Photo by Michael Dzeidzic on Unsplash.comWhen I was first approached to contribute to Employment Autism, (some 5 months ago), my life looked very different to what it does now. Although I am still working for the same employer and still living at home, I have had the opportunity to deep dive into the world of AI recruitment, the primary method of recruiting graduates, courtesy of the BBC.

It has only reaffirmed my beliefs all those months ago, that the AI (artificial intelligence) assessed recruitment methods* employed by firms to onboard graduates, is inherently biased and discriminative in its construction and interpreted use, towards those with ANY disability, let alone those with learning disabilities.

I am Oliver, and I was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s at the age of 15. I have a BSc in Economics and Business, obtained in 2019, and currently work as a Team Leader at Morrisons.  Specifically, I am one of 5 Online Team Leaders, responsible in the day to day running of the Amazon Prime Now and Deliveroo contracts, as well as our own Click & Collect operation.

You may have noticed that I graduated in 2019, just prior to the Covid 19 pandemic. I spent almost all of my time applying to graduate roles in the months succeeding my graduation, always failing at the same stage, the Video Interview Stage. Why was this? I was certainly knowledgeable and eloquent enough to have warranted progressing further in one of the 30 roles I had applied for. I have since come to learn that the video interviews which are solely assessed by AI technology monitor repetitions of certain words or phrases, disengagement of eye contact, pauses in speech.

These are all things that people with ADHD, like myself, are known for. We have to pause mid-sentence to refocus our minds to the task in hand, and yet are being discriminated against because of this?

You may suggest, why not contact the firm to get reasonable adjustments etc…? Simply put, why is the burden upon the candidate to plead with a firm for fair and equitable treatment? In my instance, I work 12 hours a day 5 days a week. I do not have the time to engage in an email chain conversation, dragged out however long, where in some cases, it has resulted in automatic failure to complete the application, rendering all my preceding efforts futile?

It begs the question that ‘not all AI assessed video interviews can be evaluated in this manner’, but to your dismay, they can be, and essentially, there is nothing you can do about this. I found this out the hard way, after partaking in 30+ Video assessments, with little to no feedback whatsoever. The only reason I know this fact, is due to pushing the envelope on this matter and, via the documentary I was involved in, saw the assessment methods. So, essentially, you are in a position of a power imbalance, asymmetric information barrier, as it were.

There are of course plenty of opportunities to declare your disability, if you so wish to open yourself up to these firms, but the outcome and true dedication to help you and inaction adjustments to make real changes that could aid you, is non-existent.

 In my cases, you apply, and then have a timeframe of 7 days, for example, to complete their assessments. If you want adjustments, you have to get into contact via email with their relevant department, from which it could and usually does, take days to gain a response, let’s call it 3 in this instance. So you are now left with 4 days to complete the assessments, with the firm only offering adjustments such as extra time to complete each assessment, 10-20%, which for me, isn’t a reasonable adjustment to rectify the issues/imbalance that exists. You email them detailing this. You receive a reply 2 days later expressing the adjustments you require that would benefit you, aren’t available. You now have 2 days to complete the assessments with no reasonable adjustments. Now imagine throughout that period you are working, and have 3 other applications you are undertaking concurrently, you would be better off not even emailing the firm initially, and thus allowing yourself 7 days, rather than the inflicted 2, to attempt to complete the assessments.

Hence, my point is, there is no commitment, or at least one of note, towards diversity and inclusion within these firms.

Rather, it is a tick box to get the proverbial devil off their back, there is an immense lack of care or want from these firms to onboard and harvest the inherent talents that people like myself do possess.

I hope this helped to shine a light on the dark shadows that is the use of AI technology to recruit people, especially those who are neurodivergent, and makes you think twice as to whether the path of pursuing such firms with what has been exposed as total and utter disregard to equality and diversity, and the inclusion of such applicants, is the one you want to undertake.

* Note: In an AI video assessment, all candidates are presented with a number of pre-recorded, set questions. They are given a short amount of time to prepare, and then must answer within a fixed time, there is no engagement with another person and no opportunity to ask for clarification.

Oliver Landon

April 2022