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about 1 month ago by Mark Scully

Webinar Recap: Fair Hiring, Reducing Bias and Hiring Remotely at Scale Post Covid-19

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This year's events scene has been unlike any other. In the midst of a global pandemic, we pivoted our monthly Recruitment Think Tank meetup online last month by hosting a session with Oksana Afonina on The Art and Science of Powerful Questions. You can check out the recording of Oksana's talk to learn practical tips on improving questioning skills.

For our second Recruitment Think Tank webinar hosted last week, we were delighted to welcome Michael Blakley of Equitas to deliver a talk on Fair Hiring, Reducing Bias and Hiring Remotely at Scale Post Covid-19. In this talk, he highlighted the impact digital transformation will have on companies trying to hire at scale post COVID-19.

You can watch the full recording here:


Video Transcription

I've done a short agenda for today, and Chloe, you've stolen point one for me, in terms of my intro. And what I'm hoping to cover off are some of the things at Equitas that we've been doing a lot of research on. So the trends that are happening due to COVID-19, why fair hiring matters, and how you can start to build a case internally for it. How to debias your approach to hiring and the challenges that we're all going to face whenever we're hiring and scaling remotely after COVID and beyond. So clearly sum this up perfectly. And my claim to fame that I always tell everyone 10,000 plus interviews and assessments all across the UK. So from London, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and even further afield as well. I've had the opportunity to work for some amazing companies throughout that time, starting off at Aldi, working internally for them, moving out, hiring externally for them with my first company, a recruitment agency that I ever set up and then lots of different public sector contracts once I moved further and further outside down the country.

And I always find the same two problems. It was never a digital process and bias could creep in as well. And that's why we find that Equitas and like Chloe mentioned, interview software to try and reduce bias. So hiring post COVID-19, what are the trends and predictions that are coming out of the current pandemic? So you're going to see this theme come up a lot, not just for myself, but a lot of other people. So the volume of candidates that are going to apply for roles is going to increase post COVID-19. This graphic is absolutely amazing. It's been taken from tripod and this was just as the pandemic hit, and for one of the food retailers with their clients, and you could see the volumes of applications they were getting in a four week period, went up by nearly half a million people, so 500,000 plus.

That's going to continue post-COVID as well. What we've seen a lot of in the space at the minute is a lot of free job boards as well. Lots are popping up to try and help candidates find roles. Some are super specific, super niche, and there's a couple of amazing ones that are there, like stillhiring.io, work from home is a newsletter as well, it's becoming more regular, and a lot of people are starting to follow it as well. So these free job boards are amazing resource internally for hiring managers to start to utilize and find talent for quite cheap as well. But it's amazing for helping candidates find roles as well. One of the predictions that we're making as well is that employer brand is going to be replaced with employer reputation over the last sort of six to nine months, and throughout the pandemic and job brand is going to become a lot more important as well.

So employer reputation, the reason I've mentioned Virgin here, I really respected what they did in their interview and assessment process. It used to be a really robust process, but building up this really credible, amazing employer brand can be destroyed in a matter of weeks by things that are happening throughout the pandemic as well, and a fantastic resource to look out and see what companies have been doing throughout is by Elliot Campbell. If you search for that article there on bad business practices during COVID, you can start to see what people have actually been doing compared to what the brand has stood for a lot of years as well. Job brand, Bill Borman, at the start of the year said that job brand is going to be more important than employer brand. So how cool is your job, how important it is, how the responsibilities within that are starting to change and how innovative it is, so people need to put a good focus and whenever it comes to this next part, which is the job description, specs, and assessment tails, they are going to be redefined post-COVID.

A lot of the people that we're talking to in the market, heads of recruitment, heads of talent, they're all looking for these new ways to work on these new skills, behaviours, and skillsets that they're going to need within it. So it's going to have to be a lot more interactive, a lot more engaging and people aren't always going to just be able to roll out the same materials that they've been using for the last five, 10, 15 years. There has definitely been an increase in the adoption of HR Tech. This is a really cool graphic from CB Insights, which just starts to show some of the companies from different parts of the process that people are trying to use to deal with the increased volume of candidates.

I will go into a bit more detail about some of my favorite tools and technologies that you can use later on for high volumes of candidates and ones that I also really respect whenever it comes to making sure that it's a fair process that you go through throughout, but you can see every part of the sort of HR and hiring journey has some tools that really become an end to the process as well. This is something I've personally loved and I'm happy to do intrudes to any of these companies here as well. I've got to meet them throughout the pandemic and beyond. So there's been a massive growth of diversity inclusion job boards and communities, that have been set up either for specific communities or to just attract any underrepresented minorities within the workforce. So people like for VERCIDA, the Entrepreneurs Club, Hustle Crew, Coding Black Females, and BM Recruitment are all doing amazing work.

And they're getting used a lot more in the current environment because everyone's starting to move beyond the awareness point of diversity and inclusion on to like what steps are there that we can take, how do we attract people from different backgrounds within our company? So these are just five, there is a resource that I'll show you later on, which has a more definitive list, but they're always growing at the minute. So why does fair hiring matter and how can you build a case for it internally? This quote from Sue Hilda, she wasn't specifically about hiring, but I think it sums up perfectly the biggest issue that we face whenever it comes to hiring and interviewing, and assessing people. So most of the people in the world will either make decisions based on guessing or using their gut. And they're either going to be lucky or wrong.

And I suppose all the experts who are listening in the room today will have those sort of hiring managers that they engage with, or those recruiters who always say, "Oh, I just go with my gut," the world's changing and you can't get away with that anymore. You either just keep being lucky or wrong whenever you don't use evidence and data to back it up as well. I link this back to whenever I started my career at Aldi. I just thought I could ask good standard questions, have a particular type of person, whether it was someone who had also worked at McDonald's or something like that, some stupid connections that I was just trying to make, that didn't always correlate online and just thinking I could get away with standard interview questions. So I was in an experienced recruiter and did try trusting my gut, it worked sometimes, but not always, wasn't as accurate as some of the other places that I've worked.

So you need to get the people that you're working with internally beyond just trust in the gut and move on to the next stage of, hi, can we be super fair whenever we hire. Ways that you can try and convince them to do this, fair hiring can have such a huge impact on your company. So this research from Devah Pager said that companies are twice as likely to survive a recession if they use fair hiring practices and are bias. So she did research with over 200 different U.S. companies during the last recession. And so the ones who were super biased and really similar with the people that they hired, had a 36% failure rate, whereas the ones who were really fair and had diverse teams, only 17% of them failed. So incredible statistics there that we can even use in the current environment that we're in, because it's going to start to replicate again if people don't change.

Everyone always quotes Mackenzie, it is a good study to use. So diversity truly does lead to greater productivity, creativity, and higher than average financial returns for companies. And they're doing more and more research throughout as well. Candidates actually want to work in diverse teams, especially that Gen Z is moving into the workforce more.

So this class store research said that 67% of candidates want to work in diverse teams. And they're starting to check this out, they're going on people's websites, what do the teams look like on LinkedIn? What are the sort of rules and people who would be within my team as well? And if they aren't seeing a focus on diversity or seeing diverse teams and their achievements being celebrated as well, they're probably not even going to apply and start to work there. And hiring managers understand the importance. So this is an amazing LinkedIn survey that you can use. It is a little older from 2018, but 78% of hiring managers said that diversity is an extremely important part of their hiring process. They were starting to think about using data and new interviewing tools as well, but it is an incredible report to look up.

So I'm happy to share that with anyone afterwards. Lastly, there is some mind-blowing statistics out there and rather than just start quoting them all out, I've pointed out a resource, which you can use as well. So Jeanette Lee Master from Lao did again, a couple of years ago, back in 2018, she just had 35 statistics which will blow your mind in having more diverse teams and the benefits that you can have. So this is another great way to start to build the case internally on a great resource if you want to search for it and check it out. So, how can you debias your approach whenever it comes to hiring? I always say try to instil best practice from day one, no matter how big or small your company is. I link this back to some of the best practice that I'd ever seen, and throughout my career.

BSkyB had an incredible assessment process for selecting people for their contact centres. They did a super detailed job analysis, find out what really made the people who were successful at tech, had super robust competencies and behaviours, and they placed such a strong focus on motivation and for the role and for Sky as a company as well. So there were some times I'd be interviewing people and they'd know more about Sky than I did because they loved the product, loved the company, which was incredible to actually see when it comes through. So what does that look like? I've split this into a few different sections. So attraction and application, I'm not the expert, but we'll talk about assessment in a little more detail, that's where my sort of niche shifts, but for the attraction side, reach some of those communities that I mentioned earlier on, some of them are free, some of them are paid for as well. They can help you reach a really wide audience outside the normal sort of pools that you would try to hire with content inclusive job adverts.

People are tired of ones which are just a million different bullet points. And there was a bit of research from a company called Textio that said anything more than seven bullet points, and people start to switch off or not apply. They'll start to actively just think, no, I'm not going to cover off all of these as well. So you can be super-inclusive with your job adverts, and it doesn't have to be really a start up scallop saying, "Oh, we hire on the slope, not the Y-intercept," simple things like we hire potential rather than purely in experience alone and can be really inclusive and get you some great applications coming through.

Referral systems, some are good, but it can have a negative impact on the diversity of hire. So the big tech companies who've been operating in the UK, sometimes just focusing on those top Russell group universities, has a detrimental impact on the diversity of not just the background that the people are from, but even diversity of thought. And if you have that within your organization, you can start to go off a cliff edge as well if you've not got people who are thinking differently and challenging the status quo in the way things are done. For the application process, blind applications are amazing. They'll help your interviews and assessors, stripping all the identifying things like names, date of birth, universities that they went to, education as well. I've had an easier job throughout my career whenever it's been blind applications, because I know I can just focus on the content and the evidence and what's been said over, Oh, did they go to Oxford? Did they go to Cambridge? And tech through to the next round in case you're worried about losing out on a great candidate.

Make it streamlined. So there are different tools and approaches to do this. So situational judgment test, games based assessments, can give you additional data points. But if you're small, CV cover letter might be the only way that you usually go in on the application stage or a few questions. But if you do have a little bit more budget, a little bit more time, you can start to streamline it with situational judgment test and people can start to opt-out whenever it comes to that as well if they don't think they'd be a good fit for the role. Always make it super relevant to the job as well. So some people love the game space side of things, focusing on personality as well. I'm not always the biggest fan of this, but sometimes if you make a super job-specific, then whenever they start on day one, they'll not be surprised with the tasks and actions you give them. Whereas if it's just something very games-based, it might not always ring true.

So how to debias your approach to assessment, I've broken this down into four pillars. So make sure you're consistent throughout, structured, collaborative, and use technology wherever you can. So the consistency of process is massive. If you're a small company, sometimes they like that little bit of informal approach and just grab a coffee. It's not always going to scale in the long run. So if you make sure candidates have this consistent process no matter who's interviewing and assessing in your team, you're not going to have the same person doing the first 200 hires, 300, 400 hires in your company. Structured, make sure your assessing is not relevant and criteria to the role with a really structured process as well.

If it is just interviews, great, make sure that you tailor it to the role, but then use the same interview for that specific role. Collaborative, make sure you're collaborating across the teams, get more than one person's opinion as well, just to make sure you're following best practice assessment. And then the last one technology, there're loads of cool ways to automate parts of the process as well. And we'll touch on those in more detail a little bit later on. So to take a deep dive into the interview in a bit more, which is something that I love to get going on. And I've done a sort of snapshot here from our most recent white paper on how to hire remotely because I kept getting asked all the time what sort of questions should I be asking? My background has been competency and it is super helpful for working best on background, what people have done, but it's not to say it's the only thing that you can use in there as well.

Some of the big tech companies like Google have been super successful in hypothetical questions in there, popular in the graduate space with people with less experience, there can be strengths coming in quite a lot. Like I talked about at Sky, those motivational questions were awesome. They could help you find lifelong employees as well, knowing that we're motivated around the role if as long as they had a few of the right skills in there as well. Technical, if it is super technical, of course, you're going to need that technical knowledge for it as well and that can come into the process. And last one, biographical, don't really use these anymore, I've used them previously in my career, but I'd like a bit more of a mix between competency, hypothetical, even a bit of motivational in there as well, it can give you a really good interview process and get going.

And how should you score your interview process? Break it down into super detailed, positive negative indicators. That means that whenever you are scoring candidates, no matter what background they come from, you've given them all a fair crack of the whip. And it is really, really sort of ingrained in all your hiring managers that doesn't matter who's scoring this, they know exactly what self-development looks like within your company or exactly what resilience will look like within your company as well. So give them lots of detail whenever it comes through to the scoring and it can help you pay dividends in the long run. So let me check on time here to make sure I'm not going to go massively over. Okay, we've got 13 minutes left. I can go into a little bit of detail here. So tools and resources to help you whenever it comes to debiasing your application process or dealing with super high volume of candidates.

So step one, at the attraction part, TapRecruit, they can help you write inclusive job adverts. And Textio, they're again, more inclusive hiring content as well. You can advertise to those different community groups I mentioned earlier, and on the next slide, which we can share with you afterwards as well, is a more definitive list of different communities and groups out there trying to help people hire more diversely. On the application process, three of my favourite tools, I've given you two, and one from the U.S. as well. If you ever get a chance to talk to Rehaam Saty, she is incredible. I always call her the queen of bias because she knows more about it than anyone I've ever met. And her tool helps you debias that application process early on. Not dissimilar to ThriveMap and Chris over at ThriveMap, he gives personalized high volume assessments.

So if you're hiring a lot of people for the same role and have a super high volume of applications coming through, their job-specific tool is amazing for making sure you get through the right people and to that final stage of the process. So an early on tool, and over in the U.S. blind job matching using your ATS, couldn't be simpler if you already got an ATS as well, just to plug in and play with them. And for the assessment and interview space, so there's a lot of different video interview providers. A lot of you maybe have been using video conferencing and stuff like that. And to start with, which is great to get going. If you want to take it on to the next kind of level, I've provided a list here of the different video interview providers and rankings that you can check with.

We also help people go remote whenever it comes to our structured interview software as well, and last one, there are different assessments and the providers and tools and technology. I have just mentioned Silva, are one of them, but there are lots of different ones out there that can help you with that process as well. Community chest, they have an end-to-end bias hiring platform, really cool company, it's based in London, definitely worth checking. I don't know if you've got the budget and you want this amazing end-to-end approach that really focuses on debiasing every aspect of it. I've also attached in here some really nice resources, a cognitive bias cheat sheet. So if I were to ask, and maybe this is one for Chloe to see if anyone gets this right, how many cognitive biases in the world do you think there are? And if you people want to type that in on the chat, have a guess, and I can reveal it whenever we get to the questions at the end.

Let me tell you, there are more than you think. And the last one here, Harvard Competency Dictionary, a comprehensive list of different competencies throughout different organizations that have done in the U.S. to compile this. Really useful if you've never done competency or structured interviewing before, just something to get you thinking and get you going out of the box as well. So diverse communities I mentioned, so there was the five at the start, this link here that you'll be able to get or ask for me via email has a more extensive list, it is just open source, Google doc, but it's amazing. And it's been compiled by ... I'll need to remember the person who has done that, and I'll look it up before we finish at the end. So what challenges are we going to face whenever we're trying to scale remotely? Like I mentioned earlier, volume is going to be massive.

It's going to be a real challenge that everyone's going to face, especially with Gen Z as well. Over the last eight, nine months now, we've all got used to working remote. Even before then, this survey was taken before we've all gone into lockdown. 99% of people wanted at least some part of their work to be remote. So I can only assume that it's maybe gone up to a hundred percent now, but even if it's just one day a week, half a day a week, something like that, people want to be able to work remotely, no matter what sort of company that you are. The volumes are also going to increase with Gen Z. They want portfolio careers, meaning that there's going to be an increase of applications that you're going to have to deal with as they move further and further into the workforce.

So the volume of candidates and need to engage with them remotely, it's just going to constantly go up throughout the next few years. So a few questions I have been getting speaking to lots of different heads of talent, heads of recruitment and human resource directors has been, can we hack it together with zoom teams or whereby whenever it comes to our process? Yes, you can if you're not doing super high volume, and sometimes this is all you need. If you don't have the budget, especially throughout the current lockdown and things have been tightened, and there's been a lot of hiring freezes, there are really good ways to just try and hack it together. And if you don't have any budget available. And do you need to re-write your interview and assessment tests? Potentially. Some people have already future-proofed them with the need for remote working, other people still need a little bit of help in hand.

Should we give candidates feedback due to increased volumes? I don't know if I'm in an echo-bubble in my LinkedIn, but I've been getting this more and more. And I was chatting to Chloe and Mark, before we got going, the number one thing that I'm hearing in the market at the minute is candidate experience and candidate feedback. That's what everyone wants to improve. So if you can, even though it's an increased volume, just find ways to give some sort of feedback or some sort of result, and just let people know. A potential question to be careful on. There was a bit of a debate on LinkedIn on this one is what can you do with your time during COVID-19? It looks like a good question to ask, but just be super careful because there are loads of people who will have been super-resilient, which is amazing, but there will also be people who've gone through really hard times there.

So it could be a potentially very dangerous question to ask throughout your interview and assessment process. And another one we get asked quite a lot from people at the minute, it's how many rounds of interviews should we be putting candidates through? So I've tried to narrow it down for you using another amazing bit of research from Google. So they did some research and they said, after the fourth interview, the accuracy of your interview process does not go up, but that's for interviewers. So whether it's all on a panel or whether it's separate interviews and separate instances. So after that fourth one, every additional interview yard, it's just 1% extra. Whenever we were chatting to a few people operating in our space, they were spending 56 hours on onsite interviewing per hire to try and make sure they were doing it in a super fairway by having like 10, 12 different opinions on a particular candidate.

I admire their sort of braces approach to try and make sure everything was done the proper way, but at the same time, we calculated that out, and if they wanted to make an extra 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 hires, half of their working year was going to be spent in interviews, which is not a smart and sensible way to spend all their time. So it's four interviewers max, and then after that, just refine the process done. Otherwise, you could be wasting a candidate's time and you can be wasting your own time as well. Tools to help candidates to finish with. A lot of people in my space have been asking me this, it's just like, hi, can we make sure that we're helping people with their job search? A few simple ones that I recommend to them.

If they're looking for a bit of a touch-up on their CV, make sure that you've pointed them in the direction of Canva CVs, really simple way to bring it a splash of colour, can really help for people who haven't been job searching for the last five, 10, 15 years as well, simple drag and drop, anyone who's not even tech savvy can use it as well. And there are some interesting tools out there to try and help them improve their CV as well like Rezi and I found out about this from Recruiting Brainfood, which is amazing resource. And yeah, this use a bit of artificial intelligence to scan your CV, match it to rule what you're applying for, and let you know any keywords that might potentially be missing. There's a free trial on it as well, which is good and then they expect you to pay, so use this free trial as well. And then last one for candidates, as well as yourselves, Harvard Competency Dictionary, definitely check it out, really cool resource and get me going. I know I've gone through that piece, Mark and Chloe.