Amending our recruitment process to support equality and diversity

Diverse hands raisedIn line with our commitment to equality and diversity, Stone Parish Council has reviewed and amended its recruitment processes to be more ethical and un-biased.

We have acknowledged that traditional recruitment methods are inherently prone to bias and have sought to remove this as much as possible from our process. We understand that no matter how well-intentioned our recruiters may be, as humans, we are all subject to instinctive and unconscious biases that affect our decision-making.

Unconscious bias describes any prejudices we have that we are unaware of. We instinctively categorise others on many characteristics such as appearance, ethnicity, age, educational attainment and previous employment, which affects our judgement about who is the preferred candidate and can lead to overlooking the best person for the job.

Several biases come into play when we meet other people that affect how we feel about them – we easily feel more connected to people that are like ourselves and we often make assumptions or stereotype people based on certain characteristics or information that we may know about them.

As a result of this, it is easy for our judgement to become flawed, even though we feel we make decisions based on sound ‘reasons’.

As an organisation, we have a deep commitment to ongoing training and development of both our staff and council members, but we are aware that unconscious bias training is not particularly effective, mainly because unconscious bias is an instinctive, human response.

So instead of trying to change the behaviour of our team on this subject, we have instead chosen to change our processes to remove opportunities for bias and ensure we can make recruitment decisions based on criteria that can demonstrate someone’s suitability for a role.

How have we achieved this?

CV on a clipboardWe started by acknowledging that CVs are the starting point for immediate bias and are also not an effective way to identify a strong candidate.

Many sections of a CV are grounds for biased assumptions: studies have shown that name alone has a huge bearing on the chances of being shortlisted; and immediate judgements are made regarding educational or employment background, which are poor predictors of ability anyway.

Along with the statistic that around a third of applicants falsify information on their CV, it proved impossible to continue utilising these if we were aiming for effective and unbiased recruitment, so we have removed these from our process.

In place of CV’s, we have instated application forms that ask relevant questions to initially assess candidate’s skills and suitability based on their response.

Although candidates are required to provide personal contact information and complete an equal opportunity form when applying (so we can effectively measure equality and diversity among applications), our recruitment system has been automated to withhold these details so that only an identifying number and the responses to skill and suitability questions are seen by the shortlisting manager. This ensures shortlisting is based solely on demonstrated skill, approach and attitude.

Rather than reviewing each candidate in turn (which affects judgement based on how early or late a candidate is viewed in the process), responses to each question are reviewed concurrently to enable comparison of candidates, against pre-determined scoring criteria to accurately record results. This is repeated for all questions to enable an overall score for each candidate that informs the shortlisting outcome.

Following shortlisting, we use individual and group assessments to observe how candidates respond to tasks or situations that might present themselves as part of the advertised role. A panel of three recruiters separately score their observations against set criteria to ensure an objective outcome. Scores from these assessments inform which candidates are invited to third stage interviews.

Structured final interviews are used to enable discussion to confirm alignment with the council’s mission and values. Interview questions are the same for each candidate to enable effective comparison. Two people that have not been involved in the process join the hiring manager to form the interview panel to enable increased diversity of perspective.

As we have recorded scores throughout each stage of the process, we have objective data to enable valuable feedback to be provided to applicants so they can understand how they compared and where they could improve to help them in future applications. We feel this provides something of value to applicants to reflect their time in the process, even if they were unsuccessful.

We also measure the results of equality and diversity achieved during recruitment campaign to enable assessment of potential improvements and inform future recruitment activity. For complete transparency, details of equality and diversity performance in recruitment are published on our website.

The steps we have taken to amend our recruitment process were not difficult, only requiring minor modification to existing systems and processes.

Although it is still early days, and the impact of this approach is yet to be measured, we hope these changes will make a noticeable difference in both supporting improved equality and diversity and removing any disadvantage from our process to provide equal opportunities for all.