Whether we want to admit it or not, discrimination is still a persistent problem in our sector—and much of that starts at the recruitment stage. We push for things like ‘culture fit’ and continue to hire like-for-like when instead we should be striving for a diversity of thought and experience. We need employees who can challenge the status quo and help us drive our causes forward. And we need to build a workforce that is more representative of the communities that we serve.
Yet, despite the continued cycle of diversity pledges and good intentions, organisations are not doing enough to address the fundamental problems that exist within our recruitment practices. According to CV-library, nearly 1 in 4 Brits have experienced discrimination during an interview. And a study conducted at the Centre for Social Integration at Nuffield College found that minority applicants send approximately 60% more applications in order to get through to the interview stage.
So how can we start changing the behaviours that are holding us back? And how can we make our interview processes more inclusive?
First, realise who you’re discriminating against
Discrimination is experienced for a number of reasons—age, gender, religion, sexuality and even physical and mental ability. We often disregard seemingly qualified candidates because of assumptions we make based on these categories. Thinking someone isn’t fit for a role because their age signifies less experience—or they have a disability, impairment or health condition that keeps them from commuting into the office—could potentially be forcing to you neglect certain talent potentials. By making ‘gut feeling’ assumptions, you’re ignoring the benefits candidates can bring to your organisation, all because they don’t fit a particular mould you have in your mind.
But the bigger problem is that discrimination isn’t very easy to monitor. Often, we don’t even realise we’re doing it, but those exact unconscious biases are having a detrimental impact on our hiring practices.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers in the UK are required to:
- Not discriminate against candidates when deciding who to employ
- Ensure all roles have equal access to opportunity
- Prevent discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work
At the end of the day, discrimination is illegal, and every candidate deserves a fair shot. If you want to improve diversity at your organisation, you need to start by reviewing the way you interview.
How to build a fair and focused interview process
When you’re drudging through dozens, if not hundreds, of CVs, you learn to make gut decisions on who is and isn’t a good fit. But if you want to break away from the like-for-like hiring trap and start investing in new, diverse talent, you need to fundamentally change the way you do this.
Step 1: Establish basic guidelines for reviewing CVs
Then, make sure everyone is on the same page. Remember that the CV only tells part of the story—you need to learn to read between the lines.
- Rather than asking: Where did this person go to university?
- Ask this instead: Has this person shown demonstrable growth in their career?
It’s all about how you frame your approach. Don’t go at it looking for a list of ‘don’t haves’; rather try to spot things they ‘do have’ that you didn’t even think of—those are the sort of qualities that can make them better suited for the role than someone else.
Step 2: Structure and plan out your interview process
This should be consistent for all applicants you decide to interview. That way, the playing field is level and every applicant has an equal chance for the position.
In order to ensure fair practices in your interview processes, we recommend doing the following:
- Diversify your interview panel
- Check with candidates ahead of time to find out if there are any accommodations that need to be made (i.e. a large enough space for a wheelchair or print outs with bigger text)
- Have a set of standard questions ready that you ask consistently for each candidate
- Ask flexible, open-ended questions to get a better idea of how the candidate problem solves
- Avoid asking single-answer questions
- Don’t include any trick questions or brain teasers that put candidates on the spot
- Focus on the value a candidate can bring to the company rather than if they tick off every box on your list
- Beware of the phrase ‘they seem like a good fit’
Considerations for remote interviews
Digital exclusion is a real and persistent issue, especially in a time when we’re having to rely more heavily on remote interviewing technology. In order to ensure fairness in a remote environment, we suggest the following:
- Test all technical tools needed for the interview ahead of time (i.e. video conferencing)
- Don’t assume every candidate is digitally savvy or has reliable technology—consider making arrangements for face-to-face or phone interviews where necessary
- Try to accommodate for all potential disruptions and don’t let technical difficulties influence your decisions
- Remember, remote interviews can be stressful for someone who is not as familiar with technology, so don’t be quick to judge someone’s anxiety or discomfort
- Make the necessary adjustments for disabled jobseekers—Do you need an interpreter? Or maybe enlarged text for interview tasks?
- Make it clear if you intend to record the interview—not everyone is comfortable with being recorded and this may influence their behaviour
Above all else, be empathetic
Job hunting is hard, especially when it feels like the cards are stacked against you. Try to see things from the candidate’s perspective and be respectful of their time. You never know if a candidate is on a tight schedule because of caring responsibilities, transit requirements or other constraints.
In the end, it’s about being open to potential and ensuring everybody gets a fair shot. Need more advice on how to build a more inclusive recruitment process? Download our new guide, Diversity in Recruitment: An Inclusive Hiring Guide for the Charity Sector today.