Unconscious bias and the search for talent

Unconscious bias and the search for talent

By Allan Howells

In the race for talent, the education sector continues to recognise that unconscious bias can be a significant stumbling block.

How many times have you met someone for the first time and come away with an instantly positive impression and wondered why? There are various reasons for this: your frame of mind, a realisation that you both share a common interest or the fact that you studied at the same university. You may even come away from that first meeting speaking highly of the individual without really knowing them, which is fine in everyday life. However, when this is part of an interview process unconscious bias can distort your view of a candidate.

Fundamental to hiring the right talent is understanding the requirements of the role and then objectively assessing capability against that. Historically ‘the interview’ was designed to cover this. Yet the risk of conscious or unconscious bias is high and research suggests that the interview alone provides a positive correlation of only +0.2 when looking to recruit the right talent. To improve the correlation towards +0.7 (with +1.0 representing perfect correlation), competency-based questions, personality profiling and assessments are increasingly used alongside traditional recruitment processes.

We worked recently with an education client to help them secure a Director of Human Resources. The organisation was keen to widen its potential candidate pool and was therefore open to consider talent from both inside and outside the education sector. We used our considerable experience of psychometric testing to evaluate six shortlisted candidates. Suitability in terms of technical ability and cultural fit were assessed using a range of psychometric tools. Each candidate took our proprietary online personality test (Credo), along with a test of managerial judgment. They then received a one-hour telephone interview to discuss and verify the outputs from their psychometrics. We were then able to advise the final selection panel on themes and individual questions that the panel could explore with each candidate at interview. We delivered our advice to the selection panel in person so that members had an opportunity to explore our findings and seek additional insight. To deliver a positive candidate experience, we provided each candidate with copies of their psychometric reports and a personal debrief.

The client recognised the value that psychometric testing offered alongside the other elements of the selection process. In arriving at their decision, they were able to assure themselves that the risks of unconscious bias had been mitigated. Although they ultimately appointed a candidate with a background gained from the education sector, the overall approach taken demonstrated that the search and shortlisting delivered appointable candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience acquired from working inside and outside the education sector. Retaining an open mind, avoiding preconceived expectations, and adopting an evidenced-based approach to decision making enables the best talent to be sourced and secured.

If, like us, you believe that recruitment is a strategic investment for the organisation then why wouldn’t you support your decision making with an evidence-based approach that complements the hearts and minds outcomes secured from traditional face-to-face interviews?

For more information on our services please contact Wickland Westcott on 01625 508 100 or email ww@wickland-westcott.com.

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