Unbiased Recruitment vs. Bias-Conscious Recruitment: A Necessary Shift in Recruitment Practices

In a world that is rapidly changing, the complexities of recruitment have grown exponentially. Organisational cultures, aspects of diversity, and the labour market itself have undergone significant transformations. Amidst these shifts, it's crucial to re-examine the terminology used within the recruitment industry. One such concept that has garnered attention is "open-minded recruitment." However, what occurs when a term like "open-minded recruitment" falls short? When it becomes apparent that it is more of an idealistic aspiration than a feasible approach? This is where the notion of "Bias-Conscious recruitment" emerges. We had the opportunity to interview Malin, a recruitment expert, and a fervent advocate for "bias-conscious recruitment." During the interview, Malin shared her insights and views on why there's a need to reevaluate our understanding of recruitment and develop a more mindful approach.

Bias-Free Recruitment and Its Challenges

One of the fundamental insights that Malin shares is that it’s impossible to be entirely bias-free. “There is no one in the entire world who can claim to be without bias, nor claim to have recruitment processes that are without bias,” she explains. To understand why this is so, we need to comprehend how human decisions are influenced by biases.

People are influenced by a multitude of factors, including how someone looks, their name, or what they tell about themselves. It’s these inherent biases that can sneak into the recruitment process, no matter how objective a process seems to be. Denying this fact is neither realistic nor productive. “To claim otherwise is incorrect and directly harmful,” warns Malin. “Remember, bias is human. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but failing to take this into account during selection and recruitment makes you a worse decision-maker and employer.”

Therefore, it’s important not to get stuck in a concept like “bias-free recruitment,” which can lead us to stop questioning ourselves and our processes. “If we claim that we work with bias-free recruitment, then it would mean that we are finished, that there is nothing more to develop or improve,” states Malin.

Bias-Conscious Recruitment: A More Realistic Way Forward

Instead of striving for something unattainable, Malin advocates the concept of “bias-conscious recruitment.” Prejudice is a part of humanity, and it is unrealistic to try to eliminate it completely. Instead, the goal is to reduce discrimination by increasing awareness and knowledge of prejudices and learning how they work and affect our decisions.

“Freedom from prejudice is a utopia, something unattainable. Prejudice awareness is somewhat achievable, as is bias-conscious recruitment,” points out Malin. The term “bias-conscious recruitment” is a more realistic objective that still means we strive to reduce discrimination and increase awareness of the impact of prejudice.

Evidence-Based Recruitment: A Key Component

A crucial aspect of bias-conscious recruitment is to rely on evidence-based methods. Malin emphasises three important parts of evidence-based recruitment:

  1. Valid methods: Use only methods and tools that have scientific support. If there are better alternatives, less effective methods should be replaced.
  2. Structure, structure, structure: Implement structure and standardization in the recruitment process. This increases stability and accuracy.
  3. Mechanical assessment: Use data to gather and evaluate information. This means working with measurable criteria and reducing the scope for subjectivity.

Education and Awareness: Understanding and Improving

Education and awareness are key in promoting bias-conscious recruitment. Malin emphasises the importance of understanding oneself and others better. It’s about comprehending why we react the way we do and why others interpret information differently. This knowledge is critical for Organisations and leaders, as it affects not only hiring decisions but the entire work culture and diversity initiatives.

At the same time, it’s important to realise that education and awareness have their limitations. The effect of education can diminish over time. Therefore, it’s important to supplement education with evidence-based tools that can help reduce the impact of prejudice.

Challenges and Opportunities for Bias-Conscious Recruitment

One of the biggest challenges for Organisations pursuing bias-conscious recruiting is that it’s a long-term effort that can be difficult to measure immediate gains from. It’s an investment in more sustainable success. Often, these efforts are not prioritised enough in terms of time and budget, which is a loss for all parties.

This effort should be integrated into an overall strategy where the management level must take responsibility for creating a holistic view of the employee perspective, from attraction to retention.

Bias-Conscious Recruitment: Words Matter

Malin emphasises that words have meaning. Throwing around terms like “bias-free recruitment” without backing it up with action is a form of false marketing. “If we don’t have bias-free recruitments, we shouldn’t call them that,” she underlines. It’s more important to focus on what we do rather than what we call it.

The Future of the Recruitment Industry: A Bright Outlook

Malin sees a bright future for the recruitment industry. More and more people are interested in doing the right thing and including recruitment experts in the decision-making process. The modern workforce values aspects such as diversity and inclusion, and Organisations must keep pace with these developments.

It’s easy to choose which side of history you want to be on, and the recruitment industry can become more bias-aware and create a fairer and more efficient labour market.

Partnership with the Recruitment Institute: A Common Endeavour

Malin concludes by talking about her partnership with the Recruitment Institute and how they both strive for a fairer and more inclusive labour market. By collaborating and sharing knowledge, they can offer solutions and encourage each other to think new and act differently.

“Above all, it means an incredible amount that we are actively working for the same cause,” says Malin. “We need more people to help each other. That’s how we get better, by challenging and supporting each other. We try to have this approach constantly permeating everything we do at Asker. We will fall into traps, we will make mistakes, just as we all can make mistakes. However, the evidence-based approach is our guiding light, our Asterisk.”

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The journey of Refapp towards evidence-based recruitment

At the core of the digital transformation in the recruitment landscape stands Refapp as a pioneer. To comprehend their journey and explore how they are transforming the recruitment landscape, we interviewed two key figures, Emira and David, for a deep dive into their vision and innovations. Emira, Refapp’s Chief Strategy Officer, initiated the journey with a story of friendship that led to an unexpected career move. Having previously worked with David via Assessio, when he shared the vision behind Refapp, it was like offering her an irresistible opportunity. Now, she leads overall product strategy and business development. David, co-founder and partner, connected his story with founder Philip and his previous work at Randstad. Investing in Refapp became a natural step when he realized the potential of digital reference checking.

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