Employers are struggling with a candidate shortage in the UK. Vacancies are rising, but numbers of job seekers are declining. This has increased competition between employers for suitable candidates. In such a tight labour market employers must take steps to ensure that they are not unnecessarily putting off or turning away appropriate candidates by making sure their recruitment processes are inclusive.
Today the CIPD (the UK’s professional body for HR and people development) is launching two guides on inclusive recruitment for employers written by BIT. One is targeted at employers, providing fuller detail on the evidence behind the actions, while the other is a shorter guide focused on the practical aspects of actions that are relevant to line managers. Below we describe some of the key actions discussed in the employer guide.
Make role requirements clear, specific and behaviour-based
Job adverts often describe the requirements of a position using character traits. This can discourage women and ethnic minority applicants from applying to a position because they may not identify with those traits due to clashing stereotypes. Conversely, women and ethnic minority candidates are more likely to apply when requirements are described as behaviours that can be evidenced. This also helps applicants understand what a role will involve and what is expected of them without inside information, something marginalised candidates are less likely to have.
|You are a natural leader.||You have held line management responsibilities.|
|You are a gifted communicator.||You have presented your findings to clients or at conferences.|
Offer flexible working by default
Flexible working, whether considering the number of hours worked, when or where they are worked, increases workplace diversity by making roles accessible to those with caring responsibilities (primarily women), disabled staff, and both older and younger workers. However, many employers fail to advertise flexible working on job adverts.
This may be partly due to status quo bias, where employers do not consider whether roles can be worked in a different pattern when recruiting for a vacancy. BIT research has found that organisations offering part-time work by “default” increased applications to senior roles from women by 19% to 35%. By making flexible working the default (managers have to explain ‘why not’), it signals that it is the expected and easier choice.
Avoid asking candidates about the dates of their employment history
Traditional CV formats and application forms tend to ask candidates to present their work experience in terms of the dates of their employment. However, research suggests that candidates returning to the labour market after a break face bias from employers. This may particularly affect women with caring responsibilities.
Presenting experience in terms of the number of years (eg ‘4 years’) rather than the dates (eg ‘2010-2014’) makes the candidate’s experience salient, rather than other less relevant information. A BIT study that sent CVs to over 9,000 vacancies found that this way of framing increased positive callback rates from employers by 15% for women with caring gaps. Employers should ensure that their application processes are designed in a way that does not force candidates to provide the dates of their employment experiences.
Use structured interviews
Unstructured interviews are rife with bias. One explanation is the halo effect whereby people have the tendency to make inferences about people based on irrelevant information. The unintended yet very real (and very unhelpful) effect of this is that early impressions count too much with the remainder of the interview simply an exercise in confirmation bias. As well as this major flaw, unstructured interviews are also poor predictors of performance on-the-job.
Structured interviews ask the same questions, in the same order, to all of the candidates, and score answers using consistent criteria. This reduces bias by making it easier for the panel to make fair and direct comparisons between candidates. They increase the likelihood that interviewers’ attention will be evenly distributed between candidates, giving everyone an equal chance to impress.
Further, having more than one interviewer, and bringing together all decision-makers in a ‘calibration’ session to make the final decisions, also helps to reduce the reliance on one person’s opinion.
We discuss several other relevant actions in the guide, including real-life examples of their applications.
Experiment to find out what works for you
Implementing these actions will help employers to attract and select the most suitable candidates for the role, while improving candidate experience. More broadly, to ensure that equality initiatives are taken seriously, employers should set diversity targets to increase internal accountability, and monitor recruitment outcomes. There is always more to learn, so we encourage employers to experiment with new solutions to address the specific challenges they are identifying in their own recruitment data and context.