Be careful using AI to reduce bias in recruitment, fundraisers warned

A guide from the Institute of Fundraising says AI and algorithm tools are only as unbiased as the information they are based on

Charity fundraisers should “exercise caution” when using artificial intelligence and algorithms to reduce bias in the early stages of the recruitment process, according to new guidance from the Institute of Fundraising.

The Change Collective Guide to Recruitment for Hiring Managers warns that although algorithm tools can support more diverse hiring, they can only be as unbiased as the information they are based on.

The guide, which is one of four recruitment guides published by the IoF today to help the fundraising profession become more equal, diverse and inclusive, says: “While there are pros and cons with using algorithms to help reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process, employers must not rely solely on machines to change workplace behaviours.”

Algorithms are used by online recruitment boards to shortlist CVs by scanning the text for keywords and removing personal information from the hiring process so hiring managers can assess candidates based on ability alone. 

But the guide cautions that “algorithms rely on humans to provide the information they base their decisions on”, pointing to Amazon’s AI recruitment programme, which was found last year to be systemising gender biases. 

The tool, designed by AI experts at Amazon, was trained using successful CVs submitted to the company. 

But because the majority of the successful CVs submitted came from men, the tool actively discriminated against female candidates by penalising CVs that referenced women. 

To reduce “robot biases”, the guide recommends that employers “be diligent on the data sets they were using for their algorithm”.

“Checks should be completed to ensure that employers are supplying the tools with as much unbiased information as possible,” the guide says.

The other guides examine good practice in recruitment on equality, diversity and inclusion from the perspective of small charities, recruitment agencies and individual job-seekers. 

Elizabeth Balgobin, interim head of equality, diversity and inclusion at the Institute of Fundraising, said: “I strongly encourage you to share the guides with your colleagues, share with those outside of fundraising, share with people looking for work or a change of career. Together we can make fundraising a more diverse and inclusive profession. We owe it to our causes.”

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