Diversity Starts In Recruiting

Discrimination Trends Continue, but HR Can Take Action To Correct the Problem

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that job applicants with “Black” sounding names were significantly less likely to receive an interview call back by Fortune 500 companies. (read more in our blog)  Researchers sent more than 80,000 fake resumes to some of the largest companies in the US. They measured whether changing the name at the top of an otherwise solid resume would impact its progress. It unfortunately did. This new study reminded me of a very similar study conducted more than 15 years ago, which also found similar disparity at work. Despite so much positive momentum towards diversity in the US, it’s sad to see that bias in hiring is still present.

Prior to her death in 2018, esteemed Harvard professor Devah Pager conducted research which took this a step further. Her work on interview call backs was published in the American Journal of Sociology. She also dug into the impact a criminal record brought to the mix. She found that African Americans were generally called back at a rate less than half that of their Caucasian counterparts (41%). The presence of any criminal record further deteriorated the likelihood of a call back by about 30 percent.

As someone who has worked with HR leaders for nearly two decades, I’m troubled by these numbers. And I suspect that most of my colleagues in Human Resources and Diversity also share these concerns. But how to fix the problem often isn’t crystal clear. Well here are a few ideas that wouldn’t be that difficult to implement, and which could have significant impact.

Try Fishing In A New Pond…or Two, or Three

If your current process isn’t sourcing enough diverse applicants, maybe its time to shake up the places your looking? For example, Workplace Dynamics published a 5 page list of sources you might consider. Suggest your recruiters evaluate these, and strive to find even better ones. In addition, some employers rely heavily on ATS systems to cull down a large pool of applicants to a more manageably-sized group. Consider the keywords you’re using. For example, you might add popular terms like “Girl Coders”, or “STEMWomen” to the mix to improve sourcing of females candidates for an IT position. Also consider that many diversity organizations provide scholarships to the best and the brightest. Recipients might be proud enough about these accomplishments to list them on their resume, so perhaps look for them as keywords? Finally, consider sending recruiters to diverse association mixers such as those held at local chapters of the National Black MBA Association or the Association of Latino Professionals for America.

Applicants with a past criminal records represent a largely untapped applicant pool at a time when job seekers are hard to find, and employers should take note. While this needs to be done carefully, there are many social benefits to helping ex-convicts to find work after incarceration. There can also be financial benefits as well considering state and federal tax credit programs. Johnny Taylor, SHRM’s President & CEO, said it well in a recent USA Today series, “individuals with a conviction need not be painted with a broad brush and each case deserves its own examination. People who have made mistakes and paid the penalty deserve a fair chance to bring their much-needed skills back into the workplace. When done right they can represent a valuable resource for untapped talent.”

Tweak Your Interview Process with Diversity in Mind

Are you interview techniques part of the problem? Many experts recommend you start with a job profile that lists out the ideal background a candidate would need to be successful. This list would lead you to develop questions to get to the root of whether an applicant has these attributes. Deliberately use the same questions and score card for all applicants to ensure bias doesn’t creep in.

In a must-read article written by Dave Melville, the CEO of executive search firm the Bowdoin Group, he outlines 3 ways that hiring managers and recruiters can tweak their approach to behavioral interviewing to ensure it truly finds the best candidate – not just the most privileged.

Apply Consistent Relevancy Scoring to Criminal Background Checks

For many years, the background check industry has been hyper-focused on ensuring the accuracy of the information being reported. While ensuring any reported criminal record is up to date and that it conclusively belongs to your job candidate is very important, that isn’t the end of the story. Employers have an obligation to fairly consider whether the criminal record is relevant to the position and timely enough to matter.  Download our free whitepaper about the Fair Use of Criminal Records in the Hiring Process for more details on the growing legislation across the country and for breakthrough HR strategies to consistently assess records.

Helping employers tweak their processes to be more inclusive and fair is exactly why I founded Fair Screen. Employers will find that little changes in this area speed the time to hire, include more diverse candidates, and provide a lot of social benefits to our society.

Measure Managers on the Future Success of Diverse Hires

Many companies in the US have begun using Diversity Scorecards to measure the actual results of their diversity efforts across the organization. Originally these were geared towards gender measurements, and have adapted over time to include other areas as well. These KPI metrics can track parameters such as the extent to which different diversity groups were recruited, how many were promoted (and at what levels), the percentage being given raises in their salaries and bonuses (and at what rates), the number of cases of discrimination reported. This data can be eye opening when tracked over time, and compared to similar metrics for the overall company. How would your company rate?

In order to achieve meaningful change in the fairness of hiring, HR leaders need to take positive steps to break the cycle.  Can you expand where you search for applicants and hold managers more accountable for the success of diversity applicants through KPIs?  Are there changes you can make to the way you interview that would reduce unconscious bias and level the playing field for diverse applicants.  Are there changes you can make to your background checks that would apply more fairness?