Jobseekers facing "heavy and unconscious bias"

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Jobseekers face heavy and unconscious bias in the selection process, according to research from the CIPD.

The report, A head for hiring: the behavioural science of recruitment and selection, found that identical CVs received more call-backs when the applicant had a ‘white’ name as opposed to one associated with an ethnic minority group, and that both male and female managers’ unconscious bias favours men over women during hiring decisions.

The researchers suggested that managers like to hire ‘Mini-Mes’: people similar to themselves in terms of hobbies, experiences and how they present themselves at interview.

They also warned that unconscious bias could lead to unintended behaviours such as asking different questions to different participants in order to unconsciously re-affirm initial impressions (confirmation bias), or remembering only the most salient part of the interview and the very end of the interview (peak-end effects).

Jonny Gifford, a research adviser at the CIPD, warned interviewers not to rely on gut instinct. “We like to think we can spot talent, but insights from behavioural science show that our decision-making is actually highly prone to ‘sloppy thinking’ and bias,” he said. “Even highly trained assessors make systematically different decisions depending on the time of day and their cognitive load or ‘brain-strain’ at that point in time.

“Regardless of the level of resources and techniques one has to work with, there are steps that employers and recruiters can take to ensure that candidates get a fair recruitment experience, and that organisations find the person that best fits the role and can drive business performance.”

The CIPD recommends grouping and anonymising CVs when reviewing them to try to neutralise unconscious bias. When it comes to interviewing managers should focus questions on collecting information, not on making the decision, then to stick to what the interview scores say for the final decision.

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