Overcoming Bias in Recruitment

Stuart Read
2 May
Reading time: 5 minutes
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The globalisation of the economic workforce has seen many companies adopt catch cries of “embracing diversity”, “equal opportunity employer” and the like. The reality that we are operating in however, does not reflect these noble claims. It seems rather, that bias (based on a candidate’s name, background ethnicity etc.) is playing a major part in the hiring decision.

What’s the problem?

A rose by any other name…we are missing out on quality candidates who may be perfect hires…simply because they have an ‘ethnic sounding’ name…something is wrong with this picture and we should be working towards changing this right?!  

Forbes have stated that “Minority job applicants are “whitening” their resumes by deleting references to their race with the hope of boosting their shot at jobs, and recent research shows the strategy is paying off.”

This is in response to the fact that in America companies are 50% more likely to call a minority applicant for an interview if they submit a “whitened” CV rather than those who reveal their race.

The scary thing is that it is literally happening the world over! A 2011 study out of Canada showed that those with a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani sounding name were 28% less likely to be invited to interview than those with an English-sounding name, despite having the same qualifications. Similarly, the Australian National University sent out 4000 fake job applications for entry level roles, changing only the racial origin of the applicant, the results were rather shocking, revealing that; “Typically a Chinese-named applicant would need to put in 68 percent more applications than an Anglo-named applicant to get the same number of calls back. A Middle Eastern-named applicant needed 64 percent more, an indigenous-named applicant 35 percent more and an Italian-named applicant 12 percent more.”

Benefits of a culturally diverse workforce

This bias that seems to be inherent across the recruitment sector is not only disadvantaging many applicants but is also hurting businesses.

There are many business-driven statistics to support hiring a diverse workforce.

Decades of academic studies have shown that socially diverse groups are more innovative than their homogeneous counterparts. When people from different backgrounds, genders, and races come together to solve problems, they bring with them different information, opinions, and perspectives. This mix of perspectives brings a grab-bag of benefits to the table, including:

When all is said and done we want to be successful and have our businesses making money right? Well did you know that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

“Any time you bring together diverse perspectives, it just creates a bunch of potential that you weren’t really expecting.” Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter.

It is not just a moral issue but a business success factor!

How do we overcome this?

So how can recruiters overcome this bias? Some articles suggest using “blind” CV’s where the name, gender, age and ethnicity are removed to allow for a true assessment based on the individuals credentials. While this sounds like a reasonable way in which to assess your candidates, the admin involved in stripping down a CV, reviewing, then pulling contact details back in etc can become rather laborious and time-consuming, especially if your roles attract a high volume of candidates.

Others suggest contacting the applicants to gauge their verbal communication abilities. This will give you a general overview of their communication abilities although is still rather subjective and there is no guarantee that the person you are speaking to is in fact the person that applied for the position – I once had someone go through the entire interview process claiming to be an applicant then had their cousin turn up on the first day of work, the cousin could barely speak English and needless to say didn’t make it through to day number two!

The process of calling every applicant soon becomes very time consuming and in the recruitment game time is money!

Another option to look at is the use of technology, we are so lucky in the talent sourcing world that clever people are always striving to make our lives easier through technologies! Fluent IQ is one such company, they have designed technology that allows for a near to instant assessment of someone’s English Language communication abilities. There are options for a robust speaking, listening, reading and writing assessment alongside the streamlined version which focuses on verbal communication skills. Scientifically robust, easily accessible, affordable, security controlled and timely means that this is a piece of technology that can easily be inserted into your hiring process. Even better is that they have integrated with JobAdder.

With a slogan of “no bias”, this crowd is helping us to make smarter, lower risk hiring decisions – a journey we can all get on board with!

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