Tech and recruitment

Following on from another successful London Tech Week we recognise that now, more than ever before, tech can play a crucial part in the evolving recruitment process.

Certain organisations are increasingly moving away from the traditional route of collating and sifting through applicants’ CVs and instead, are opting for a more creative approach in order to recruit the best talent whilst using tech to remove any unconscious bias from the recruitment process.

Unconscious bias takes place whereby employers favour applicants that share their background or alternatively look like them. For example, an employer may recruit someone who went to the same university as them, or alternatively, an applicant that shares their ethnicity. This is also commonly known as mirror recruiting. Whilst these decisions are not made intentionally, by inevitably allowing unconscious bias to take place during the recruitment process, employers may miss out on a pool of talent.

At London Tech Week, we explored this issue further and as well as highlighting the pitfalls and potential discrimination claims that could arise as a result of mirror recruitment, we discussed how employers could remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process. One such option could be to remove CVs from the initial step (where possible), and instead ask applicants to complete tasks or provide examples of their work. This anonymised work would then be analysed by the employer, and a decision would be made as to which applicants move on to the next round of interviews.

By removing CVs from the equation, applicants have a real opportunity to demonstrate their practical skills early on during the recruitment process. Whilst they may not have the required degree from university, it may be that through their work/life experience, they have acquired the relevant knowledge and skillset in order to perform the necessary duties for the role.

At the first interview, the interviewing panel will be able to structure the interview to focus on the case study or the task that had been previously completed rather than the more traditional approach of the first interview concentrating on the applicant’s CV.

Some employers go further when taking steps to remove unconscious bias. As well as anonymising the applicants’ application, they will then randomise their answers in relation to each particular case study or task.

For example, if there are three applicants and they are all asked to answer the same three questions, when deciding who to shortlist for interviews the employer would randomise the answers from each applicant. The answer for each question would be individually scored and at the end of the process, the applications would no longer be anonymised or randomised and a total score for each applicant produced.

To illustrate:

The answers to question 1 would be reviewed in the following order:

  • Applicant 2
  • Applicant 1
  • Applicant 3

The answers to question 2 would be reviewed in the following order:

  • Applicant 1
  • Applicant 3
  • Applicant 2

The answers to question 3 would be reviewed in the following order:

  • Applicant 3
  • Applicant 1
  • Applicant 2

The purpose of taking such steps to anonymise and randomise data in the recruitment process is to ensure that businesses are recruiting the best talent possible based on the skillset required – rather than allowing any unconscious bias to seep into the process. By enabling mirror recruitment to continue, not only does it mean that inevitably there will be a lack of diversity in the workforce, it could also mean that the business is limiting its pool of talent.

Employers should ensure that all staff are aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and in particular, how this applies to the recruitment process. In certain circumstances, unconscious bias can be deemed to be discriminatory where the bias relates to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 such as age, sex, race, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief.

Unlike with claims for unfair dismissal, prospective employees do not have to satisfy the minimum requisite period of service of 2 years employment in order to bring a claim for discrimination – such protection applies even before they are employees during the recruitment process. As many employers are aware, the compensation that can be awarded for successful claims of discrimination is uncapped and can cause great damage to the reputation of the organisation.

It is hoped that with the help of tech, employers can recruit the best talent for the particular role without their judgment being clouded by any unconscious bias. Not only will this enable the business to recruit and attract a more diverse workforce, they will also be reducing the risk of facing successful discrimination claims during the recruitment process.

Reema Jethwa

Senior Associate – Employment

+44 (0) 20 7307 3971

reema.j@joelsonlaw.com

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.