How AI could make or break your career

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These are already turbulent times for employees in the technology sector. Depressingly we’ve seen a fall in advertised vacancies and several mass layoffs initiated by both major companies and smaller startups. Yet, on the plus side we’ve also witnessed inflation-busting salary rises tough to fill positions.

Now, in its predictions for 2024, the research and advisory firm Forrester has warned that heavy use of AI tools in recruitment will lead to further “misconnections, mischief and mayhem”. It believes at least one well-known company will hire a candidate who doesn’t actually exist and at least one business will employ a real candidate for a non-existent job.

There’s an awful lot of course correction still to come as the world continues to react to a period of rapid technological change and shifting market demand driven by significant political and economic uncertainty. So where does that leave the majority of applicants who simply want to be notified of, and appropriately considered for, the correct opportunities?

Setting themselves up for success will require regular assessment of their digital identity and how it might be perceived on platforms like LinkedIn, both by AI algorithms and hiring managers. It will mean a constant balancing act that considers the competing desires to present our best selves and avoid putting our data at unnecessary risk, all while remaining authentic.

Countering the ‘unseen hands’

Professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn have become an indispensable tool for job seekers and recruiters. Avoiding them is almost impossible as it no doubt puts candidates at an immediate disadvantage.

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For the majority of professional occupations, the initial stages of the job-hunting process are conducted entirely online. A significant proportion of vacancies are first discovered and applied for directly through the platform. Even when an application arrives from another source it is likely LinkedIn will be one of the first places hiring managers will go to vet the new applicant.

Online participation in such arenas is almost mandatory. But it should be recognized that every action taken online has consequences. Particularly at a time when regulators are fighting hard to keep up with advances in AI and its associated capabilities. The EU has made admirable efforts with the EU AI Act and should be commended for the European AI Office entering into force on 21st February.

Just as with the EU GDPR it’s likely to inform and accelerate similar regulatory conversations going on in North America and the rest of the world that could one day lead to the adoption of a global standard. However, the EU AI Act still needs to be formally adopted by the EU Parliament, only becoming fully applicable a full two years after its adoption.

In the interim – and beyond – its vital to acknowledge that every click, swipe, like or comment leaves a trail of data that reveals who you are and how you think. It creates a digital self that is born not just from what you share publicly on social media, but how you behave when you think you have privacy.

Platforms and people then use this information everyday to make decisions without the user’s knowledge. For example, who to suggest as a possible connection, which vacancies to give greatest prominence to or who gets grouped together for particular searches. Left unchecked, this digital self can quickly show someone to be something they’re not, or someone they don’t want to be.

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With AI data bias, unethical business practices and lagging AI regulation, the risks of life changing consequences are rapidly increasing. As individual users we have very little control over the actions of the platforms themselves. However, we do have autonomy over the information that we give to them.

Mastering our digital body language

The control we have over how our data is used by such platforms as job sites is somewhat limited. However, where we do have agency is in what data we choose to share with them in the first place.

In a more analogue age, it was common practice to ask a close friend or family member for a second opinion on a resume or job application before submitting it. Maybe even to seek their counsel on how to best handle a tricky situation that had arisen in the workplace. In principle this approach still works. Though AI and digital transformation have forever sped up the pace at which we must be able to interact online with new people and opportunities.

In a world where one misjudged social media post can have far-reaching consequences, our means of sourcing a real-time external perspective must be scaled up and automated if it is to prove practical across the sum of all our digital interactions. It doesn’t matter if the goal is to find a job, build a personal brand or attract a partner.

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It is here that AI can help level the playing field, bringing more objectivity to what we’re posting and how it is likely to be interpreted by others. Our ability to pursue multiple possibilities in a short timeframe is far greater than for previous generations. Though so are the consequences of getting it wrong. Ironically that may just mean fighting AI with AI.

Final thoughts

Mastering our digital body language has never been more important. After all, when left unchecked, your digital self can unknowingly come to portray you as someone you’re not, or someone that you don’t want to be.

With AI data bias, a lack of AI regulation and a growing reliance on it within recruitment, it is important we all take stock of how our online personas are likely to be interpreted by both people and machines. The stakes are too important to be passive. We must all actively participate.

We’ve listed the best UK job sites.

This article was produced as part of TechRadarPro’s Expert Insights channel where we feature the best and brightest minds in the technology industry today. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily those of TechRadarPro or Future plc. If you are interested in contributing find out more here: https://www.techradar.com/news/submit-your-story-to-techradar-pro

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