The dangers of unconscious bias in recruitment

We know that, despite competency based interviewing techniques, the recruitment process isn’t a level playing field. Prospective candidates still suffer, often due to ‘unconscious bias’. So what exactly do we mean by this term, and why is it important?

Unconscious bias is a problem for all recruiters, which is aggravated by the fact that it can be difficult to recognise, meaning we make judgements based on unconscious associations without realising it. For example, if we feel that an applicant is similar to us, we naturally have a preference for them, whether we are aware of it or not. This leads to some candidates having an unfair advantage over others and, as a recruiter, you may not be selecting the best person for the job.

This issue of fairness in recruitment has been recognised by the government. In April last year it launched its “Business Compact” as part of its social mobility strategy, with the goal of eradicating bias from employment decisions. It aims to: “Ensure that recruitment processes don’t allow people to be inadvertently screened out because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group.”

One year on, and it’s clear that more needs to be done. A recent survey, carried out by law firm Pannone, found that 79% of HR professionals said that unconscious bias is widespread – a clear indication that there is still a need to deal with this problem. At McGregor Boyall we feel this issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, and we’re looking at ways to do this.

On the evening of 5th July, we are holding a highly interactive workshop on unconscious bias for internal recruitment, resourcing and HR professionals. The event will be led by Angela Peacock, Managing Director of The People Development Team, who is an award winning specialist in the fields of recruitment, bias, talent and inclusion.

For further details of the workshop, contact Lucy Frost, Talent Manager at McGregor Boyall – Lfrost@mcgregor-boyall.com. If you can’t make it though don’t panic! We will be releasing a white paper on this subject following the event.

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