Managing unconscious bias in recruitment processes

Diversity hiring is not as simple as recruiting token candidates.  Very special attention is required. These 8 tips will help achieve a diverse and inclusive organisation. 

Research shows that more diverse and inclusive organisations produce better results in three key areas – financial returns, operational effectiveness and talent management (Deloitte). Given this potential to impact business, the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey reports a 32% rise in the number of executives citing diversity hiring and inclusion as a top priority since 2014.

Becoming an inclusive organisation requires the complex integration of three key organisational elements. These in turn impact the success or failure of these initiatives. The three elements are:

Strategic – Understanding the rational business benefits of diversity and inclusion to a business.

Systemic – Examination of organisational processes which accelerate or hold back the achievement of those goals.

Individual – Understanding how we can unconsciously sabotage our own success in these strategic efforts.

One of the easiest things to change is a recruitment process to increase diversity hiring. Yet many organisations are slow or reluctant to change.

Diversity hiring

What do we mean by diversity hiring?

Diversity hiring is based on merit and the competencies required for the role. Special attention is taken to eliminate and reduce biases connected to a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to the skills and requirements for the job. Many complain that they are being forced to be politically correct for the sake of it. They argue that diversity hiring dilutes the talent pool, rather than enhancing it. This is outdated thinking and unless those who are responsible for the recruitment process encourage diversity hiring, they are going to get left behind in the demand for top talent.

According to Deloitte Pulse

80% of employees say that inclusion is an important factor when choosing an employer.

72% would consider leaving an organisation for one that is more inclusive.

30% of Millennials have left an organisation for one that is more inclusive

The mission of diversity hiring is to identify, remove and manage potential biases in sourcing and screening candidates. It is also important to source and shortlist applicants that may be unintentionallyy excluded or put off from making an application.

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8 Best practises for diversity hiring

#1 Carry out a diversity hiring audit on current recruitment processes

Until you analyze your diversity hiring processes and data it’s impossible to gain an understanding of where and how you can change the situation. If your teams are characterised by common features around age, gender, race, language, nationality, personality, communication style, educational level and background, you can safely assume that your diversity hiring processes are incomplete. There could be some local reasons for this (geographic location frequently plays a role, or company language). The most important element is to collate your basic facts. Many organisations believe they are diverse, and even gender balanced. They are shocked to find out that the data tells a different story.

It’s important to identify and understand where the pipeline issues are in the recruitment process. This includes grasping whether your pipeline is leaking or is dry from the outset. Do you source a range of candidates, but they are excluded in screening processes or fail to accept offers? Or do you simply do “copy paste” recruiting and hire the clone of the previous incumbent? Do you believe that a diverse talent pool produces lower quality candidates. It’s probably because you are looking in the wrong places.

#2 Focus on shifting a few metrics

Currently it’s common to focus on gender, but there are other elements that can be targeted. Increasing the number of minorities, older or disabled employees or veterans can also be looked at. Setting realistic and achievable KPIs around those metrics is vital to moving forward.

#3 Fish where there are fish

If your diversity hiring audit reveals that you’re failing to find and attract diverse candidates in the first place, there are several things you need to look at:

  • Re-word your job profiles and adverts– Research shows that certain language selection (usually male coded) can deter applicants from other demographics. Software exists to help you with that.
  •  Examine your employer branding – This includes web sites, career pages and other documentation. If the images and videos are all young, male, white and beautiful you are setting yourself up for difficulties. 67% of job seekers check out the diversity of an organisation when they consider applying. A mission statement committing to diversity and inclusion should be visible on your web site. You should also have a public policy of zero tolerance towards sexism and sexual harassment and a positive policy favouring respect.
  •  Offer flexible conditions– While women still take higher levels of responsibility for childcare, openly stated flexible conditions will help attract them to your organisation. If your conditions are published upfront it takes one more doubt out of the process. Diverse candidates may have longer commutes if they live outside your usual catchment areas.

#4 Look for referrals from targeted demographics

Companies frequently tap into their networks for candidate referrals. If you are targeting a different type of candidate then it makes sense to look outside your usual networks. This could include building relationships with different universities and organisations.

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#5 Change your criteria for candidate screening

Typical criteria for candidate screening includes academic background and very specific universities, or even companies. This impacts the chance of having diverse candidates in the pipeline. If you know where your pipeline problem, lies there are a number of different options:

  • Psychometric testing– Personality and competence assessments are 85% correct with predictions with consistent results across demographics.
  • Blind CVs– This methodology hides information that generates bias e.g. gender, name, age, schools attended. ATS and software that anonymises application forms so resumes will focus simply on the skills required. Although, care has to be taken that the key words are also neutral. Even algorithms can include unconscious bias.

#6 Increase diversity hiring in your candidate shortlisting

If your diversity hiring audit indicates a lack of diversity in the short list stage, there are two approaches to implement:

  • Shortlists generated by AI–  shortlisting software will be a feature of  your ATS. It taps into your database to mine information related to current and past employees’ experience, skills, and other criteria. This software will examine all candidate applications, reducing problems related to unconscious biases.
  • Avoid the token candidate– Research featured in HBR indicates a solitary minority candidate, has zero chance of success. “We found that when there were two female finalists, women had a significantly higher chance of being hired (β =4.37, p<0.001). The odds of hiring a woman were 79.14 times greater if there were at least two women in the finalist pool (controlling for the number of other men and women finalists). There was also a significant effect for race (β = 5.27, p<0.001). The odds of hiring a minority were 193.72 times greater if there were at least two minority candidates in the finalist pool (controlling for the number of other minority and white finalists). This effect held no matter the size of the pool (six finalists, eight finalists, etc.), and these analyses excluded all cases in which there were no women or minority applicants.”
  • Automated interviews– Some companies are using automated video interviewing to reduce unconscious bias. One criticism of this is that it tends to favour the “periscope” generation of younger candidates, as well as the more extrovert performer. So even then care has to be taken.
  • Structured interviews– Asking all applicants the same questions in the same order with built-in opportunities to discuss potential bias supports any diversity hiring process.

#7  Evaluate your diversity hiring metrics

It’s important to monitor your metrics. Establish which new processes are working and which are not. Establish which changes are most effective and commit to carrying on with those until one day they become less effective. Recruitment processes should be dynamic, responding to business, cultural and technological changes. Those organisations which fail to take that on board will be in trouble.

#8 Manage your metrics

Organisations should not only updating their hiring practises because it is the right thing to do, but because of the benefits for business and teams. Any audits and employee engagement and retention surveys should be ongoing to manage the metrics.

Smart and strategic leaders committed to growing their businesses will  make time to improve how they recruit, retain and advance women as well as other excluded groups.

Recognise and improve the biases in your company with Managing Unconscious Bias Workshops.