Recruitment without bias

❝ If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own – Henry Ford

Usually we try to be objective in every aspect of our lives. We try to be fair, however does it mean we are free from the influence we have from our experiences, suggestions and subjective opinions on the decisions we make? We can involuntarily discriminate others, look stereotype and judge. The whole process often happens unconsciously, as our mind looks for shortcuts and connects the dots accordingly to our own key. We call this „unconscious bias”. It is an unintentional positive or negative feeling towards other people or things. In recruitment, we also refer to the halo effect or the diabolo effect.

Behaviours like this is often justified by cultural background, religion, education or social origin. However, do we have the right to discriminate or judge others? Would we like prejudice to be affecting ourselves?

The world is changing

Diversity of marketsDiversity of customersDiversity of ideasDiversity of talent

Changes, both demographic but also those connected with preferences, requirements and mindsets of clients and necessity to grow enforced organisations to open for the new. Tech and digital evolution drives the need for quick innovations and changes as well as adaptation to the requirements of the market or customers. Mobility of people, changes in age profiles, education and migration are related to the expectations of candidates, thus equal opportunities and work/life balance. It also has an impact on the population of employees.

Why diversity and inclusion?

  • To keep work environment fair and honest for all employees.
  • For one vision, mission and organisation’s strategy, which helps achieving goals.
  • For different cultures to cooperate, often by merging or acquisition of businesses or activities.
  • Due to demographic changes
  • Presence in different countries; international teams.
  • Due to shortages of highly qualified specialists and necessity to acquire and retain of best talents, need to increase engagement & ability to reach different locations.
  • To value leaders who inspire and integrate diversity & inclusion.
  • To use a wide range of experiences and skills to increase creativity, innovation and finding solutions.
  • To increase engagement, enthusiasm and efficiency.
  • To build proper work and life balance and it’s quality.
  • To improve company’s reputation and mark as an employer / provider by choice.
  • To decrease a risk and be law compliant.

A helicopter view in sourcing methods

Recruitment without bias means openness to new, non standard sources of candidates when normally using standard methods we could not captured, or whose access to the job offer could’ve been limited.

Inclusive channels should focus on places where we can target candidates from different cultures, origins, age, locations. Multiple recruitment activities are also highly recommended.

Let’s take a look on sourcing methods:

  • Job boards
  • Company’s career page
  • Networking
  • Forums
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • LinkedIn (direct approach
  • Online campaigns
  • Outdoor campaigns
  • Contest and gamification
  • Conferences
  • Referral program
  • Head hunting
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Internal candidates
  • Campus management
  • Job fairs
  • Image campaigns (EB)
  • Employer Days, etc.

When looking at it from a broader perspective, each of the above methods can be treated as inclusive however can also be discriminatory, depending on used content and message. What should we focus on the most?

Inclusive language in job adverts and descriptions

  • Free from prejudices, stereotypes and allusions to insignificant details,
  • Appreciates positive characteristics / competences regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, origin, social, religion, belief, etc.,
  • Does not perpetuate stereotypes and does not segregate positions, e.g. for women or men,
  • Focus on the position – not on the type of person, but on tasks (except for the soft skills requirements),
  • Keep it simple – long job offers put off candidates, especially those who apply only if they meet all the requirements,
  • Concentrate on practical skills and required experience,
  • Free from jargon, but understandable for a wide audience,
  • Emphasizes the approach to diversity, e.g. flexible and remote work, flexible hours, inclusive working rules, part time, etc.

Diversity and inclusion in recruitment process.

  • The recruitment and D&I strategy should be consistent.
  • Introducing transparent, fair, non-discriminatory recruitment practices and tools: ATS, algorithms or other HR systems (with an emphasis on conscious or unconscious discrimination).
  • Inclusive sourcing methods usage.
  • Presenting a variety of pictures showing the diversity – cultures, age, gender, race, etc – in publications, as well as using inclusive language when promoting the offers.
  • Ensuring that HR / recruitment service providers follow consistent D&I principles.
  • Openness for internal candidates.
  • Offering flexible working hours, remote work, part time, different locations, giving a chance to a larger audience of candidates.
  • Engaging representatives from different departments and teams in the recruitment process, often close associates.
  • Focusing on competences and skills candidates will realistically need for a specific job position, using case study or work sample as assessment method.
  • D&I and unconscious bias trainings for hiring managers recruiters and interviewers.
  • Blind CV – not showing information that would spark any discrimination, e.g. personal data disclosed only after interview.

I would also send you to this article of mine (Generations competing on the job market. How to understand age groups of Baby Boomers, X, Y and Z?), as understanding of candidates generations would also be very helpful here.

How to reduce unconscious bias in recruitment

Even if we are fully aware of the D&I topic, the indicators mentioned before may appear unconsciously in the form of gestures, behaviours, body language, eye contact, and non-verbal body language during the interview with applicants. Recruiters may not even realize it. Therefore, it is worth to:

  • Use structured interviews. Asking every candidate the same questions in the same order ensures all candidates are fairly evaluated against the same criteria.
  • Ask for specific career examples. Gathering this evidence from a candidate prevents interviewers from making assumptions that may be incorrect.
  • Use an interview scorecard with a pre-determined scale. Similar to structured interviews, a scorecard ensures each candidate’s responses are fairly rated on the same criteria.
  • Carefully consider likability and culture fit. Define how both aspects fit the job. Assess chosen candidates and their cultural fit same way to ensure consistency.
  • Define minimal requirements at the beginning of the evaluation. This ensures everyone is aligned on originally agreed requirements. It ensures the criteria standards don’t change for any of the candidates.
  • Objectively review each candidate. Be consistent in reviewing the CV or resume, interview responses and work samples to avoid primary favourites.
  • Clearly explain the reasoning for deciding on each candidate. Focus on professional examples that the candidate provided. Do not rely on feelings or instinct.

Let’s remember that D&I policy should be treated as a source of good practices and hints. In recruitment and hiring process we should still remember the purpose – finding best talents on the job market. D&I principles can help in building company’s positive image thanks to candidate’s experience and treating applicants fair and with respect. We should not go to extremes.

Inclusive recruitment and the law

Clause regarding the protection of personal data law FIRST!!! Of course in the countries where applicable.

Each country has their own policies supporting non-discriminatory aspects. Below few examples in Polish labour code:

  • art. 22¹ §1 (Polish labour law) – we can process only some personal details: names, date of birth, address, education, career path.
  • art. 183a § 1 (Polish labour law) – equal treatment in employment which mean lack of any discrimination, direct or indirect, based on any of the reasons.
  • art. 113 (Polish labour law) – any discrimination, direct or indirect, in employment, particularly in respect of sex, age, disability, race, religious, nationality, (…) is unacceptable.
  • art. 23 and 24 (civil law/code) – violations of privacy and rights relating to personality. It means that candidate should be hired or not but only based on skills, knowledge and qualifications.

When it comes to the others:

  • Directive 2000/78/EC – The European Union set up a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, empowering it to combat discrimination based on religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation on the labour market.
  • General Data Protection Regulation – affects recruitment by changing how personal data can be collected, stored and used.
  • ENDA – The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is legislation proposed in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or, depending on the version of the bill, gender identity, by employers with at least 15 employees.
  • Individual EU countries (in EU Directives) must make sure that their national laws protect health and safety at work, equal opportunities for women and men, protection against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation and labour law: part-time work, fixed-term contracts, working hours, employment of young people, informing and consulting employees.

Big thank you to my amazing peer Karolina for her support and proofreading! 🙂


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