Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:01 AM 18th December 2023

Why How You Hire Is As Important As WHO You Hire – Debiasing Strategies For Business Leaders

Seana Donnelly, a Talent Manager at Progeny, a B Corp Certified company considers many aspects of the hiring process.

Image by Jaydeep Joshi from Pixabay
Image by Jaydeep Joshi from Pixabay
The topic of blind hiring, the process where candidates’ personal, demographic, educational and cultural information is removed during the recruitment process, received a lot of media coverage recently when a Ukrainian business consultancy took the concept to a new level.

Whilst interviews conducted via faceless avatars with modified robotic voices are unlikely to become mainstream any time soon, it raised some interesting debate around inclusive hiring.

Seana Donnelly
Seana Donnelly
There is plenty of evidence that an anonymised screening process can help eliminate bias, but it’s no magic bullet and organisations should not rely on blind hiring alone to meaningfully diversify their workforce.
How you hire is as important as who you hire, so here are some debiasing strategies that business leaders can leverage to support their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ambitions at all stages of their recruitment process.

Get to the source of the issue

Let’s start with how candidates are sourced. Where vacancies are advertised, how the job description is worded and the requirements and skills highlighted are all subject to bias.

If a business relies on the same platforms or referral mechanisms to consistently seek out new candidates, it’s likely to contribute to a lack of diversity. Solutions could include bigger bonuses for internal referrals from underrepresented groups or networking via other resource groups, such as the many professional social networks. Additionally, there are many diversity-focused job boards, such as Women in Banking and Finance, BME Jobs and to name just a few, which will enable you to achieve wider reach and show candidates that you’ll be a supportive, diversity-championing employer. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing the ideal job board, so it’s up to employers to explore and find what works best for their business needs.

Job descriptions and adverts also need to be worded with care, to ensure that they aren’t unintentionally biased. Focusing on transferable skills and ‘nice to have’ requirements versus ‘must have’ for example helps to combat gender bias, with research showing that women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100 percent of the requirements, while men are more likely to apply if they only meet 60 percent of them.

It’s also vital to emphasise benefits right at the start of the recruitment phase that might appeal to a wider pool of candidates, such as flexible working, health care and in-house training opportunities.

Image by aymane jdidi from Pixabay
Image by aymane jdidi from Pixabay
Review the hiring process

Bringing some form of anonymity to the hiring process is widely viewed as good practice and typically focuses on the initial screening process. In this case, it also needs to be coupled with an equitable interview process in order to deliver benefits.

Interviews should involve some type of scoring system or specific metrics for assessing candidates, in order to maintain objectivity, as well as ensuring that everyone applying for a role is asked the same questions. It’s also valuable for hiring managers to have access to interview training, to be able to raise awareness on issues such as affinity bias - a tendency to favour people who share similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences - using masculine and feminine coded language and avoiding questions around protected characteristics, such as race, gender or age.

Ideally, there should always be at least two people involved in an interview, preferably with some diversity in relation to gender, ethnicity, and/or age, to help protect against unconscious bias and to support a fair and consistent approach.

Secure the candidate

In today’s competitive recruitment market, offering your chosen candidate the job is one thing but there is no guarantee that your company will be their first choice. According to Glassdoor research, 76% of job seekers report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. So, what can businesses do to enhance and promote their culture and approach to diversity?

If the company is implementing transparent policies and initiatives that support a diverse workforce and inclusivity, they can demonstrate as much. This could be flexible working opportunities, including arrangements around cultural and religious holidays, salary benchmarking to support equal pay, unconscious bias training and flexible parental leave options as a few examples.

Likewise, if they have defined and published values, then show evidence of these values in action. For example, if fairness is stated as a value, the company could explain what this means to them and employees. Accreditations or certifications aligned to this and prospective employees being able to see fairness being practised in social media, marketing and PR activity will all help.

Finally, one of the most powerful signifiers of a company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is when people can see diversity within the existing leadership team and workforce, and if the company communicates in an inclusive manner where people seem valued and encouraged to be their authentic selves.

In summary, organisations are increasingly aware of the importance of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace but blind hiring is simply one piece of this puzzle that only truly adds value when part of a more holistic debiasing approach.