Recruitment algorithms – à la mode or out of step?
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Recruitment algorithms
September 23, 2021

A recently published report found that outdated recruitment practices are alive and well in 2021 and are being allowed and even encouraged by Facebook’s algorithms and in its own workplace. 

As part of the investigation by Global Witness* job adverts for real-world vacancies were placed on Facebook.  Apart from the stipulation that the ads should be seen only by UK adults, it was down to Facebook’s algorithms to decide who they were shown to. 

The following evidence published in the investigation report suggests that Facebook’s algorithms are in urgent need of some equality and diversity training.

Of the people shown an ad for:

Mechanics, 96% were men

Nursery nurses, 95% were female

Airline pilots, 75% were men

Psychologists, 77% were women.

As a result of this investigation, legal complaints are now under way to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner about Facebook’s advertising practices which are accused of flouting UK equality and data protection laws.

In the same report Facebook is accused of running ageist and sexist recruitment practices in its own UK workplaces.  Various ads for jobs with the social media giant were found to be skewed against people aged 55 years or older, despite nearly 20% of Facebook users in the UK being in this age bracket at the time.

These findings do not sit comfortably with Facebook’s public image of a community in which you can be anything you want to be or the huge power it and other social media giants wield over the lives of ordinary consumers and businesses.  It remains to be seen whether Facebook will be keen put its UK house in order without being compelled by higher authorities to do so.

Now more than ever, recruiting and retaining the best talent for the workplace matters.  Individual attitudes to work and the HR landscape are changing fast and businesses need to be in the right shape to keep pace and thrive.  While smes don’t control social media algorithms, they do control the decisions they make every day about who they want and need in their businesses and how to find them.

These days applicants are more interested in authenticity than fine words in fancy adverts. They care about culture and values and they are savvy – if the reality of the workplace doesn’t match expectations they will not hang around for long.

Key issues to think about:

  • What message does your recruitment policy and practice give about your business and what it is like to work there?  Does this match the reality and is it backed up by your other employment policies and practices?
  • Do you need to take a critical look at your employee profile and workplace culture and what it says to job applicants? Is diversity really valued in your business or do your job ads say this just to get you noticed above the crowd?
  • Is a blanket social media campaign (for example via Facebook or linkedin) the best way to ensure that you recruit the right talent for your business? Who will see your ads on social media and would a more tailored approach help you to reach the best people?