'Strictly prohibited' | Big Four firms crack down on AI use during recruitment process

Big Four firms crack down on AI use during recruitment process

Recruiters at the UK’s ‘Big Four’ firms are cracking down on job candidates using AI during the hiring process, amid concerns of jobseekers having an unfair advantage.

The Telegraph reports that the likes of KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY have sworn off ChatGPT and other generative AI tools, amid concerns it will give jobseekers an unfair advantage during their notoriously competitive recruitment processes.

Job hunters applying to some of the major accountants “must now confirm they have finished online tests without external tools such as AI," the national newspaper said.

PwC also warned applicants that they would be reviewing applications for any signs of AI use, adding that action would be taken against anyone caught using such systems to gain a leg-up.

“While AI, including GenAI, can be useful in research, we tell candidates they should not use these tools during any assessment” a PwC spokesman said.

BDO, the UK’s fifth largest accountancy firm, said it had recently updated its application rules, which now strictly prohibit candidates from using the likes of ChatGPT.

The company also uses new tech to check for plagiarism and signs of AI usage among applicants, and that particular attention is paid to those who return ‘exceptional’ test scores.

A spokesperson for BDO said: “Any violation of our assessment policy, including the use of unauthorised tools, will result in the disqualification of the assessment and potential removal from the hiring process.”

But on the opposite end of the AI debate, one legal firm is actually encouraging candidates to use AI when applying for work.

David Jackson, Chief Executive of Shoosmiths, one of the UK’s largest law firms, told The Telegraph: “I think gen AI is to lawyers what the calculator is to accountants. It’s a tool that will make us perform better for our clients.

While not advocating for the use of AI throughout the entire application process, Jackson encouraged its use to check for spelling errors and reduce word counts, for example.

“We want them to be experimenting and using it, but it should never replace their own voice” he explained.

AI’s growing role in the hiring process

It’s not a groundbreaking revelation to say that the use of AI in the recruitment process is a growing phenomenon.

In fact, a 2023 report by Arctic Shores, the task-based psychometric assessment provider, revealed that seven in 10 jobseekers plan to use ChatGPT while completing a job application or assessment in the next 12 months.

Arctic Shores and research agency Opinium surveyed 2,000 students and adults in the first two years of their career to determine attitudes towards the use of Generative AI in the job application process.

With 72% of students and candidates using some form of Generative AI on a regular basis – a number that has increased by 50% in just four months – the implications for employers and talent acquisition leaders are profound.

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Employers that don’t embrace Generative AI will likely lose out on attracting candidates, as a third (32%) of students would not want to work for an employer who told them they couldn't use Generative AI in the application process. A significant 30% would think that the employer wasn’t very progressive.

The impact of this rapid adoption of Generative AI by the graduate population goes beyond writing CVs and cover letters.

With two-thirds of employers using some form of pre-employment testing, Arctic Shores – in partnership with UCL postgraduate student researchers – conducted a comprehensive study on the ability of ChatGPT to complete traditional psychometric assessments commonly used by graduate employers. The research study found that:

  • ChatGPT-4 outperforms 98.8% of human candidates in verbal reasoning tests –– commonly used in aptitude testing.

  • It can also complete Situational Judgement tests to a level that would place it in the top 70 percentile of candidates – the typical cut-off point used to progress candidates through the recruitment process.

  • Both the free version (ChatGPT-3.5) and the paid-for version (ChatGPT-4) can complete a question-based Personality Assessment and suggest high-matching answers tailored to the specific role, based on a job description.

  • While both free and paid versions of ChatGPT outperform the average candidate, ChatGPT-4 (paid) performs significantly better and more consistently.

  • However, neither version can complete interactive, task-based personality or aptitude assessments.

The rapid adoption of Generative AI by the student and graduate population combined with its proven capabilities –– and the pace at which Generative AI is advancing –– will have a major impact on traditional recruitment processes.

“Generative AI is not a nice-to-have amongst students and graduates, it’s seen as an essential part of their approach to applying for jobs and their future careers.” said Robert Newry, co-founder and CEO of Arctic Shores.

“Companies and talent acquisition leaders need to factor in that Generative AI can not only write CVs and cover letters but can also complete various assessments, including question-based aptitude, personality, and situational judgement tests.

“Our research with UCL illustrates just how easily the technology can outperform human candidates in certain tests. It also illustrates that any student could use ChatGPT to do this even without specialist training. Given Generative AI’s rapid adoption, the obvious and logical answer is not simply to deter or detect AIusage, but to refocus hiring strategies to incorporate Chat-GPT-proof assessments if they want to see a candidate’s true ability.”

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With students already adopting Generative AI, respondents are using ChatGPT for an average of 1 hour and 14 minutes a week. However, those with a neurodiversity condition typically use ChatGPT for longer than their neurotypical peers, with an average of 12 minutes more a week.

In addition, when breaking down the demographics, black and mixed-heritage students are more likely to use ChatGPT to help with job applications than other ethnic groups (both 23%).

Newry added: “TA leaders need to consider carefully which stages in the selection process they want to encourage Generative AI usage, especially if it is to create a true level playing field for all candidates. In some ways, permitting usage levels the playing field.

“In others, it gives an unfair advantage to those who can afford to pay a premium for ChatGPT-4. Failing to work through these issues and simply deterring Generative AI use in the application process could set back the progress made by employers in improving social mobility by years.”

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