How Technology Can Help Eliminate Bias in Recruitment

Discrimination happens. We don’t always mean it to, but it does. And though it’s not necessarily the product of malicious intent, it can impede our ability to build a robust and diverse workforce that offers a multitude of experiences and ideas. And that’s a bad thing.

Charities need diversity in order to thrive. They need people working from the top down that understand their beneficiaries’ experiences. They need a mix of ideas, backgrounds and beliefs to ensure every side of the issue is investigated and addressed.

Yet we, as a sector, continue to fall short when it comes to diversity. So how can you, as charity recruiters, start addressing this issue from the ground up? How can you eliminate the possibility of inherent bias from the hiring stage? Don’t worry, there are plenty of digital tools that can help you do just that.

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First, let’s talk about the job spec

Job specs are pretty unbiased, right? They’re nothing more than a list of skills and experiences needed to do a job. Surely, there’s nothing off-putting or preferential about that. Wrong.

We may not realise that we’re doing it, but the language we use is reflective of the type of person we’re looking for. Recent studies have shown words associated with male or female stereotypes can affect who’s applying. Take the phrase, ‘we’re looking for someone to manage a team’. Analysis based on hundreds of job ads shows that the word ‘manage’ encourages more men to apply than women. Whereas if you said, ‘develop a team’, that might encourage more women to apply.

The same is true when it comes to age and ethnicity. We tend to base a job advert off the last person who held the position. But what we should be doing instead is shaping it in a way that encourages all candidates across the board.

There are plenty of tools that can help you out by scanning your job spec and letting you know what words and phrases might be biased towards a particular gender, age or ethnicity. Textio and Gender Decoders are great examples of this.

Have you ever considered using blind recruitment?

This is a concept that’s been gaining popularity across the sector. Picture this—you just have access to a candidate’s skills and experience. Everything else is stripped back. No name, no address, no education; anything that could potentially infer their race, gender or socioeconomic background is removed, allowing you to be as unbiased as possible. Not only does this put a greater emphasis on skill, but it allows you to consider a wider range of people than ever before.

We don’t mean to make snap judgements based on someone’s name, but it happens, nonetheless. One study in France revealed that candidates with foreign-sounding names were less likely to get a call back from recruiters. And research conducted by the NatCen Department for Work and Pensions found that applicants with white-sounding names were 74% more likely to receive a response.

There are several application tools out there that allow you to conduct your recruitment blindly. You can also specify in your job application that you’d like the candidate to submit a blind CV (i.e. remove any signifiers that can determine age, gender or ethnicity).

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The benefits of AI-based interviewing

Of course, you can hide things like gender and ethnicity as much as possible in the early stages of recruitment, but what do you do when it’s time to interview a candidate? Though we wouldn’t recommend conducting all interview stages through AI, it’s worth considering how it can help during the screening process.

AI chatbots make it easier to collect candidate information without allowing inherent bias to contaminate that collection process. An AI chatbot can ask candidates about certain skills, then analyse those answers and pass the results on to recruiters. What more could you ask for?

Chatbots like Jobpal are easy to use and can integrate with popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. They’re also available 24/7, which means they can respond to candidate questions immediately, no matter the time. Just think about how much time and work that will save you!

But don’t forget the human element…

AI has done wonders for the recruitment space. It’s allowed us to parse through more applications, faster. It’s helped to standardise the job application experience. But now, more than anything, we need to think about ways to be disruptive, not just to maintain the status quo.

Consider your company culture—are you doing enough to encourage diversity in your charity? Or are you simply keeping things moving the way they always have been? AI can catch out bias before it goes too far, but there’s also an element of introspection and evaluation that needs to be done from a company level. Consider your trustee board—is it diverse enough? What about your management team? These are the sorts of questions you should be asking yourself in order to inspire real and positive change.

Tags: AI, bias in recruitment, charity recruitment, diversity, inclusion, technology

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About the author

Stephanie Dotto

Content & SEO Lead at CharityJob. Lover of fiction, films and food. In a previous life, she was a music and tourism journalist. When she’s not writing and editing blog content, she is working on her novel.