Interview techniques to increase diversity

With many global organisations now looking at D&I strategy as a main focus at board level, businesses of all sizes are becoming increasingly aware of the importance to invest in D&I strategies and to raise staff awareness, particularly those involved in recruitment and team management.

Why should you interview with a greater understanding of diversity and inclusion? And what do you need to be aware of to interview without bias?

These topics and more were covered in a webinar on February 25th run by Signature Recruitment and guest speaker, experienced senior Human Resources professional and Fellow of the CIPD, Jo Redgrave.  Jo has spent many years working in a number of large and multi-site commercial organisations as Head of Human Resources & HR Director.  Her expertise includes recruitment, resourcing & selection, including diversity and inclusion awareness.

The attendance numbers alone told us that this is a very in-demand topic so we thought we’d summarise the content, to enable you to learn more on this important area.  

The reality is, we are all carrying unconscious bias that influence our thinking processes and that negatively affects the way we interview and recruit.  But there’s much we can do to change that.

So, what is unconcious bias?

Unconscious bias is part of how we make sense of our perceptions of the world around us – and it’s different for all of us. We all have embedded stereotypes and prejudices about various social and identity groups and we tend to organise our thoughts around these. Inevitably this affects the way we make hiring decisions and risks rejecting excellent hires. 

Our biases in practice

It doesn’t just impact on how we conduct a recruitment process. It can affect how we accept advice from others, respond to risks and deal with facts. As a recruiter, the danger lies because we are unconscious of our bias. This makes us prone to discriminate without even being aware of it.The reality is, we are all carrying unconscious bias that influence our thinking processes and that negatively affects the way we interview and recruit. But there’s much we can do to manage that.

The business and moral case - why diversity and inclusion matters in recruitment

Its becoming more important to candidates. They are increasingly looking for evidence of diversity when comparing potential employers. However, it’s so important to get it right as lack of awareness and unconscious bias when interviewing can cause perfectly good talent not to be selected. 

What’s more, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is good for both businesses and employees. It creates more creative and productive organisations and helps attract and retain talent. Yet, as Jo explained, it takes careful nurturing and conscious effort to understand and embed. Jo also maintained that candidates can tell the difference between merely being compliant in processes and going beyond that with a clear intention to demonstrate diversity and inclusion, saying that there’s nothing more powerful for a candidate than experiencing this.

What candidates want

Jo made the point that the recruitment process can involve a lot of time and effort, so why not also put in the effort to get it right? Being aware of diversity and inclusion is part of that and becomes even more important when we consider what candidates actually want. 

As well as seeing evidence in the organisation, candidates want a recruitment process that is fair, clear and transparent. They want the focus to be on assessing the skills they bring to the job. They want to be asked about relevant activities and want to feel that the interviewer has treated them well, has respected them and their time, and is able to give specific and timely feedback. Unless we have a structured process for this it can be difficult to give the effective feedback that’s so valuable to candidates and in turn make a difference to their reception of us as an employer. 

There's bias in our systems too

Lots of us believe that if we have a structured process in place, that can be enough to ensure consistency and fairness. But what if bias has inadvertently crept into our systems? For example, one of the unintended consequences of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been that, in some early cases, the algorithms selected people already like those in the organisation – so it narrowed the diversity, not expanded it. But of course we don’t need an algorithm to do this if we ourselves narrow our choices unconsciously.  

There are also gender differences in the way candidates go about applying. Research has found that men may be more likely to apply for a role even if not a strong fit and will ‘wing it’ whereas women, who may be more suited to the same role will not, being more aware of their weaknesses. This creates an internal glass ceiling for women. The solution is to be aware of the application process itself, could it unintentionally be biased?  

Could a development centre process give a more even view of the candidates and encourage more women into the process? What recruitment processes in your organisation (internal or external) might be influencing, or limiting, your ability to look at everyone who could be a potential candidate for you? 

1. Structured interviews and competency based questions

We all know the strengths of competency based questioning, but are we relying on the right competencies? For example, have our questions changed to reflect the skill sets required across the past 12 months? Many of the core competencies that we rely on – communication skills, teamwork, time management – in many organisations our approach to these has changed drastically in the past 12 months. Has our recruitment process caught up, are we now asking the wrong questions?

2. The CAR context, Action and Result model

Jo mentioned that often the line manager won’t be aware of what they are looking for in terms of a response to a question. Jo’s CAR model, based on Context, Action and Result gives a fairer way to understand what the candidate can bring. For example, Context: Describe or explain the situation or task, Action: Tell us what you actually did or took responsibility for and Result: Explain the impact of your actions and efforts on the outcome.

3. Values and based interviewing

Recruiting against values gives us another angle, rather than competencies. In an organisation with strong values, recruiting for a match to those is a way of broadening the candidate field and being fairer around attracting a more diverse candidate pool.

4. Choosing question styles

There are many ways of asking questions but not all of them allow the flow of useful information. Leading, loaded or multiple questions may overwhelm the candidate and are almost always unproductive. Hypothetical, closed and multiple choice can be useful when used occasionally and in an appropriate context but open, probing and reflective questions are generally seen as positive and productive. “Tell me about a time when” etc. You could use the CAR questions to follow-up on these.

5. What goes alongside our questioning

Jo concluded by covering some of the ways to get another view, another angle on what your candidate could bring to your organisation. These could involve a presentation, written test or assessment, a problem solving exercise or a practical or skill based task. What our candidates want is to see the link between the skill mentioned in the job profile and what it is we are asking them to do in the interview process. This feels fairer, more transparent and clearer for them to be able to demonstrate what potential and talent they can bring to the role.

In conclusion

Jo finished by asking, based on all that could be done to increase diversity and inclusion, whether it’s time to refresh, update, look at those job profiles and your processes with a fresh approach to broadening how you go about attracting a wider pool of great candidates for the future. We’d certainly agree and, if you want any help in discussing how you can embed that into your recruitment processes, please do get in touch with us at Signature in London or Bristol.

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