One of the hot topics in the world of work in recent times has been the issue of bias, whether conscious or unconscious, when it comes to hiring people, investing in people and promoting people. There’s a growing belief that diverse teams are better for business.
Research to support this belief is easy to come by. For example, a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) concluded that more diverse Management teams deliver 19% more revenue. Glassdoor report that 67% of job seekers say that a diverse team is important when considering job offers. And Josh Bersin research found that diverse teams are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
For anyone who has assumed the role of Manager or Leader in an organisation, the issue of bias is likely something we can all, privately at least, admit to struggling with.
It’s not necessarily that we set out to recruit only our kind, but we are naturally wired to warm to people who are similar to us. And that doesn’t just mean race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality. It’s more about our natural behaviours.
For example, as an extrovert, emotionally driven individual, I am more likely to warm to similarly extrovert, instinctive people. Whereas when I meet or interview someone who’s opposite to me – a more reflective, factual individual, I’m probably not going to warm to them as much.
Whilst I’m aware of this and actively seek opposites within my own team to compliment our existing skills (and to cover some of my own gaps), it can still be really tough when making those crucial decisions about who to hire and who to promote, to get over my natural ingrained biases.
Focusing on recruitment, an industry worth over £330bn globally, and where we still rely on the 500 year old CV, bias is rife.
On average, a CV is around 1,000 words long (if kept within 2 pages). It takes the average human being 3.5-4 minutes to read 1,000 words. Yet research indicates that recruitment teams and Hiring Managers will spend no more than 10 seconds scanning a CV.
Why? Because on average, they receive 118 applications for each role. To even have your CV attachment opened these days can be an achievement. And to be communicated with after applying is rare – feedback on applications is still woeful.
It’s true that, whilst recruiting via traditional methods (think Linked In and jobs boards like Indeed), Hiring Managers and talent acquisition teams can be inundated with applications. Some relevant, but a great deal that aren’t. The sheer fact that we only have limited time in our diaries to review CVs and decide who might be a suitable candidate for the job starts to drive bias in our decision making.
Consider, if we’re only looking at a CV for all of 10 seconds, what details are we taking in that will influence our decision?
Experience? Qualifications? Length of tenure at previous companies? Name? Location? Age? The way it’s formatted and written?
Name, location, background, gender and age are the obvious bias risks. But, actually, for a lot of us, the way a CV is formatted and written is actually the determining factor in whether we shortlist someone and invite them for an interview.
Is it easy to read? How good is their use of language? Do they get the punctuation right? Are they overly detailed or not detailed enough? Are they repeating the same ‘BS’ in their personal statements that we’re read a thousand times before about how they’re a ‘goal driven, self-motivated, hard-working individual who is passionate about people and’ blah blah blah?!
Through our judgement of how they’ve written their CV, we are risking bias on multiple fronts. Their social background. Their nationality and culture. Potential disabilities and personal battles with conditions like dyslexia. Their educational opportunities. Their neuro-diversity needs.
Let’s be honest, through 1-4 sheets of A4, we can never truly see the person behind the words. And in 2019, in the age of instant information facilitated by social media and Facetime, there’s simply no excuse any more for bias, whether conscious or unconscious, in the early stages of hiring.
We should be judging people on their skills. Their experience. Their likely cultural fit with out team/business. Their attitude. Their appetite for learning and progression. Their ability. Not their background, race, gender or physical/mental health.
Besides, the age of information has also brought on the age of privacy. People demand more. They want their personal data to be protected. And a document that carries sensitive personal information like name, address, phone number and email address that can easily be forwarded by anyone, to anyone, or left on the printer for anyone to see, simply does not satisfy this need.
Well, 2019 also brings the opportunity to change all this. Technology now enables us to remove bias in the early stages of recruitment. Anonymity is possible. Factual assessments of skills and experience and automated short-listing is possible. Pre-verification and referencing of skills and experience by previous employers is possible. AI assessments of individuals to remove human bias is possible.
Take tools like Digital Profile (www.digitalprofile.com) the first truly user-centric recruitment platform that promises to put privacy and integrity back in to recruitment, giving back control to individuals, not agencies.
With easy to use, uniformed profiles, and the option to ‘go incognito’, individuals can remove the risk of bias in the early stages of recruitment by enabling companies to see how they match a new role in terms of skills, experience, qualification and behavioural type, whilst removing the information that allows bias to become an issue – their name, their image, their address, their nationality, their age, their gender.
If their profile matches a role, the employer should want to progress. Only then, when given permission by the individual, do they find out who the person is. And at all times the user is assured of communication on outcomes, and has complete control over their profile and who sees it.
Thereafter, short of replacing Hiring Managers with robots, it’s down to all of us to remember to put skills, experience, attitude and team fit ahead of anything else, and challenge our thinking with the aid of new data on the fit between a candidate and the role we need to fill.
Moving to a world with less bias and more diverse teams can only be a good thing. The age of information and privacy will become the age of opportunity for all.