Five ways to combat prejudice in your recruitment process

Speak to 500 HR managers about discrimination in the recruitment process and what do you get? Almost half of recruiters who admit their own hiring process may be prejudiced, three quarters who have witnessed bias or discrimination amongst others first-hand, and 25% who say it’s a regular thing.

We all make judgments. We all have filters that influence our decisions and we are all conditioned by our environment. But our research shows that an alarming number of HR managers are actively ruling out candidates based on factors that are discriminatory – education, accent or gender – which is clearly unacceptable.

Discriminatory recruitment isn’t just unethical – it also makes terrible business sense.

Every member of your team represents a different set of preferences and backgrounds, likes and dislikes, that enrich an organisation and create opportunities. Tapping into a diverse workforce can improve everything from employee productivity, to greater customer understanding and satisfaction.

Here are five methods every HR manager needs to consider in order to transform their recruitment process – and to find the right person for the job, based on professionalism rather than preferences.

1 – Dare to be aware

Taking the time to understand how, why and who we discriminate against – even on an unconscious level – is fundamental to being able to correct it.

Organisations need to take the time to have a conversation about conscious and unconscious biases that might be affecting their hiring process. Everyone makes judgments, so create a safe space for behaviour to be questioned and corrected. Be clear about where you stand on gender, race, age, class and the values of the business as a whole.

2 – Call it out

Once you’ve defined and vocalised your values, you can measure people’s actions against them. Whether it’s during the recruitment process or at a board meeting, there should be an awareness of what is acceptable, what drives decisions and what culture the company is striving for. When you’re clear about what discrimination means, it’s easier to spot and take action.

3 – Choose your language

Coded prejudice starts before the application process even begins. Where masculine words dominate job descriptions, women won’t apply. When exclusive language speaks to private school leavers, talent outside of this set will switch off. They might be the best candidates out there, but if your language doesn’t speak to them, they won’t apply.

Job descriptions need to clearly outline the key skills and experience you are looking for. Personnel specifications should only describe the relevant and justifiable job requirements – the specification should not have any requirements that are not directly related to the job.

4 – Go blind

HR managers have many tough decisions to make when deciding between candidates, and prejudice can become part of the process too easily.

Embedding a culture of diversity at the heart of your business comes from implementing good education, training and behaviours. Hirers should be trained to discount factors such as name, age and gender, and to instead base their choices on ability, relevance and potential.

Teams that are responsible for hiring must be equipped with the ability to remain impartial when making recruitment decisions, and recognise the impact their recruitment habits have on the wider business.

In addition to proper training, embracing technology is another way to reduce the impact of unconscious bias. Software and algorithms that match applicants to roles based on merit helps to remove some of the barriers to diversity.

5 – Simplify and standardise

To give every employee the same chance to impress, standardised questions are essential. Interview questions should be competency based and relate to the requirements of the job. Look for insight into the candidate’s ability and suitability to minimise bias.

During the interview process, take notes and conduct interviews with a colleague to pool opinions.

Start today

Recruitment is about bringing people together and making the right connections. Supporting an unbiased hiring process is an important cornerstone of this.

We all need to be vigilant and question the motivations behind our actions with honesty and self-awareness, and the methods outlined above can make a real difference to attitudes that may have previously been taken for granted.

Discrimination is illegal, unprofessional and creates the worst kind of working environment. Remember that changing a culture takes time and it can be a long process, but it can start today.

Building an inclusive workplace has benefits for everyone. Promote a happier, fairer culture by ensuring you’re doing everything you can to find the best person for the job. Ideological and legal reasoning aside, removal of discrimination simply makes good business sense. An unprejudiced workplace allows people to be themselves, and empowers them to succeed.