< Back to all insights

Inclusive hiring practices: Leveraging behavioural science in your workforce

by Edith Carmichael July 26, 2023

Inclusivity should be more than a buzzword for your organisation’s marketing or HR team. And when it comes to hiring practices, arguably the first frontier of inclusion, having a specific strategy and approach in place to encourage inclusivity is key. 

The aim of this article is to provide you with tangible interventions you can integrate into your hiring practices to become a more inclusive organisation. 

There is a plethora of literature available to those curious about why fostering an inclusive environment is beneficial to an organisation, and we’d like to believe in a genuine desire to move towards one. However, actually implementing this is difficult. It takes time and education and ultimately involves changes in practices which may have been ingrained for years, if not decades.

As we walk through a ‘typical’ hiring process, we talk through some of the most common 'biases’ that arise and how to minimise or mitigate them throughout your process.

What to consider when working with a search firm

For organisations that use search firms or recruiters to find their talent, it’s important to be conscientious of who you work with and what their talent acquisition process looks like. 

Your partners are, to some degree, a reflection of your own business practice and values. Entering into a business partnership means establishing a relationship with another entity, and their ethical practices can significantly impact your own business's reputation, success, and overall operations. 

You may need to research the partner's reputation, past business practices, customer reviews, and any relevant legal or compliance issues. Additionally, seeking references and conducting interviews can provide insights into the partner's ethical standards and values. 

Ultimately, choosing a business partner with strong values, like Freshminds, can lead to a more successful and sustainable partnership in the long term.

1) Advertising a job role

Advertising a job role is often the first external action organisations take in the hiring process. 

A well-thought-out job posting strategy can help maximise the reach, appeal, and efficiency of a recruitment process. And it’s often the first interaction we have with potential candidates. 

Its importance is evident, and we need to think about the following:

  • Use of language

  • Where you post 

  • Role requirement lists

When advertising a new role, ensuring that we use inclusive language is a key step. Luckily, there are some great tools at our disposal; for example, Google launched a document in 2022 to help promote inclusive language, offering advice and recommendations such as “how to avoid using ableist language”. 

This aims to ensure that we use gender-neutral, person-first, respectful language and avoid emotive language within the job posting. In turn, this should keep the pool of applicants wide and remove any barriers to entry for different groups of individuals.

Deciding on where you post this advert is another consideration. If you only use specific schools or companies’ alumni boards, your pool of applications will reflect this.

The rise of skills-based recruitment has been widely discussed over the last few years, with firms like Accenture and IBM removing the requirement of a degree in over 50% of their hiring for IT positions[EC1]. 

We’ve seen a huge increase in demand from our clients to remove any reference to a degree as a requirement on the job adverts we post at Freshminds in order to remove barriers to sought-after roles. It’s worth bearing in mind that the removal of barriers can naturally lead to a higher volume of applications. Therefore having a recruitment partner who can select and work through these on your behalf can be highly worthwhile.

2) CV screening

CV screening plays a pivotal role in streamlining the recruitment process and enhancing decision-making, but it can also be a minefield for unconscious bias. 

To address this issue, businesses working with external recruitment agencies can request the anonymisation of CVs. Taking it a step further, those hiring directly can leverage AI tools to assess candidates solely based on their responses to skills-based questions, ensuring objectivity in evaluating their suitability for the organisation. In a recent study[1], AI has shown significant promise in improving diversity and has achieved comparable efficiency to human decision-making.

Our review highlights that AI is equal or better when it comes to efficiency and performance as compared to humans. We also find that AI is mostly better than humans when it comes to improving diversity.

Of course, there are also concerns about using AI, such as the speed at which it learns and changes - meaning consistency could be a long-term issue. 

As mentioned earlier, CV anonymisation has become increasingly popular. By anonymising CVs, identifying features are removed, effectively mitigating affinity bias. Implementing anonymised CVs at the screening stage also helps to reduce the influence of stereotype and familiarity biases[2], which often emerge in rushed decision-making processes. 

This strategic approach fosters a more equitable and unbiased candidate evaluation, ultimately leading to a more diverse and qualified talent pool.

3) Interview process

Maintaining inclusive practices during the interview process is often the most challenging stage of hiring. 

To combat unconscious bias, ensure you have a diverse interview panel with a variety of backgrounds, work styles, and perspectives. You can also prep the panel by asking them to assess the candidate's behaviours or real-life tasks rather than focus on their personality.

If you want your approach to be a little more structured, you can also prepare the panel with a pre-approved script or controlled questions. And then, use a scoring sheet for each candidate's answers, ensuring consistency across each interview. 

This intervention involves two parts:

  1. During the interview process: focus on bringing in different levels of seniority and different backgrounds into the interview process. and ensure you are listening and reflecting on their feedback before making any decisions. Slowing down and engaging in System 2 thinking (the more analytical and rational side of the thinking process) will encourage thought diversity rather than making rash judgements on candidates.

  2. Post-interview: to make the process based more on rationale than feeling, you could ask all decision-makers (ensuring this is a diverse panel) to write down three characteristics or traits the candidate has that are new to the organisation. This can emphasise the diverse outlook that this individual would bring to the team and, by association, instil positive emotions around hiring a diverse workforce and building personal resilience[3].

Why is it key to have a diverse hiring panel? Research shows that if only senior and middle management are involved in the end-to-end decision-making process, it becomes trickier to question diversity gaps in the hiring process.

An organisation which lacks diversity at the management level can leave businesses susceptible to groupthink and in-group bias, and when it comes to making decisions, you could be missing out on individuals that have an array of different problem-solving skills.

Final thoughts on inclusive hiring practices

Diversity, at its core, encompasses a range of perspectives and work approaches that foster innovation and productivity within an organisation [4]. However, our hiring decisions can sometimes be influenced by unconscious biases, such as the halo and horn effect, leading to hasty judgments [5]. Although it's challenging to reverse implicit impressions [6], studies have indicated that identifying the root of our evaluations and making adjustments can help us rewire conditions to overcome bias [7].

Promoting inclusivity goes beyond just checking boxes; it involves encouraging the hiring team to embrace different characteristics and find the value in diversity of thought. In turn, this supports individuals in meaningful work and drives improved performance - a critical factor for success [9]. 

If you are interested in working with a firm that values inclusive hiring practices, get in touch with our team at Freshminds. Discover exceptional talent within the research, consulting and strategy space below. 

Get in touch >>

Edith leads our Permanent offering at Freshminds, connecting top-tier talent with ambitious clients who are looking to grow or change.

Image 2022 02 25 T07 42 12

Stay in the know

Get the latest business insights, news and events, straight to your inbox.

Image 2022 02 25 T07 41 52

This site is not supported by Internet Explorer. Please use Chrome, Firefox, Safari or another browser to fully view and utilise.