Simple fixes can take bias out of job hunt

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Changing language in job advertisements and de-identifying resumes during recruitment can significantly boost a person’s prospects of landing a job by overcoming unconscious bias, according to new research.

Removing country of birth from individuals’ resumes improved overseas-born job seekers’ chances of being shortlisted by eight percent, in a randomized controlled trial of 311 applicants.

While one in three Australians was born overseas, and half of Australians have at least one parent born overseas, human rights advocates say inequality in the country’s workplace is rife. Employees from ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people with disabilities, older job seekers, and those from minority religious faiths report bias and discrimination when job hunting.

Experimental research suggests employees from non-Caucasian backgrounds must submit up to 68 percent more job applications to get the same number of offers as counterparts with an Anglo-Saxon background.

“The take-home message is clear: bias can hinder effective and inclusive recruitment and selection.”

Recruit Smarter, a Victorian State government research program researchers undertook, found simple strategies can make a big difference when it comes to ensuring a fairer playing field when people are jostling for jobs.

Lead author Michelle Stratemeyer, an associate lecturer in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, says that researchers designed the two-year Recruit Smarter research program, implemented in real workplaces, to improve workplace recruitment by removing potentially biasing information.

“We trialed ways to manage unconscious bias and mitigate its impact on hiring decisions,” Stratemeyer says.

Researchers also trained staff on how to spot and avoid the effects of unconscious bias in workplace decision making in the program.

“In another trial, candidates from lower socio-economic areas were 9.4 percent more likely to be offered a job when their home suburb was not disclosed,” Stratemeyer says.

Changes are not difficult to implement, and previous research has shown that gender and ethnic diversity in organizations can result in outperforming competitors by between 15-35 percent, she says.

“The take-home message is clear: bias can hinder effective and inclusive recruitment and selection. Fortunately, we can use different strategies that are simple to implement and improve our hiring processes to reduce or eliminate the negative effects,” Stratemeyer says.

Source: University of Melbourne