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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

How to Mitigate Unconscious Bias in the Recruitment Process

5 min read

Attracting and retaining diverse talent is critical to any business in building a strong workplace culture and driving success.

From ensuring vacancies are accessible to neurodiverse candidates, to being transparent about salary ranges, it can sometimes be daunting for leaders to know where to start in designing an ethical recruitment process.

In a recent series of webinars, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner in our Inclusion and Diversity Consultancy ran through a number of top tips on how to make your recruitment process and practices more inclusive. Below, Sue outlines what these steps look like at every stage of the journey, from job posting to onboarding.

Step 1 – Job Description

Writing job specifications: Ensure that HR recruiters and the recruiting line manager come together to meet and discuss the role and review what is needed. Highlight potential biases by prompting a review team to conscientiously assess job descriptions and appoint a minimum of two additional reviewers with a specific focus on scrutinising the role and challenging the specification.

Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity: Look at what is being said about your commitment to I&D on job sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn and evaluate what more can be done. Reputation matters, so it is critical that the organisational external positioning on I&D aligns to the internal practice and mindset.

Inclusive language and imagery: Be aware of using AI tools unsupervised to correct the language of job descriptions and adverts. Avoid the use of stock photos or abstract images, instead use real images of employees in your organisation to accurately reflect your workplace culture.

Step 2 – Advert & Application

Ensure your processes are accessible: Accessible application processes include multimedia formats, large text, audio, video etc. Consider the sole use of technical tests for highly technical roles.

Make your recruitment partnerships work for you: Communicate partnership memberships in all job adverts, career websites, external media, and internally to employees. Annually review the progress and success of each partnership, then adapt your strategy based on evidence.

Leverage employee resource groups: Employee resource groups can be vital assets in aiding the recruitment process, however, their contributions should be remunerated, supported and handled with respect. Consider extending employee referral reward schemes to the organisation’s alumnae. This amplifies and extends the EVP and keeps you connected with potential re-joiners.

Step 3 – Shortlisting

Shortlisting team: Shortlisting should never be done by one sole hiring manager. Organise a team with relevant experience to participate in shortlisting to eliminate the selection of one specific type of candidate based on inherent biases.

Scoring candidates: Use the “flip it to test it” approach on candidates who do not, on the first review, meet all requirements. Challenge yourself and others to identify the reasons why a candidate should be considered or rejected.

Handling candidate details: Consider who you are screening out at this point in the process, e.g. is someone without a university degree but other relevant experience really unqualified for the job?

Step 4 – Interview

Interview preparation: Consider offering different interview mediums to be Inclusive to differing learning and personality styles e.g. if a presentation is required during the interview, offer candidates the option to prerecord their submission if possible.

Panels: Keep panels consistent for all interviews to ensure objective assessment and comparison of candidates.

Sue Johnson Managing Partner, Inclusion & Diversity Consulting

Keeping track of the facts: Use a standard screening decision matrix grounded in established job criteria to facilitate the screening process and increase objectivity.

Step 5 – Decision

Evidence-based decisions: Hiring panels should focus on evidence accrued during the interview, rather than general impressions or “gut feel”. This ensures decisions are based on concrete data rather than subjective feelings.

Reference checks: Implement a standard process to check candidate references is used consistently. There should be checks and balances in place to mitigate bias in the evidence capture.

Future planning: When making a decision, consider not only the current needs of your organisation but also future requirements. Evaluate which candidate has demonstrated their ability to meet these needs over your strategic planning horizon.

Step 6 – Offer & Onboard

Offering successful candidates: Hiring managers should personally present job offers, promptly addressing any queries from the candidate, and encouraging acceptance by offering strategies and options to assure the candidate.

Contacting unsuccessful candidates: Ask for feedback on the recruitment process from all unsuccessful candidates. This feedback should be used to track statistics, identify trends, and adapt and improve the process accordingly.

Customise the induction to individual needs: Adapt the induction process to meet individual requirements concerning the work environment, facilities, and technologies. Make necessary adjustments to accommodate specific individual needs, such as those arising from long-term health conditions and impairments.

Data collection: Data can help your organisation understand the gaps in strategy and identify areas of improvement in opening the door to more diverse candidates. Gather data at each stage of the recruitment process, including any outreach and outsourced activities. This will aid in detecting the sources and channels that yield the most diverse pool of individuals to fill positions.

For HR leaders, it might feel like an overwhelming prospect to evaluate your hiring process against best practice guidance. But with the right support, businesses can do more to improve accessible talent attraction, and to retain diverse staff when they join the organisation. An experienced Inclusion & Diversity consultant can help you identify where your recruitment process might need refining or restructuring to be more transparent and to drive growth.



Get in touch. Follow the links below to discover more, or contact our dedicated Inclusion & Diversity experts from your local Odgers Berndtson office here. 

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