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CV-based hiring a barrier to women's recruitment

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Women with the skills to make it to the top are being kept from realising their potential by CV-based hiring processes.

Replacing CV-based recruitment with an anonymised series of skills and cognitive tests sharply increases the number of women hired into senior roles, according to new research by recruitment agency Applied.

The study, of over 2,000 skills-based hires into senior roles, found that the number of women hired into high-level positions increased by 68% compared to the global average.

Over half (52%) of all successful candidates were women, up from the global average of 31%. 


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Khyati Sundaram, CEO of Applied, told HR magazine that CVs are a minefield for bias.

She said: “For female applicants, unconscious bias could be triggered by anything from career breaks to the fact that they’re a woman applying for a role in a male-dominated sector

“By so much as disclosing their name and gender, women will often be discounted for jobs they’re more than qualified for before they’ve even had a chance to interview.”

Through moving to skills-based processes, she added, where candidates are tested for role-relevant skills, employers can remove opportunity for bias to creep in. 

She said: “It’s the most accurate way of predicting performance, and the fairest way of assessing candidates.”

Pavita Cooper, vice chair of the 30% Club, a group that advocates for 30% representation of women at board and executive committee levels, told HR magazine: “When you take off particularly unpronounceable names, and you do blind recruitment, all disadvantaged groups – whether women or ethnic minorities – always do better.”

She added: “It’s all about language. Women may or may not be using the sort of coded language that triggers for the people assessing [ideas of] what they believe to be the requisite skills or experience.”

Rather than advancing any one group in particular,  Sundaram added: “The aim [of skills-based hiring] is to find the best candidate for each role.”

When recruiting with skills-based processes, women accounted for more than four out of five (81%) senior hires in the publishing industry, against a global average of 55%.

Education (67%) saw similarly strong representation, considering that women account for just 38% of headteachers at primary schools, and 25% of professors in higher education institutions.

Sundaram added: “Our research shows that when you remove the human biases embedded in recruitment systems, it follows that diverse talent shines through.”

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