Scrap the bias in your recruitment with these four steps

Target bullseye i Stock 480151575

When diversity, retention and return on investment are all essential, how do you attract and hire mission-driven people with both the skills and the passion it takes to thrive at your not-for-profit?

No matter how tight your budget, there are concrete steps you can take to make measurable improvements to both the diversity and predictivity of your hiring, without overhauling the entire process.

Scroll down to access our free webinar on this topic

Organisations using this approach tend to see:

  • up to four times as many ethnically diverse candidates attracted and selected
  • three times as many suitable candidates
  • 96% retention rate after one year
  • nine out of 10 average candidate experience rating (including unsuccessful applicants)

Step 1: Move from culture fit to mission alignment

You should absolutely be looking for people who embody your core values, but problems arise when this is framed as “culture fit”.

Company culture is largely subjective, and when viewed as something that must be “fitted into”, it can result in bias and unfair outcomes.

If your organisation is made up of a fairly homogeneous team, then chances are your culture will reflect this dominant demographic – and anyone outside of this will be penalised.

​​​​​The graph below, based on a study published in the journal Personnel Psychology, shows that someone’s perceived level of ‘culture fit’ isn’t correlated with how well they’ll perform in the job, or how long they’ll stick around.

Culture fit

By looking for alignment with your mission (the purpose of your organisation) and your values (the shared beliefs that guide your organisation’s decision making) instead of looking for culture fit, you’re able to find people who will work harmoniously with your team without their identity, hobbies, interests etc influencing your decision-making.

Step 2: Optimise your advertising

To attract talented, mission-aligned candidates, you need to write job advertisements that sell the job as if it were a product.

  • In job descriptions, tell, in detail, what a job entails.
  • In job advertisements, sell a short and punchy piece of marketing that sells the role.

If you’re not seeing the quality or diversity you’re aiming for, then ask yourself this: how can I change my product (the job) and how I talk about it to appeal to my target demographic? Instead of trying to find more diverse talent, ask yourself how you can adapt the job itself to appeal to these people. Be clear about the role and lifestyle you’re selling and why someone should want to join your organisation.

Below are just a few of the areas in which you can distinguish your organisation from others.

Applied graphic 2

If diversity is a priority, you’ll want to avoid things like excessive requirements, gendered language and reading burden, all of which have been shown to deter candidates.

The Applied job description analysis tool is designed to help organisations to craft more inclusive job descriptions (and job advertisements).

And the free job description template is designed to help them to attract diverse, mission-aligned talent.

Job description template

Step 3: Switch to de-biased assessments

Want to forge a more ethical, culture-led process? One of the simplest, yet most significant changes you can make is ditching the CV.

CVs lead to biased outcomes and simply aren’t very predictive of real-life ability.

Across the western world, those with non-white-sounding names are disproportionately disadvantaged in the hiring process.

Callback CVs

For more charts like this one, take a look at Applied’s Recruitment Bias Report.

If we then look at the results of the landmark meta-study by Schmidt and Hunter (1998), we can see that when it comes to predicting job performance, CVs are failing us here too.

Predicitive validity of assessment

To create bias-free, data-driven assessments, you need to follow these three simple steps:

Identify skills: What are the six to eight core skills needed for this job?

Identify tasks: What tasks will this person be doing in the role?

Create rubric: What does a good answer look like?

This is how we craft work samples – the most predictive assessment method, according to the chart above.

At Applied, we use three to five work sample questions to screen candidates anonymously, since we know most information on a CV triggers unconscious bias.

Work samples are tasks that candidates would have to tackle should they get the job, so they are asked to perform that task.

Example work sample

By asking candidates to simulate small parts of the role, you can test not only their skills but also how closely they embody your mission and values – by treating these as if they were skills in themselves.

While creativity and writing ability are generic skills needed for the job, you can also look for values like transparency.

Here’s how to turn values into ready-to-test skills:

Ready to test

Step 4: How to data-proof your hiring

To generate objective candidate scores, you first need to create marking criteria for each work sample question.

For each question, write down a few bullet points detailing what a good, mediocre and bad answer would include. The more closely you can tie your review guides to the skills and values you’re looking for, the easier it’ll be to map each candidate’s suitability.

At Applied, we use a straightforward one-to-five star scale to score each question.

Review guide

These scores can be averaged out at the end of the hiring process to build a candidate leaderboard and enable recruiters to make data-led, de-biased decisions.

Key takeaways

  • Start testing for mission and values alignment instead of culture fit
  • Make sure your job ads are appealing to the right people
  • Don’t list too many requirements, and consider running your job ads through a gender decoder
  • If you can’t axe CVs entirely, try supplementing them with work samples to test skills
  • Treat values like skills to make sure you’re testing for value-fit
  • Give yourself a review guide to score against.

Author Joe Caccavale writes for Applied, a platform that removes bias from the hiring process so that every candidate gets a fair go, and organisations get to hire the best people.

Watch the webinar

Free webinar: How to redesign your hiring practices

More resources: Visit our tools and resources page for more great advice

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!