In this week's blog: Is your recruitment process inadvertently biased?
Every year, The Spectator magazine takes on an intern using a rather surprising process.¹
It forbids candidates from submitting their CV.
Instead, the editorial department selects its interns based on the results of an aptitude test that purposely does not include names, ages, qualifications or experience.
Each candidate is judged on their talent alone.
And it’s led to some surprising hires, including a 48-year-old mum-of-three with no previous journalism experience, and a long-time teacher who had decided to change profession.
There is a lesson here for every company, yours included.
You need to look closely at your recruitment processes, to make sure that you are not overlooking unconventional - but otherwise good - candidates for the job.
In particular, you need to make sure that you are not inadvertently turning away older workers, who may be switching careers…
Returning from a long career break…
Re-entering the workforce after running their own businesses…
Or trying to get a full-time job, after working part-time.
These scenarios are so common.
As we live for longer, the structure of people’s careers is changing and becoming far more flexible and fluid, particularly as people enter their 40s and 50s.
People are also working a lot longer. There are increasing numbers of 50-, 60-, even 70-year olds eager to work and still at their peak, with decades of experience and wisdom to offer.
To maximise your talent pool, you need to give these candidates a fair shot when you recruit.
But all too often, our recruitment processes are biased towards younger candidates (even if we don’t realise it… or mean them to be!).
For example, when you provide details about the job’s “attractive benefits package”, is that package applicable and attractive to candidates of all ages?
How about the required criteria?
If you ask for five years’ experience, will a brilliant stay-at-home mum who has been out of the workforce for the last decade feel comfortable applying?
Or a talented career switcher, who might actually have all the right skills …. But has no direct experience?
All too often, older candidates often feel they are not wanted and will not be taken seriously as applicants.
We do not do enough to disabuse them.
To fix this problem, start by broadening your thinking around what really makes a good candidate.
(Goldman Sachs and General Motors, for example, have boosted their workforce by targeting mothers seeking to return to the job market.)2
Then look closely at your recruitment process.
Consider stating explicitly that you welcome applications from all age brackets.
Consider making additional training available to get the right candidate up-to-speed with current practices. This might involve basic social media marketing or building your new recruit’s computer skills, for example.
In case they worry you, stop viewing employment breaks with suspicion and see , instead, as a means of collecting alternative experience and wisdom.
And rethink outdated, age-related stereotypes that might blind you to the right candidate.
For example, many companies might assume that 57-year-old Brandon is going to require a higher starting salary than fresh-out-of-university John.
But Brandon is struggling to balance a full-time workload and caring for his ageing parents.
He would be happy to accept a part-time, lower salaried role with fewer hours and less stress. So he may very well be an excellent, affordable hire.
Meanwhile, you might think that 48-year old Lisa isn’t the best fit at your company because she performed poorly in her interview compared to a recent graduate.
But Lisa has not interviewed for a job in nearly 15 years because she has been running a small business from home, while her children grew up.
This has given her many valuable skills, but she may not come across as well as the graduate, who had interview training.
Recognising and eliminating this unconscious bias is key to ensuring every single position is filled with the best possible candidate – no matter their age.
Does your company recognise these obstacles, and what effort do you make to overcome them? I’d love to hear – please let me know!
¹ “Internships at The Spectator for Summer 2019; no CV’s (or names) please!” The Spectator. https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/03/internships-at-the-spectator-for-summer-2019-no-cvs-or-names-please/
² Are Returnships the key to relaunching your career? https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2019/02/13/are-returnships-the-key-to-relaunching-your-career/#2762a9f83cdf