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Agency recruiters holding back diversity efforts

'Blind' recruitment is one small step organisations can take to reduce discrimination, but it's far from a silver bullet, an organisational psychologist says.

It's "promising" that the Victorian Government is investing in blind recruitment given results from UK and Europe experiments over the past 10–15 years Testgrid director and diversity advocate Dina Ward told Shortlist.

In those markets, blind recruitment has been "really effective at getting people through the initial stage" of recruitment and increasing the representation of women and minority groups on shortlists, she says.

The practice began with simply removing names and gender-revealing details from job applicant data, but has since extended in many organisations to omitting school and university information from consideration, she adds.

Blind recruitment is not, however, a "silver bullet" for addressing discrimination in recruitment – "it doesn't solve the diversity puzzle", Ward says.

"There's a very, very long list" of subsequent steps recruiters must take to eliminate discrimination from the hiring process, she says.

The list includes:

  • cognitive testing with specific norms – many organisations use numerical, verbal or abstract testing in their recruitment process, but without specific norms they can't be assured of comparing applicants with the right comparison group, whether this is gender-based, or ESL or Indigenous, for example;
  • representative panels – including more women and people from different cultural backgrounds on decision-making panels can help minimise unconscious bias issues; and
  • video interviews – when videos are recorded and accessible by more people, interviewers and decision-makers become "more accountable" for their actions and are "a little bit more careful about how they assess those individuals", Ward says.

Technology and recruiters pose diversity barriers

One of the reasons why blind recruiting hasn't become popular in Australia is the difficulty organisations have in managing de-identified data in their applicant tracking systems, Ward says.

But she adds that external recruiters can pose a bigger obstacle to diversity efforts.

Blind recruiting tends to work well for lower-level positions where most of the recruitment takes place internally, but for more senior roles when agencies are used, discrimination "absolutely is an issue", Ward says.

"It's an issue because it's the same old brief that goes out to recruitment agencies, based on the incumbent in the role, which would generally represent the kind of stereotype that we're all pretty familiar with, of a white, middle-aged male leader.

"And so recruitment agencies generally work off that template to bring in candidates... so we always talk about broadening those sourcing strategies and not looking in the same old places, because you'll find the same old people."

Ward adds that organisations are taking a lot of interest in unconscious training, but "it's worth mentioning there is a huge issue with conscious bias, as well".

"People tend to write it off as 'oh, there's unconscious bias and people aren't aware of it', but there's plenty of racism and sexism at play that people are quite conscious of, and quite comfortable with, so let's not forget about addressing that as well as the unconscious elements," she says.

Source : ShortList