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Your first interview at Bunnings may be with an AI chatbot

Bunnings have introduced AI chatbot interviews for demand roles.

Bunnings have introduced AI chatbot interviews for demand roles. Photo: AAP

People applying for jobs at Bunnings may need to do their initial interview with an AI chatbot that doles out personality traits and coaching tips.

According to Bunnings, the AI chatbot is used for job openings with a high number of applicants and was introduced for certain roles in 2020.

Damian Zahra, Bunnings’ chief people officer, said candidates are offered several ways to apply for jobs with the company.

“The starting point is usually our Careers webpage, where job seekers can express interest in joining our team,” he said in a statement.

“Depending on the role, they might receive a phone call back or take part in an online automated chat interview.”

The hardware giants said every candidate who completes the automated chat interview receives auto-generated personality insights and coaching tips based on their responses, but not everyone is happy with the process.

AI hiring has been touted as a method of analysing large amounts of data and automating part or all of the recruiting process, but there are concerns over its widespread use.

Ethical concerns

Dr Dana Mckay, senior lecturer in Innovative Interactive Technologies at RMIT University, told The New Daily that the problem with using AI models is that people believe computers aren’t biased like people.

“There is a lack of understanding about the underlying data sets that populate these AI models,” she said.

“People believe there is no bias because the computer made the decision.”

According to Bunnings, candidates are invited to provide feedback on the process and those who aren’t successful may still be shortlisted by an internal recruitment team for other positions.

“We know not everyone is confident applying online and we value diversity in our team,” Zahra said.

“We also have options for people to contact our talent team directly or speak with their local store.”

Bunnings

Bunnings confirmed it introduced the AI chatbot for in-demand roles in 2020. Photo: AAP

Several global companies have already found themselves in legal trouble because of discrimination in their hiring models, and research has shown while AI-enabled recruiting has the potential to increase efficiency and reduce work, it can also result in discriminatory hiring practices based on gender, race, colour and personality traits.

Mckay said the people who are rejected by AI models are those who don’t look or act like “the typical Bunnings or tech worker”.

“We know diverse teams are more productive, they’re more innovative, they’re more likely to come up with safe products,” she said.

“You’re going to miss out on all that diversity if your AI says this person looks like every other person at the company, let’s employ that person.”

Legal issues

Although there hasn’t been any litigation in Australia over discrimination from AI models, in August the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled a lawsuit after a company programmed its recruitment software to reject older applicants.

Mckay said technology can also overlook people who don’t use certain key phrases or have a particular piece of experience on their resume.

“I’ve literally had this experience myself when I applied for my PhD. The algorithm wasn’t working properly and it rejected my application,” she said.

“I was very lucky that I had someone who had seen what I was doing, who was prepared to be a champion for me and I eventually got into the PhD program.”

Mckay said when she has been on the receiving end of an AI interview, she “hasn’t loved the experience”.

“Whether they can be implemented ethically is a very good question. Whether that will happen, regardless of the ethics, is also a very good question,” she said.

“There is going to need to be a shift towards more public accountability about these things.”

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