Numerous studies and years of anecdotal evidence gathered by thousands of recruiters around the globe confirm that organizations continue to significantly compromise their productivity and profit by applying age-old stereotypes in the hiring process. And sadly, recruiters are often at the forefront of such behavior.
The big three are sexism, racism, and ageism.
So, how do we make sure we’re identifying the best talent and not applying stereotyping to our recruitment processes? Keep reading to find out eight ways you can avoid stereotyping while recruiting.
Be very clear about the skills and experience you need an employee to have.
Ask applicants to submit a cover letter so you can find out more about their experience and communication skills.
Conduct competency-based interviews where you ask every applicant the same questions.
8 Ways to Avoid Stereotyping While Recruiting
Here are eight ways to avoid stereotyping while recruiting (for hiring managers and recruiters alike).
Get the Job Description Right
While we all know that organizational fit makes for happy (and therefore productive) teams, building a job description around the actual skills and experience required is the first essential step. There are plenty of resources around to help you do this but here’s a good starting point.
Be Clear in Your About the Skills and Experience You Need
Too often I see recruitment advertising that barely mentions the skills and experience required. The space is taken up with (often boring) descriptions of the company and a list of the qualities they are looking for in the person. Usually, these are code for young and white.
Ask Applicants to Also Submit a Cover Letter With Their Resume
I know, I know … many of you think that cover letters are a waste of time and space. But they can be gold nuggets in evaluating key skills such as written communication. In this day and age of outsourcing your resume to an expert, the cover letter requires applicants to speak for themselves.
Develop and Apply the Key Selection Criteria to Create an Initial Shortlist of Candidates
From the job description, identify the 3-5 key selection criteria based on skills and experience. These are what I call the “deal breaker” criteria – if they don’t have this, they won’t be considered for the role.
These are things like tertiary qualifications, required certifications (e.g. CPA), industry experience, recent roles, size of past employers, and so on.
This pile of applications becomes your starting point for the evaluation process.
Evaluate the Written Communication Skills of Each Applicant
Résumes and cover letters tell us a lot about people. A well-written cover letter/email is a good indicator of someone’s written English skills and a reliable predictor of their verbal communication skills.
I can be a bit of a tyrant here but things like spelling errors demonstrate poor attention to detail in my book and poor use of grammar … well, let’s not go there.
If they are asked to submit a cover letter and don’t, I’ll tag them as someone who either can’t follow instructions, doesn’t respect the process, or is just plain lazy. See, I told you I can be a tyrant.
You’ve just established your first refined shortlist.
Phone Screen to Turn Applicants Into Candidates
At this stage, we still only have applicants for the role.
We need to get to a list of potential candidates and a phone interview is the most efficient way of doing this. A phone interview enables us to evaluate verbal communication skills while also gaining a deeper understanding of someone’s skills, experience, and personality.
A couple of well-crafted behavioral questions and a general conversation around salary requirements, availability and their motivation for applying is generally enough to give us a fairly good “gut feel” for someone.
Interview Every Candidate That Gets Through Steps 3-6 — But Make It Fair
Every candidate that has “passed” the last four steps is a potential candidate for your role and should be interviewed. To make sure you are being fair and equitable, develop a set of behavioral and competency-based interview questions based on the job description and selection criteria.
Ask every candidate the same questions and note their responses accurately and without bias. This is the very best way of ensuring you are not guilty of stereotyping.
You don’t want to spend a day in some Tribunal or Commission somewhere accused of discriminating against a candidate on the grounds of race, gender, or age.
This happens far too often.
Review Your Interview Notes Thoroughly to Develop the Final Shortlist
At the completion of your interview process, thoroughly review your notes and carefully select the 2-4 candidates who best fit the skills, experience, and behavioral attributes required in the role.
These are the candidates who should be presented for the final interview — with the client in the case of recruiters and a second team member in the case of hiring managers.
If all this seems too technical or too hard, just put yourself in the shoes of your applicants and treat them the way you’d like to be treated. That’s a pretty successful strategy too.
At the end of the day, as a recruiter, the final hiring decision will always rest with your client but the successful recruiter of the future will be one who always presents the most skilled, the most experienced and the most suitable candidates to their client.
And in an increasingly diverse world, those candidates aren’t always young, white, and male!
Avoiding Stereotyping FAQ
How do you remove bias from recruitment?
You can remove bias from recruitment by basing your decisions on a clear list of necessary qualifications.
This will help you ensure you are judging candidates only by which skills and experiences they have, not on their cultural background, gender, age, or other personal information.
To help with this further, don’t ask for candidate headshots, avoid looking up candidates before their interviews, and stick to a predetermined list of interview questions.
What is recruitment stereotyping?
Recruitment stereotyping is when recruiters assume things about candidates based on their race, gender, age, educational background, or other personal information.
Stereotyping can cause bias, which can result in discrimination.
Not only is discrimination illegal, but it’s also harmful to organizations, as it greatly limits the pool of talent and experience they’re pulling from.
How can stereotyping be avoided?
Stereotyping can be avoided by:
Writing a clear, skills-based job description.
Being clear about the skills and experience required for a position.
Asking applicants to submit a cover letter.
Using key selection criteria (skills and experience) to create a short list of candidates.
Evaluating the written communication skills of each applicant.
Conducting phone screenings.
Interviewing candidates fairly.
Using your notes to complete a final short list of candidates and make a hiring decision.
Treating candidates the way you want to be treated.
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