New guidelines warn AI can result in unfair recruitment decisions

The Merit Protection Commissioner has released guidelines warning of the risks of automated recruitment tools for public sector agencies.

APS Merit Protection Commissioner Linda Waugh

The Merit Protection Commission (MPC) says AI-assisted and automated procedures, such the review of resume scanners, video interviews or psychometric tests by artificial intelligence, are expected to become more widely used in the future.

It says in new guidelines posted on its website this week that these tools can make recruitment processes more efficient and mitigate some forms of recruitment bias.

But there are also a number of risks associated with the technology that could impact on the fairness and effectiveness of a recruitment process. 

“In particular, incorrect or negligent use of AI-assisted and automated recruitment tools can impede the operation of a merit-based recruitment process,” the MPC guidelines say.

“Agencies should exercise care when engaging these tools, in order to uphold the merit principle.”

Surge in review applications

It comes after Government News reported last month that there’d been a surge in  applications for promotion reviews in the APS, especially relating to decisions involving AI and automated technology.

The MPC’s latest annual report showed there were 866 applications for a review of a promotion decision – a 50 per cent increase from 2020-21.

Contributing to this was a bungled recruitment drive outsourced to a recruitment company by Services Australia, that saw 11 decisions overturned.

Myth busting

The MPC’s new guidance material also busts a number of myths surrounding AI assisted recruitement, including that tools currently on the market are thoroughly tested and unbiased.

“There are limited national and international guidelines on the development of AI-assisted and automated recruitment tools, meaning that the quality of AI-assisted assessments can vary significantly,” it says.

It stresses that agencies remain accountable for ensuring their recruitment processes are in line with the merit principle of the Public Service Act, even when AI or automation is used.

Almost a quarter of 66 agencies surveyed by the MPC in 2022 had used automated recruitment tools.

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