Black Lives Matter, Unconscious Bias & Recruitment – What Can Employers Do?

As most of you know, our Testing & Assessment Consultant, Mel, works remotely from her home in Arizona, where she lives with her family – these past few months, she’s actively been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement in her community where she has protested for the end of police brutality towards African Americans, and the institutionalised oppression and marginalisation of Black people in the United States.

In NZ, we’ve marched as well – to show our solidarity with the Movement and acknowledge the systemic racism we have ingrained in our society, so as employers, recruiters & hiring managers, how can we support the BLM movement in the workplace & ensure we have an inclusive recruitment process that consciously integrates all members of society & curbs racial bias? Here’s some easy-to-implement guidelines to get you started…

1. Assess yourself.

Bias is built into almost everything we do, but you won’t see it until you look for it. If you have the final say on a hire, then you need to be brutally honest with yourself.

What biased opinions do you hold? You need to recognise these opinions so that you can counter them.

Harvard, Virginia and Washington Universities’ Implicit Association Test  is an eye opener & allows you to assess yourself on a range of potential bias topics (ie. race, gender, skin tone, etc). Have a go – the results might surprise you and could even have a positive impact on your recruitment process.

2. Check your job descriptions carefully.

The words you choose can have a powerful impact on the people that apply for your job in the first place. Words like ‘ninja’ and ‘rockstar’ may seem trendy, but according to a variety of studies, they also tend to prevent women applying for roles.

That’s strange, right?

Well apparently, there are more than 25,000 “problem phrases” that indicate a gender bias in job adverts. You can run yours through Textio and see whether you’re using any of them.

It’s important to apply some critical thinking to the results, but you might be surprised at how an innocuous phrase has an impact on your applicant pool.  By using pro-diversity language and you’ll find that you get a wider range of applications.

3. Evaluate every CV in the same way.

In NZ, it is widely accepted that there is significant name & accent discrimination going on – candidates with “clearly white” names receive far more callbacks for job interviews than those with Māori, Pacific Island or Asian names, despite the rest of the CV’s being exactly the same.

You can reduce this bias by having a system in place to score each CV objectively. Develop a scoring system that removes the basics like gender & name & takes the cold, hard facts from the CV and turns them into scientific, numerical data.   This one simple step will remove a great deal of bias from your selection process.

4. Stick to a script in interviews.

Finding common ground with a particular candidate & putting them at ease is something a lot of recruiters pride themselves on, but if you only do this for certain candidates, you do automatically give them an advantage.

Sticking to a script (including ice-breakers and competency based questions) is the best way to remove inherent bias from an interview.  You should also decide in advance what a great, an acceptable and a terrible answer to each question looks like & rank each candidate on a 1-5 scale to create a more transparent recruitment process that is free from bias.

5. Use a diverse interview panel.

Panel-based interviews can be intimidating, but they can also help to reduce inherent bias (if you opt for a diverse panel). Simply put, if one of your panel members connects with a candidate on a personal level, then there are still others in attendance to balance the overall decision about that person.

You should have a fair mix of men and women, cultural diversity and a broad age range on the panel.

This doesn’t just help combat unconscious bias, it also helps uncover and fix any blind spots in the interviews and eradicates decisions made on “gut feeling.”

Some organisations involve a manager from a totally unrelated field, into the interview panel to provide a ‘disinterested’ party, which helps prevent ‘thin slice error’ where a candidate can bond with the panel over a particular job function but they overlook the fact that they just aren’t a good fit for the company.

6. Use psychometric testing.

Psychometric tests are designed to assess the abilities and natural talents of candidates, giving a more reliable and accurate insight into how well-suited a person is for a particular role. In this way, they help to eliminate unconscious bias, which can otherwise play a role in the selection of a successful candidate.

By way of example, a bright and bubbly candidate applying for a senior accountant role, may have all the right background details on paper and present well at an interview. However, an ability assessment may reveal the candidate has a very low numerical ability, which could prove disappointing in the role despite the candidate ticking all the other boxes in terms of demeanor, academic record and experience.

7.   Recognise your privilege.

While your personal interactions with people of different races may be entirely positive—and you may even claim to “not see color”—the true problem here is that white privilege is set into the seams of every society.

Simply put, white privilege means white citizens inherently have greater access to power and resources than people of other races do. White privilege means the world is rigged in your favor—whether you asked for it or not.

This unequal access to power and resources means that the average white family possesses 10 times the median wealth of a black family, according to McKinsey & Co. In fact, that same study also found that a white person can expect to earn one million dollars more than a black person in their lifetime.

Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to die at the hands of police. This means that black mothers must teach their children how to survive police, while white families are teaching their children to read.

Lean in and learn how your responsibility for racism lies in letting white privilege persist. Stop being defensive of your (in)actions to date, and open your mind to explore new ways to help solve the problem.