Why job seekers often face ‘unconscious bias’  in selection process, by report

By Yetunde Ebosele   |   15 September 2015   |   1:02 am  

Job seekers at an NIS recruitment exercise

Job seekers at an NIS recruitment exercise

A NEW report put together by  United Kingdom based  Chartered  Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD  has maintained that  behavioural science play crucial roles in  recruitment processes.

According to the report, behavioural science are often heavily skewed by a number of unconscious biases on the part of those hiring.

The report urged people with hiring responsibilities to consider using insights from behavioural science to overlook their first instincts about a person and “instead gain a more rounded and accurate picture of a candidate’s suitability for the job”.

Titled “Á Head for Hiring: The Behavioural Science of Recruitment”,  the  report explained that employers’ initial perceptions of whether a person will be a good fit can be determined by factors which have no real impact on performance, including visual, cultural, demographic and situational factors, among others.

It explained that both male and female managers tend to favour men over women in hiring decisions, adding that evidence suggests that “we hire ‘Mini-Me’s’; people like ourselves in terms of hobbies, experiences and how we dress/present ourselves at interview”

According to the report, the  time taken to make a recruitment decision often increases for the first few candidates,” but can drop as soon as the fourth, at which point confirmation bias or ‘selective hearing’ can come into play”

It explained that identical CVs seem to get more call-backs when the applicant is typically deemed to have a ‘white’ name as opposed to one that can obviously be associated with an ethnic minority group

Potential biases can stem from a need to justify one’s choice once it has been made (known as ‘self-serving bias’), or from wanting to avoid the perceived risk of hiring someone that’s different to the norm (known as ‘status quo bias’)

Open-ended interviews, it added  can lead to different participants being asked different questions to unconsciously re-affirm initial impressions

Jonny Gifford, Research Adviser at the CIPD, said: “So many recruitment decisions are based on a ‘gut instinct’ or what feels intuitively right, and this is a real problem. We like to think we can spot talent, but insights from behavioural science show that our decision-making is actually highly prone to ‘sloppy thinking’ and bias.

“Even highly trained assessors make systematically different decisions depending on the time of day and their ‘cognitive load’ or ‘brain-strain’ at that point in time. Regardless of the level of resources and techniques one has to work with, there are steps that employers and recruiters can take to ensure that candidates get a fair recruitment experience and that employers find the person that best fits the role and can drive business performance.”

The CIPD’s report makes a number of recommendations to ensure that employers have consistent and effective hiring practices and can make better hiring decisions. These include:

Before job interviews:
Test the wording of job adverts to see how it affects who applies
Group and anonymise CVs when reviewing them

During job interviews:
Spread assessments and decisions across days but keep other conditions like the room, the questions and even the refreshments similar. For instance, experiments have shown that interviewers experiencing physical warmth by holding a warm drink prior to assessing someone were more likely to judge them to be generous and caring

Focus interviews on collecting information, not on making the decision
Pre-commit to a set of interview questions that are directly related to performance on the job.  Questions should be structured in a way that focuses on the specifics of the job in hand to find the person with the best organisational and cultural fit.
In a related development, CIPD has cautioned politicians against either more or less employment regulation. The group explained that more or less regulation is likely to have little impact on UK labour market outcome.

Meanwhile, they argued that the year 2014 delivered growth but 2015 must be a year of productivity to sustain growth and improve earnings.

According to the group, “it’s unlikely that we’ll see any real increase in wage growth until 2016, says Mark Beatson, chief economist for CIPD. 

While improvements in the labour market are good news for jobseekers and good news for businesses, Beatson warns that the UK’s steady growth remains vulnerable to developments in Europe and that the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’ is an urgent issue for policy makers and businesses to address in order to sustain growth.

In his annual analysis of the UK labour market for the year 2015 Beatson predicts:
•            Employment may grow by as much as half a million in 2015, slightly more than the OBR forecast. This is due to the extra number of migrant workers seeking work, older workers looking to stay in work to strengthen their pension pots and more people leaving benefits and going into jobs under the Welfare to Work programme;
•            Economic growth of around 2.4% is expected in 2015, slightly lower than in 2014;
•            The Eurozone as a whole is still expected to grow by just 1.1% in 2015;
•            Interest rates are expected to rise but any increases are likely to be small;
•            Wage growth is likely to remain in the 1-2% range for most or all of 2015, although low inflation means average earnings may increase slightly in real terms. However, no significant increase in wage growth can be expected until 2016, and even then, it is not guaranteed
•            Productivity needs to form the core of economic policy and employers need to raise their productivity – including developing their workforce – before skills shortages mount.

Beatson said: “By historic standards, 2014 has been a year of reasonable growth, but there are still some very significant challenges that the government needs to address to attain more productivity. We said at the start of 2014 that productivity needed to be at the top of the agenda for Government and the same is true for this year. As a country we are still producing less value today than before the recession, and the years preceding that. We need a massive step-change as without growth in productivity, we are unlikely to see real earnings grow for some time”.

Beatson warns that while hiring intentions remain positive, at some stage labour shortages will start to become more acute and that taking advantage of relatively cheap labour now could have an impact on business competition, particularly in international markets. In both cases, he suggests that employers can manage these risks by investing in productivity. This might include investments in capital equipment such as technology and machinery as well as investing in intangible assets, including people.

He continues: “Upskilling the existing workforce is an insurance policy against future skills shortages, but these efforts will only be maximised through broader changes such as improved management practices and job design. We need to see a similar focus from policy makers. Higher productivity is necessary if living standards are to improve and economic policy in the next Parliament should focus on achieving it through creating an environment that supports productivity growth at a sector and local level. The UK’s productivity challenges are deep-rooted and require systemic change. We need government, employee representatives and business to come together and pinpoint where workplace practices are working, where they need to be challenged and how we can build a workplace of the future that really works and drives the productivity we need.”    The CIPD has recently published research, which pinpoints the role of effective management in the workplace and how this contributes to business productivity and organisational resilience Labour Market Adviser at CIPD, Gerwyn Davies,  said: “Headline employment figures provide a lot of festive sparkle given the improvement in the quality and quantity of jobs that have been created over the past year.  However, while average earnings have moved up a little in the last few months, this will not be sustainable unless we can improve our productivity. 

“CIPD research shows that the UK management is one area where we are falling behind our international competitors.  It shows that managers are failing to adopt many of the sophisticated management practices associated with higher levels of productivity. With anywhere between 30 and 45 per cent of employees having some type of managerial responsibility, there are many small but simple improvements each manager that can make a big difference to the growth prospects of UK organisations. If these practices were adopted more widely, the prospect of real wages accelerating sustainably against the backdrop of low inflation would offer a welcome change of fortunes for people in work in 2015.”

Beatson said: “On paper, 2014 has been a good year for the UK economy but Autumn Statement and OBR forecasts make clear, finding long-term solutions to the UK’s productivity conundrum remains by far the greatest challenge facing our economy today.

“Despite the fact that the economy has grown faster than expected and employment growth is expected to be the highest we’ve seen since 1988, company profitability and productivity levels are, generally, still well below pre-recession levels and look set to stay there for some time. It’s only by boosting the UK’s productivity levels that we can deliver sustained improvements in wages and international competitiveness.

“There is no silver bullet for the productivity puzzle the UK is currently facing, but one area where there is a blind spot in current policy thinking is the role that improvements in workplace practices can play in enhancing productivity. We need a fundamental review of UK skills policy to capitalise on current investment in skills, to better understand how to help boost demand among employers for greater investment in skills and to improve how skills are used in the workplace.



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