Unconscious bias observers could boost interview inclusivity

Including impartial unconscious bias observers in interviews could help to make recruitment more inclusive for LGBT+ job seekers, according to research from the University of Manchester.

Speaking at Stonewall UK's Workplace Conference, Paul Marks-Jones, equality, diversity and inclusion partner at the university, said that it has been well received as it also represents an effective way of maximising an organisation’s resources. The university has been trialling the method. 

“It’s a good way to utilise and capitalise on talent and resources in your organisation,” he told HR magazine in an interview. 

“In a lot of organisations, you may have one senior person from the BAME community or the disabled community, for example, who are always used as a flag-bearer. By having an unconscious bias observer, you’re helping people to develop."

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The role of the chosen observer is to note down any unconscious biases displayed by an interviewer.

These could include non-inclusive language, or the exclusionary framing of questions which alienate a particular equality group.

Marks-Jones added: “The feedback they will give might help people hone their interview skills as well. This forms part of a really inclusive recruitment process.”

Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley said she was in favour of experimenting with the recruitment process so that candidates don’t have to be assessed in the traditional way.

She added it would make the process fairer for the LGBT+ community and other members of other minorities.

She told HR magazine: “We need to try different things. These could include not using CVs at all and asking people to demonstrate their skills in different ways. Even basic things such as businesses ensuring their candidate packs are making it clear that they welcome and champion candidates of all kinds, and making sure their interview panels and processes are reflective of the community of workers you want to build.

“We need to keep experimenting and learning, and learn at an individual company level – what works for one company may not necessarily work for another.”