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Why Do We Need Unbiased Recruitment?

  • 02-11-22
  • user Richard Malpeli

Unbiased recruitment enables businesses to hire employees based on their having the best skills and competencies for the role. When done right, it leads to a more diverse workforce where the right person for the job is chosen, not based on trying to fill a diversity quota but because equal access has been given to job seekers irrespective of their background, gender, age, ethnicity, physical ability, religious beliefs, and so on. 

Respect is given to the skills and differences that each employee brings to their roles and the organisation. With a diverse and multicultural workforce, businesses can achieve greater productivity that results in stronger financial and strategic performance. 

The onus has very much been placed on human resource (HR) departments to create this workplace environment of diversity and inclusion in absence of the knowledge and tools to actualise this goal. This has led to challenges whereby businesses end up hiring job seekers based on their race, gender, disability or other non-performance-related qualifiers to achieve a rather misguided perception of diversity. 

Unbiased recruitment provides a transparent way of overcoming the unconscious biases that result in this poor selection of job candidates. It is a process that recruitment firms like CGP Thailand can help businesses understand and adopt in ensuring they choose the best candidate for the job while achieving their goals of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

What is unbiased recruitment?

Unbiased recruitment is the process of selecting job candidates based on their skills and competencies, and without factoring in non-performance related qualities like gender, age, physical appearance, and religious beliefs. It aims to prevent unconscious biases from influencing the recruitment process ensuring that candidates are given a fair assessment. It also promotes a sense of openness and belonging that nurtures a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

To ensure this fairness, inclusivity, and transparency, the hiring process is data-driven and competency-based. It helps recruiters to eliminate bias and deliver more diverse teams. 

What is biased hiring?

All people, to some extent, tend to have some prejudice and preconceived notions. This attitude can often be the result of past experiences that in an HR context, can make recruiters unconsciously inclined toward selecting job candidates that fit their own frame of reference. This often results in teams that appear homogenous and bear a striking resemblance with the recruiter. Due to the comfort level with what is familiar, the recruiter will naturally be inclined to choose someone similar over someone different. They are biased in favour of people or a group that is similar to themselves. 

Bias can also be being prejudiced against a particular person or group. Biases are commonplace and can often be unconscious, presenting as discrimination in the form of racism, sexism, ageism and so on. When allowed to perpetuate, they result in homogenous workplaces and companies that appear to lack diversity. These companies are often unable to compete effectively in the marketplace and are hampered when it comes to growth and success. 

Why we need unbiased hiring right now

As said, biased recruitment can hamper an organisation’s ability to grow and succeed. Studies have shown that companies with diverse management teams are often amongst the top financial performers in their industries, with ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity having the highest impact on profitability. 

Ensuring a diverse hiring strategy allows for better critical thinking skills and knowledge to be absorbed into the organisation from even the most unlikely sources. It can make for a positive and happy workplace experience that encourages productivity and supports innovation. Where people notice bias in their work environment, their productivity is likely to decline as team morale suffers. Those directly impacted by this bias may also lose confidence in their abilities and competence.

The world is facing a talent shortage as it becomes increasingly difficult to fill roles. Where companies allow for bias during recruitment, they are narrowing their potential field of candidates at a time when they cannot afford to do so. For every potentially valuable candidate, they exclude or reject based on some bias, which is another great talent they have handed over to the competition. 

Failure to act now on correcting biased recruitment will only make it harder to find the truly best candidates for the job as they keep being eliminated and move on to other job prospects. This increases the likelihood of making poor recruitment choices that could not only affect company productivity and profitability but also end up repeating the recruitment process to replace those that should never have had the role in the first place. This not only hampers the growth of the business but also means more expenses in undertaking fresh recruitment and training.

A lack of diversity can also hamper employer branding. A survey conducted by Monster found that 83% of Gen Z job seekers consider workplace diversity and inclusivity to be deciding factors when considering a job offer. Lack of diversity was also found to affect retention rates. When employees are dissatisfied and notice bias in their workplace, they are not only more likely to jump ship, but they are also less inclined to promote their employer to other professionals in the field. 

How to reduce bias during recruitment

  • Educate 

The first step in combating unconscious bias lies in educating your team about it. Awareness training of employees will help make them aware of the problem, its effects, and how to recognise it. They get to learn how everyone can unconsciously be biased and how to identify this in themselves. The more discussion and openness there are surrounding this topic, the easier it will be for the organisation to brainstorm ideas on how best to tackle it. 

  • Rework job listings

Once the organisation can recognise that there is bias in their recruitment process, steps need to be taken to correct the problem. This should start with how job listings are put out. 

To encourage inclusivity, it is important to be careful how the qualifications required for a role are phrased in job listings. Some qualifications may be described in such a way as to exclude alternative ways that the same function can be reasonably accomplished. For instance, requiring a job candidate to have typing skills when you may have candidates with disabilities that can accomplish the same tasks through dictation may be considered bias. 

Recruiters need to be careful of using exclusionary language when creating job listings to avoid discouraging what may be otherwise ideal job candidates. 

Listings should also be made as accessible as possible. This will ensure they are seen by as wide a talent pool of candidates as possible. Have the jobs listed on general job sites and niche sites where you may find marginalised demographics. To facilitate this, consider using platforms that can accommodate multiple formats including large print and audio. Where you have paper recruiting materials being distributed, ensure that there are braille options. 

When providing contact channels through which candidates can get in touch, again, list multiple options such as telephone numbers, social media handles, and email for easier access. To encourage as many candidates as possible to apply for the role, it is advisable to emphasise that the organisation is open and accommodating to all people, taking pride in its diverse and inclusive culture. 

  • Make data-driven decisions

Unconscious bias when selecting job candidates is best resolved by relying on data. Data-driven decision-making eliminates the influence of emotion and results in better objectivity. To aid in this endeavour, recruiters need to determine what areas of data collection to focus on and the kind of competencies that are required for each role they are hiring for. 

Note that it is not just the training and experience of the candidate you should be focused on when reviewing a resume. Competency will also be impacted by other aspects of a candidate’s profile such as personality traits, motivation and talents. With different roles you will find that each aspect will be of varying importance, meaning that while one candidate may be highly competent for one role, they could be considered less competent for another. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help analyse the mountains of data collected through different platforms. This analysis can be done without human bias as to whether or not a candidate will be a good choice. The use of this technology would be very useful for organisations that collect tons of data and need a fast way to process it and arrive at the best candidates for the job. From screening candidates at the point of inquiry with chatbots to assessing blind resumes, AI can be used to refine the hiring process and deliver more unbiased hiring. 

  • Blind hiring

Going blind when reviewing resumes brings focus to what qualifications and talents candidates can bring to the role without distractions as to what demographic characteristics they possess. Technology like AI can help in sifting through resumes without bias and make the selection of the best job candidates. 

This can also be manually accomplished by having applicants redact irrelevant information, or by having a third party do so. Details such as the candidates' names and the schools they attended are often part of what induces unconscious bias. Recruiters need to consider just what details on the resume truly impact a candidate's ability to do the job. 

  • Work sample testing

This can also be another form of blind assessment as it evaluates a candidate’s ability to perform tasks relevant to the job they are applying for. The tests mimic tasks that the candidates would encounter on the job, pushing them to find solutions for work-related problems and apply their skills. They provide useful insights into how well the candidate will perform in future if hired. Their performance on this test can also help in making an objective judgement on how one candidate’s performance compares to another. 

  • Standardise the interview process

Allowing for unstructured interviews which gives interviewers a chance to allow the conversation with candidates to unfold naturally will give way for unconscious bias to seep in. They are also not a good indicator as to whether a candidate is best suited for the job. Structured interviews where all candidates are asked the same set of defined questions will not just minimise bias, but also allow recruiters to focus on the factors that have the most relevance to the role and the candidate’s ability to carry it out. Using a scorecard with a predetermined scale against which to grade candidates’ responses can help ensure impartiality. This can provide another independent data point to add to the overall assessment of the candidate, alongside the blind review of their resume and work sample testing.

  • Set diversity goals

Setting diversity goals should be carefully handled to avoid making those that have traditionally held an advantage feel attacked and not undermine those that would be hired under these categories. But it should be a by-product rather than the focus of unbiased hiring. Management should track how well they have done in meeting diversity goals after the hiring process. This regular review will help keep diversity, inclusivity and equality a priority in the organisation.