HR BLOG: Blind to bias

Subjectivity in recruitment, is it avoidable? The answer is ‘yes’. So that begs the question, why aren’t we avoiding it?

Earlier this week we saw the published results of this recent study on diversity in recruitment. The synopsis below certainly makes for concerning reading.

There are two candidates, both applying to the same jobs via the same websites with the same CVs. The only difference is the name. One candidate uses a traditionally British name, Adam. The other uses a traditionally Muslim name, Mohamed.

Out of 100 applications, Adam received responses from 12 employers, whereas Mohamed only received four. Could this just be chance? Possibly, but it does echo the results of similar studies.

This presents a real issue for employers who, firstly, are failing to enjoy the benefits of employing a diverse team. And secondly, they may be opening themselves up to potential tribunal claims.

But can someone really take legal action against you at this stage? The simple answer is ‘yes’!

Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination against a person over their race or religious beliefs is a big no-no. Employers must justify their choices, meaning they should focus on the suitability of the candidate based on their skills, experience and CV quality.

So is there an argument for the removal of certain details from CVs – details that could put candidates at risk of losing out to unconscious bias?

An increasing number of job candidates are removing any dates that could indicate their ages – GCSE/A Level/graduation dates for example, to protect themselves from age discrimination. It would be impractical, however, for them to leave their names off CVs.

In an attempt to tackle this, the UK government announced in 2015 that they’re backing a scheme encouraging businesses to hide applicants’ names.

Both the Civil Service and the NHS will reportedly be using name-blind recruitment techniques by 2020, cancelling out unconscious bias against those from all backgrounds, primarily ethnic.

SMEs are equally at risk of getting recruitment wrong. The additional admin involved in removing names from CVs before handing them over to decision makers isn’t ideal, so you should explore what works for you and your business.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.

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