Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Can Artificial Intelligence Outsmart Age Bias?

Companies are starting to use technology to address discrimination in hiring

Close-up Of A Robot's Hand Looking At Candidate Photograph With Magnifying Glass
Getty Images

While computer software can help recruiters sift through piles of applications faster, companies are under pressure to make sure they don’t discriminate against older workers. Looking for a solution, employers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) as one way to give everyone a fair chance at jobs.

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

The average length of time a recruiter spends on each résumé for a job opening is six seconds, according to several studies of human resource officers. Because it’s difficult to make an informed decision so quickly, many companies use software to initially screen candidates based on keywords in their résumés or applications. But advocates for older workers have raised concerns about how these tools might digitally discriminate against older workers. 

Some of the basic uses of recruiting technology already have ended up in court, facing complaints of age bias. For example, one lawsuit alleges that PricewaterhouseCoopers denied older workers job opportunities in part by discarding applications if the candidates did not have email accounts ending in “.edu,” which are university accounts commonly used by students and recent college grads but are less common among older alumni. Another technology-based lawsuit claims that employers were using Facebook to advertise job postings only to younger people.

“This would mean the methods of discrimination have changed and its tools now include algorithms, dropdown boxes and pattern recognition — but those are tools that can help older Americans rather than deny opportunity,” AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond says of the social media lawsuit.

See more Entertainment offers >

As these cases work their way through the courts, tech companies and human resources managers are starting to consider ways software can be used to reduce the unintended biases that cause employers to overlook talented candidates. One approach involves using AI, which basically is software that is programmed to think rather than simply react.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

For example, Unilever asks some of its candidates to spend roughly a half-hour playing games on a computer or mobile device. The 13 games are designed to reveal the candidates’ personalities, problem-solving skills and communication style. Applicants who do well advance to the next step in the hiring process. 

According to a report from the consulting firm Deloitte Insights, games are one of the approaches recruiters are using to attract young candidates. But many of today’s older workers grew up playing Pong, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong decades ago. While technology has become more sophisticated, many of the skills it takes to play today’s games are essentially the same. And the ability to apply skills to new challenges is one of the most highly sought-after qualities in job candidates, regardless of age.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.