In a recruiting environment rife with discriminatory practices and unconscious bias, the only path to truly diversifying a workforce might be eliminating all identifying characteristics from the application process.
By now, you’re surely aware of the paucity of women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees at big–time organisations, particularly in the UK and the US. Despite the fact that diverse organisations are proven to be more successful, firms in the tech industry and beyond struggle to keep up, even as HR departments claim to be taking concrete steps to diversify their workforces.
According to The Guardian, BAME individuals holding degrees are 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts in the UK. This on the heels of a recent workforce analysis conducted by Trade Union Congress (TUC), which found that black workers with degrees earn on average 23.1% less than white workers with degrees, and BAME workers on the whole earn 10.3% less than whites.
Perhaps this discrepancy is due in large part to the bias against BAME individuals that pops up during the application process, especially at prestigious organisations. “Whether they have PhDs or GCSEs, BAME workers have a much tougher time in the jobs market,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told The Guardian. “Not only is this wrong but it is a huge waste of talent. Companies that only recruit from a narrow base are missing out on the wide range of experiences on offer from Britain’s many different communities.”
What’s to be Done
While HR departments may be partially to blame for the failure of so many diversity initiatives, the real culprit is the outdated assessment system that most organisations use to determine who constitutes an ideal candidate. By giving weight to factors with no proven effect on job performance – such as prestigious university attendance, work experience outside the industry or even the quick judgment of a first impression – unconscious bias creeps into the recruitment process. Unfortunately, most of these traditionally ‘valuable’ qualities have no bearing on one’s actual ability to perform in the workplace – and what’s more, they’re statistically likely to be possessed by white men above all other demographics.
Clearly, new methods must be utilised to put all candidates on even footing. Increasingly, recruiters and other HR professionals are turning to data to eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process. Particularly in the US tech industry, the practice of blind hiring is being instituted as a means to select the candidates most qualified for the job at hand, rather than those who boast the most polished CV’s. Many organisations now require candidates to complete standardised questionnaires pertaining to job and company-specific information in order to determine the best fitting candidate for the role, with HR reps viewing full resumes only after candidates have been selected as finalists to be interviewed.
New Tech, New Talent
Technology and big data practices have aided this push for diversification – but there is still much ground to cover. One of the best ways to institute blind hiring practices is by using pre–recorded video interview technology as a means to screen candidates after the initial questionnaire process. Since the responses are pre-recorded, companies can hire from a larger pool of qualified workers. Meanwhile, candidates can represent themselves in the best light, even if they might not have the opportunity to be physically present for a job interview early in the hiring process.
With greater attention paid to workplace diversity, organisations thrive, underserved communities earn more opportunities and once-homogenous workforces benefit from the onboarding of new talent with a wider range of perspectives.