It is the responsibility of organisations everywhere to modernise and update their recruitment processes to be more inclusive, says Teresa Boughey. Not only is it indicative of a time when employees are not willing to settle for less, but also of a change in how people are assessed and considered
From February to April 2022, the number of job vacancies rose to a record of 1,295,000, more than double the pre-Covid-19 rate of January-March 2020. At the same time, the UK unemployment rate is at the lowest it has been in 50 years. With so many job openings unfilled, candidates have more power than ever before to pick and choose the organisation that best fits them, and employers are under unprecedented pressure to cater to their demands. But beyond making roles more attractive out of necessity, what else should businesses be doing to increase the chance of candidates choosing them?
At this point, it makes sense for businesses to be doing all they can to attract the best new talent, not only to gain an edge against rival organisations, but also in recognition of the benefits that a diverse and engaged workforce can bring for any company.
Today’s tight talent labour market provides employers with a once in a generation opportunity to rethink their recruitment strategies. Recruiting from the widest possible, and therefore, often unexploited talent pool creates significant opportunities for organisations. Not only is a broader and more inclusive recruitment approach likely to improve an employer’s chance of hiring quality candidates in an ever-competitive market, it also opens doors to receive input from potentially underrepresented groups. This creates opportunities to gain fresh perspectives that could add undeniable quality to the product or service offered.
Recognise the risk of unconscious biases
However being inclusive is often easier said than done. For many organisations it would require a significant and intentional shift and change of mindset. Whether we like to admit it, we all have a level of bias.
Unconscious bias is defined as prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Unconscious bias can manifest in many ways, such as how we judge someone and/or a situation. Therefore, detecting and removing these unconscious biases from the recruitment process will move towards making it more inclusive. Often, bias and prejudices are embedded into even the smallest of practical steps in the recruitment process, not just in the way people are assessed or considered. So what are some of the key areas to look out for to make sure inclusiveness is a core element of a business’s hiring strategy?
1Beware the limitations of automated hiring processes
The increasing use of automated hiring platforms results in a double edge sword approach for organisations. On the one hand they appear efficient, streamlining the selection process and applying filters to capture those that most closely match the requirements of the role. Conversely, automated hiring platforms can systematically screen out large numbers of job seekers who may well fit the bill, but whose CVs fail to reach the desks of hiring managers due to algorithms programmed to filter out candidates.
Therefore, organisations really need to tune into the large pool of talent which is often overlooked as a result of technology-fuelled exclusion. There are multiple ways to do this, but it largely boils down to relying on more screening by humans, those who understand the vacant role well and are able to assess candidates’ suitability for a role impartially but creatively.
2Revise job descriptions
Organisations should consider rewriting job descriptions as an essential part of making recruitment more inclusive for all. Those producing job specifications must be vigilant and take proactive steps to remove unnecessary skills and or expertise from those listed as a must-have for the job role without true consideration of if the deliverables of the position really require them. Instead, the criteria can be adapted to state an understanding and acknowledgement that many of the skills and attributes needed for the role, can in fact, be taught on the job. A candidate’s commitment to developing those skills can, in many instances, be enough.
3Cut the jargon on job advertisements
Job advertisements should always be made as accessible as possible. Organisations should prioritise simplifying job listings, stripping out daunting jargon which in the long run, is usually proved to have limited to no effect on how well the role is understood. Hiring managers must also be intentional in avoiding language which has shown to deter minority applicants.
4Review recruitment metrics
Organisations that are committed to enhancing the diversity of candidates should take time to review their recruitment metrics. Currently, organisations focus on hiring success criteria such as cost and the time it takes to fill vacancies. However, when this metric is switched on its head and the focus is placed on how long it takes new employees to get up to speed, how long they stay in the role, and the opportunities for career progression, the organisation is given a much clearer picture of employee experience. It also provides a greater chance for managers to recognise and play an interconnected part of cultural success. Intentional changes to rules of assessment and which benchmarks are considered to indicate success are key to making the whole recruitment process more equitable.
5Challenge ‘credential creep’
‘Credential creep’ is a growing trend in recruitment. It refers to the fact that in many industries, the minimum credentials required to be deemed qualified for a role are increasing. It is most obviously demonstrated in the number of positions which list a degree as necessary to be considered. Many large companies however are challenging this. They have begun thinking more about how and whom they hire. For example, IBM has eliminated college degree requirements for many roles. Simple acts like this are enough to broadly expand the prospective talent pool for any job.
‘Credential creep’ as a trend has also never been more disputed by prospective candidates, with many graduates, school leavers or those changing careers questioning whether what is said on paper is really that important. University is also projected to lose its appeal for many school leavers in coming years as we see a rise in vocational qualifications and schemes, indicating that the job market is slowly shifting away from such a tick-box approach to hiring anyway.
6Include onboarding in the hiring process
Linking with the points above, organisations really need to tune into the onboarding process as part of the hiring process. A one-size-fits-all approach is often ineffective and does not take into account individuals’ needs, growth areas, or their strengths. So, it is important that organisations create robust and inclusive onboarding programmes to help attract workers but also to continue supporting them beyond their first day, enabling them to be set up for success from day one onwards. Creating specific and detailed onboarding processes are an essential expression of an organisation’s commitment to helping individuals grow and develop within their role, and an acknowledgement that many of the job’s essential skills will be acquired on the job, not through prior study or experience.
7Be prepared to adapt the role to the candidate
Recruitment is a two way process. As much as an employer is seeking to select the best candidate for a position, that candidate must also like the business enough to dedicate their time, passion and skill to it. Sometimes, employers need to be flexible in order to get the right person on board. It’s important that organisations encourage candidates to voice their preferences, needs, and things that they would want to be considered throughout hiring and onboarding. Creating an open discussion from the start, free from judgement or pretences allows people to ask for adaptations such as hybrid working to suit their personal circumstances, equipment to aid their working day or potentially even adjustments in pay if that is what they think they should be receiving.
In every sector, job markets are experiencing an unprecedented shift. More than ever before, candidates are empowered to be more selective about the roles they consider, many fuelled by a want to change their career, receive higher pay or secure a better work-life balance. Simultaneously, businesses are being challenged in how they recruit, what they look for and who gets to call the shots. It is the responsibility of organisations everywhere to modernise and update their recruitment processes to be more inclusive. Not only is it indicative of a time when employees are not willing to settle for less, but also of a change in how people are assessed and considered. There has been a noticeable evolution in people’s definition of success and suitability. The net is being broadened, horizons expanded, and it is only going to bring a positive impact for organisations and potential employees alike.
Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247. She is a TEDx speaker, a Non-Executive Director, and author of Amazon bestseller Closing the Gap, designed to support business professionals at every stage of their inclusivity journey that was highly commended as an Exceptional Book that Promotes Diversity at the Business Book Awards 2020. Teresa is a UK Female Entrepreneur Ambassador, a Business Board member of the Women and Enterprise All-Party Parliamentary Group, and Chair of the Environment & EDI Workstream, and a regular contributor to the media and public policy. Learn more at https://www.junglehr.com/.