L'Oréal: AI can diversify talent acquisition

At the Unleash World Conference and Expo, L'Oreal's chief digital officer of global human resources Niilesh Bhoite explained how the company created a fairer faster recruitment process

HR is facing big questions over whether it is doing enough to ensure bias is avoided in its recruitment, Bhoite said.

“When it comes to the war for talent, one question that we ask ourselves in the talent acquisition function is ‘are our recruiters skilled enough when it comes to identifying talent?'" he said.

"Are they really trained to understand what competencies will be needed in the future, and are they really trained to pick those competencies today when they are interviewing? Are we still recruiting from certain schools and certain companies? By doing all of this how do we ensure we’re not losing out on candidates who could help to fulfil our ambitions in the future?"

Bhoite said he understood the challenges for large firms trying to diversify their workforce in the face of a high volume of applicants. "To set the context: on an annual basis we receive two million applications, and of those unique applications we end up recruiting 5,000 people, which is done by 145 recruiters," he said.

In China, he explained, the company used to deal with a high volume of graduate applications from top universities, which the team feared would shut out potential talent. In 2015 L'Oréal decided to limit the initial stage to an application process that asks just three questions, which can be answered on candidates' mobile phones.

Candidates' answers are then processed by a Shanghai start-up company that analyses the language used, sentence structure and vocabulary. Data scientists claim this can make accurate predictions about key personality traits and whether these fit with the company's culture. As a result of the revamped process a third of new hires came from universities L'Oréal would not normally have considered.

The organisation has seen quick business wins since, reported Bhoite. "What we saw was that the 20 minutes recruiters used to spend on applications was reduced to four minutes, giving them an extra 45 days that they could use to engage in more valuable activities," he said.

He added that training people to understand what the company culture is, as well as introducing AI, had been the basis of the company's success here. "We have trained our recruiters to really understand what company culture means; in China, in Spain, in Portugal, in the UK and in Argentina. And of course the people that we picked to make these decisions were more representative of the skills that we would need, to ensure there were no built-in biases."

Bhoite added that fears surrounding AI taking the place of recruiters were unfounded. "So when it comes to questions surrounding AI in recruitment it is not replacing recruiters, it is about using AI to encourage recruiters to make more sound decisions," he said.