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Growth · 4 May '21

Unlocking fair hiring by cracking the consistency conundrum

We’re living in a transformed world, and fairness needs to come first. Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have increased the onus on companies to tackle unconscious bias and ‘gut feel’ in recruitment to create a world of work that better reflects the world at large. Yet, to deliver equal opportunity for all, an objective and inclusive process needs to be delivered consistently.

But in this new era of remote hiring, for scaling businesses particularly, achieving this is even trickier, especially when it comes to the rocketing surge in applications since the pandemic began and subsequent issues of trying to scale amid the influx. Bias and inefficiency are inevitable risks once every hire starts becoming a volume hire.

So, how do we ensure processes work fairly and consistently at high volumes? Implementing systems that are not only there to screen, but to see more in people.

The consistency conundrum

Research into the talent acquisition (TA) landscape for 2021 earlier this year showcased an ambition by companies to put fairness first. The survey revealed that removing the chief antagonists to inclusive and fair hiring – unconscious bias and ‘gut feel’ – were joined by making the TA process consistent across the business as the three top priorities for 2021.

But, crucially, the research also highlighted a clear disconnect: half of respondents see improving inclusivity as one of their top three improvements for 2021, but two-thirds believe processes are already delivered consistently across the business. This captures a belief by employers that processes are consistent, but also a recognition that, often, they’re not fairly so: a consistency conundrum.

But why is this the case? The pandemic triggered companies to rapidly jump into a remote and digital hiring process. This shift was joined by a subsequent and substantial rise in job applications, producing both an influx of quality candidates but also towering volumes to sift and sort. Processing applications efficiently, rather than effectively, has provided the illusion of achieving consistency. The result is companies end up screening more, but not actually seeing more.

But what the shift to remote hiring has also seen is physical, analog processes being transposed into digital formats, rather than companies digitising the hiring process itself. So this generates a lack of consistency in how candidates are being measured and progressed – true insight to uncover potential is sacrificed for managing the influx. And this allows unconscious bias and gut feel to creep their way back into the process, affecting both the fairness of the process and the candidate experience. What’s needed is the ability for employers to develop approaches that don’t just work consistently, but also effectively – for example, how does each stage deliver an improved view of someone’s suitability for a role?

To build extraordinary, dynamic and diverse teams, hiring managers need the support to deliver consistently fair processes. Here’s how:

Three tips to crack the conundrum

  1. Data Flow vs. Data Silos

Data silos represent the enemy of consistency (and, as a result, fair hiring). In a remote, hybrid recruitment world, with hiring managers dotted around different locations, a lack of data flow will inhibit a consistent approach across each stage of the process. If data isn’t shared, candidates can end up being measured on the same (or irrelevant) traits from the previous round and also not assessed on new, relevant abilities that show off their true selves. It harms both the candidate experience and the employers’ ability to progress the candidates most suited for the job.

Data that is collected and accrued from one round needs to be shared with the next stage of the process. Hiring managers can then ask “what additional data do I want to collect in the next round?” Achieving data flow between departments and each stage of the process means candidates will be measured on what actually matters, rather than employers missing out on uncovering their true potential by a lack of real insight.

  1. Sifting in, not out!

A lot of quality candidates often slip through the cracks, with 30, 40, even 50% of candidates often not completing the recruitment process!

One of the main reasons for high candidate dropout rates is that they often feel uncomfortable or poorly suited to the process. Inconsistent processes that measure subjective data – such as work experience, background, skills – can make some candidates feel that there’s an advantage to groups from a different profile (i.e. from different socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds, for example). And processes can be siloed, laborious and involve heavy admin and input for candidates. Crucially, there’s also a lack of feedback (our research found that just 7% of companies manage to provide feedback to all candidates).

This can all leave candidates feeling uncomfortable, underprepared, and unrepresented. And it has a knock-on effect. Employers both miss out on a wider pool of candidates and run the risk of putting them off applying. By using technology to objectively measure behaviour and provide insightful, automated feedback, companies can provide a consistent, more engaging, and intuitive experience, that’s also more likely to attract applications. Employers need to strive to give back to candidates, not just take in information. It’s often overlooked, but focussing on the candidate experience helps you sift in, not out.

  1. Make standardising standard

A consistent, structured interview process will have the biggest impact on D&I and fairness. This arises from a consistency in questions relevant to the job, scoring and judgement on roles and interviews driven by data and real behavioural insight –  rather than plumping on ‘gut feel’ decisions. And it’s these processes that need to be standardised across hiring teams. But none of this works if these consistent processes aren’t adopted across the company. Aligning people, process and technology is fundamental to delivering true consistency, and ensures that people leaders are interviewing the right people, in the right way, to make the right hire. The technology has to be employed by people who buy into the process.

As restrictions begin to ease and we settle into a flexible-working world traversing remote and in-person processes, the notion of consistency could become harder to maintain. Grappling with these shifts has thrown up a consistency conundrum, making it trickier to decipher between delivering processes efficiently and also delivering them effectively. But ensuring effective processes across the business is crucial to fair hiring. What we need to do is help hiring managers by providing a consistent and objective way to identify what success looks like and a means of measuring behaviour. A process that unites candidates and people across companies. That’s the key to cracking the consistency conundrum and unlocking equal opportunities for all.