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Substance over CVs: key steps to recruiting for diversity and fighting bias

October 20, 2020  |  4 min read

Prioritizing diversity when hiring is essential to gaining employees with unique knowledge and skills who are going to deliver long-term value—something we touched on in our last post.

Diversity isn’t just a box for businesses to check off—today, at a time when more historically marginalized communities are being heard and shaping mainstream culture and markets, having a diverse team is critical to boosting innovation, identifying untapped opportunities and blindspots, and not falling into antiquated practices. Hard data backs up the positive impact of diversity: in a 2018 McKinsey report finding that companies in the top-quartile for diversity in their teams were 33% more likely to financially outperform their more homogenous competitors. 

Zooming in further, the numbers continue to point to diversity’s role in performance. When analyzing diversity in the venture capital industry, Harvard Business Review saw that lower diversity among VC organizations and investors meant lower investment performance. The study found that the success rate of acquisitions and IPOs was 11.5% lower, on average, for investments by partners with shared school backgrounds than for those by partners from different schools, while investments made by partners with shared ethnicity were lower by 26.4% to 32.2%. 

Hiring with diversity in mind is a power move, and doing so effectively requires intention, authenticity, and smart decision making to combat unconscious bias—something that statistically impacts even the most well-intentioned businesses. Below, we’ll cover three key areas of the recruiting process where we battle bias and encourage diverse hiring.

Using testing to spot high value candidates 

One of the most consistent pieces of advice when it comes to eliminating bias in the hiring process is to start early. At Bower, we begin assessing candidates using our unique diary(logistics) and gaming cognitive tests, which by design allow us to overcome judgements based on factors like alma maters or previous work places. Focused on competency, personality and attitude, our testing draws our clients away from the stereotypical hire to the hidden gems of the admin and operations talent, from front of house staff to COOs.

Our testing gives us the data to prove to our clients that these candidates have what it takes to outperform the competition. It also helps us to cancel out several of the most common cognitive biases that impact hiring, including: 

  • Affinity bias: Also known as similarity bias, this is the unconscious habit we have of being drawn to people who are like us—a recipe for a non-diverse, low-creativity workplace when building a team. 
  • Conformity bias: This is the tendency to conflate fitting in with making the “right” decision, despite our personal judgement potentially telling us otherwise. In the recruiting process, this can look like conforming to the most common or loudest opinion in the room when assessing a candidate, even if the opinion is based on a snap judgement.
  • Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to cherry-pick new information in order to strengthen our previously-held opinions. When hiring, this may mean you subconsciously look for information that confirms an assumption you made about a candidate based on their CV. Or, you may associate certain behaviors, strengths or weaknesses with certain identities, leading you to essentially hire the same candidate over and over again. 
  • Bias blind spot: The most confounding of all, this is the ability to notice the biases of others, while failing to spot your own. 

Using the objectivity of technology, effective testing is the secret weapon to finding diverse candidates. 

Networking for diversity 

When many recruiters and businesses search for talent, they choose the tried-and-true sources—hunting through Reed, LinkedIn, and the typical circuit of recruitment leads. But when it comes to making truly diverse hires, taking typical routes leads to typical results. 

The power of hiring with diversity in mind doesn’t come from fulfilling a performative quota—it comes from understanding that extraordinary, qualified candidates exist well outside the most common paths, and that their unique, often under-represented experiences can help your company perform smarter. 

At Bower, we know that opportunity and connections often play as much of a role as talent does in introducing businesses to their future hires. To prospect in a more inclusive way, we don’t rely on our candidates to be in the right place at the right time—we take the extra steps to find them by constantly growing our network of partnerships with diversity and inclusivity-focused networking groups, non-profits and consultants. This ongoing process, along with our practice of prioritizing testing over CVs, is part of our effort to level the playing field and attract our clients to talent that will challenge (and exceed) expectations. 

Building a healthy hiring architecture 

Taking precautions against implicit biases at every stage of the hiring process is critical to ensuring that your business finds the most talented, diverse employees. The Bower team works with our clients to create a recruitment process built to counteract unconscious bias and set the foundation for long-lasting rewards. 

Touching base at every step from preparation to hire, we instruct those involved in the recruitment process to avoid common slip ups—like relying on just one member of your team with their own, singular perspective to conduct primary interviews—and pick up helpful, diversity-building habits—like tasking multiple members of your team to conduct shorter interviews, and specifically advising them to challenge each other on their assessment of the candidate.

Getting comfortable with accountability 

When it comes to creating a truly diverse company culture, there are no shortcuts. Effort has to be consistent, focused and honest, which is why Bower has a set of standards built into our terms to ensure best practices from our clients during the hiring process. In the interest of progress, we have made it our mission to keep our clients accountable and call out discrimination when we see it. 

Likewise, we encourage our clients to push back on us—or any recruiter—to see what tools, practices and policies we’ve put in place to promote and cultivate diversity on our end, and create better avenues for bringing better diversity to different industries. 

To learn more about how Bower prioritizes diversity for ourselves and our clients, you can get in touch with us here

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