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Amazon Fires Sexist Resume Robot

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future, right? It’s behind more intuitive software, “learning” virtual assistants and even can kick some butt at Jeopardy!. But what happens when we discover that AI is just as flawed as we are?

Last year, Amazon discontinued use of an AI recruiting tool that showed bias against female candidates for technical roles. The problem? The tool used hiring data collected over a 10-year period to inform its filtering process — and the majority of candidates for technical roles were male.

“In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable. It penalized resumes that included the word ‘women’s,’ as in ‘women’s chess club captain,’” wrote Jeffrey Dastin at Reuters. “And it downgraded graduates of two all-women’s colleges, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“Their goal was to develop AI that could rapidly crawl the web and spot candidates worth recruiting, the people familiar with the matter said,” Dastin wrote. “Instead, the technology favored candidates who described themselves using verbs more commonly found on male engineers’ resumes, such as ‘executed’ and ‘captured,’ one person said.”

Amazon instead has shifted use of its AI program to cull duplicate applicants out of its system. The company says that the original tool made recommendations to recruiters but was never used to screen applicants.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The Role of AI in the Workplace is Growing

Search for “AI” and you’ll find the technology is touching nearly every side of our daily lives. AI has found new paths to process data faster than even that brainiac in IT ever could.

It is the strength behind new kinds of marketing software that can find that one customer who’s going to fall head over heels for your widgets. AI can help your overloaded teacher find ways to personalize educational content for her 30-plus students, each with specific learning needs. It’s even become the core process that guides diagnostic imaging in some hospitals, making sure no scan is misread by simple old “human eyes.”

What to Know About Beating the Bots

One thing that the Reuters’ noted is that the program (even in its failed state) was set out to initially ignore the more common words that applicants might use on their resume. Instead, it flagged keywords that stood out from the pack of applicants with common backgrounds, like “executed” or “captured.”

How can you stand out, whether its an AI robot or a human looking at your resume? The answer is keywords, keywords, keywords!


Have you beaten the resume robots? Share your story in the comments or talk with us on Twitter.

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Jennifer Bradley
Jennifer Bradley

It is only natural that AI will learn from what it is taught or rather exposed to. It was a great move by Amazon though to instead use the intelligence of their bot to filter out duplicate application. The tips here tips about “beating the bots”, will be very beneficial especially when applying to large scale organizations.

What Am I Worth?

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