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Leaked Amazon memo may help explain why the tech giant is firing so many recruiters

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Last week, Amazon expanded buyout offers to hundreds of its recruiters in what is expected to be a months-long cycle of layoffs that has left the company’s employees angry and tense. Now Recode has seen a confidential internal document that raises the question of whether a new artificial intelligence technology the company began experimenting with last year will ever replace some of these employees.

According to an October 2021 internal document labeled “Amazon Confidential,” the tech giant has been working over the past year to delegate some of its recruiters’ tasks to AI technology, with the aim of estimating which applicants are best suited to certain jobs at companies. and warehouses would be successful in a particular position and quickly lead them to an interview – without the intervention of a human recruiter. The technology works by finding matches between current high-performing Amazon employees and applicants applying for similar jobs.

The technology, known internally as Automated Applicant Evaluation, or AAE, was created by a group in Amazon’s HR division known as the Artificial Intelligence Recruitment Team and was first tested last year. Amazon first built AI recruiting technology in the mid-2010s, but stopped using the system after demonstrating bias against women. In a preliminary test, Amazon’s HR department believed the new machine learning model successfully protected against race and gender bias, according to an internal document. Artificial intelligence has become more widely used in hiring across industries in recent years, but questions remain about its role in introducing or exacerbating bias in hiring processes.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment prior to publication.

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Amazon has invested heavily over the years in automating a wide variety of tasks. In 2012, the company acquired a warehouse robotics company called Kiva, whose robots allow warehouse workers to walk fewer miles on the job while increasing the speed and repetition of their work. Amazon continues to explore other ways to automate its warehouses and introduce new robots, while employing so many frontline workers that it is sometimes afraid to hire people in some US regions. it occurs. In its corporate wing, Amazon previously implemented an initiative called “Hands off the Wheel,” which took inventory ordering and other responsibilities off the hands of retail division employees and delegated technology to them.

Now, with the creation and extensive use of AAE technology, the role of recruiters within the second largest private sector employer in the US could be permanently changed, potentially reducing the number of people employed by Amazon .

That is, when the company starts hiring again.

Amazon enacted a hiring freeze earlier in the fall, and last week The New York Times reported that Amazon would lay off about 10,000 employees, or 3 percent of its workforce, in what would be its largest ever slew of job cuts. Nearly three decades of company history. Along with layoffs at the company’s Alexa and Amazon gadget divisions Company has sent a buyout offer Large scale of the company’s HR division, including all low and mid-level recruiters in the US and India. If the employees voluntarily quit their jobs, Amazon offers a weekly salary and three months’ salary for every six months of service with the company. These employees have until November 29 to decide on the offer. Division leaders said involuntary layoffs could still happen in the new year, depending on how many employees agree to voluntarily leave the company. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy also said there will be layoffs in the company’s main retail division in 2023.

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The AAE technology takes away an important role that some recruiters at Amazon play, which is to evaluate applicants and choose who should go through to an interview. The program uses performance ratings from current employees to evaluate current applicants for similar positions, along with information about their resumes and any online job assessments conducted during their hiring process.

,[T]That model achieves accuracy comparable to the manual process and provides no evidence of adverse effects,” the 2021 internal paper said.

The technology was first tested on applicants for medical representative positions at Amazon, which operate out of the company’s warehouse network. But it has since been used to select applicants for roles ranging from software development engineers to technical program managers, opening up the potential for wider future use in the company.

There is a sense within the tech industry that the Big Tech boom may be over. In many cases, pandemic-fueled business successes have reversed or stagnated. Now tech titans like Amazon are trying to tighten their belts, seemingly making good on the long-term bet that AI, and in particular, can do what humans do — and perhaps more cheaply.

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