after skills. Finally, AI can help employers develop flight risk models that identify workers who are most likely to leave the organization so managers can develop strategies to reduce turnover.

The goal of using AI in workforce decisions is not to take the “human” out of “human resources,” but to help organizations use the latest technology to manage their talent as effectively as they manage other key resources. As the private sector increasingly adopts these technologies, government agencies will need to do so as well to remain competitive employers. Moreover, adopting these technologies can help those leading government agencies create better workplaces that value skilled workers, treat employees fairly and recruit top talent.
Daniel Castro is the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and director of the Center for Data Innovation. Before joining ITIF, he worked at the Government Accountability Office where he audited IT security and management controls.