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Tips For Brands To Overcome Unconscious Bias When Recruiting BAME Talent During The Pandemic

Tips For Brands To Overcome Unconscious Bias When Recruiting BAME Talent During The Pandemic

Since the beginning of the pandemic, brands have been overwhelmed with a huge increase in applications. Job site Adzuna revealed that job vacancies were down by 59% over the summer, whilst UK unemployment was at its highest point for three years. This has resulted in companies being inundated with hundreds of applications for a single role.

This pressure could make it difficult to fairly sort through candidates and make it harder to prevent unconscious bias. Therefore, in light of the current situation, brands need to take extra steps and be aware that they could be at a higher risk of bias during this difficult time.

BAME Talent Has Been Hit Hard

BAME workers have been adversely affected by the increase of unemployment in the UK. The Resolution Foundation found that 1 in 5 British BAME workers who were furloughed at the start of the pandemic have since lost their jobs.

Elsewhere, a study from the University of Essex found that the share of BAME workers within the UK workforce decreased by 5% in the first month of the pandemic. Less diversity in the workforce could potentially be compounded by unconscious bias in the recruitment process.

As the number of BAME people seeking work increases, even agencies with robust anti-bias systems may need to revisit current strategies to ensure that they’re doing all that they can.

Be Open Minded About Employment Gaps

One key factor to consider when assessing applications is employment gaps. The Centre For Social Investigation found that when they sent off identical CVs and cover letters to companies, they had to send out 60% more applications for people with ethnically diverse-sounding names before receiving a response.

This demonstrates that BAME applicants may have to spend far longer in applying for jobs before they are shortlisted, placing them at a higher risk of having larger employment gaps in their CV, even when as or more qualified as majority ethnic applicants.

Significant employment gaps could be seen as a red flag by some employers, but judging candidates without understanding the broader context may harm BAME applications unfairly. Taking time to discuss any gaps with candidates, and encouraging them to be transparent about them, could be an excellent way to make sure that you’re not missing out on BAME talent.

Does WFM Work For Everyone?

It’s also worth considering how specific job requirements might disproportionately affect candidates from a BAME background.

A recent study found that less than 20% of black Americans can work from home. If a candidate says that they may struggle to work from home, think about whether there are ways in which you can make your company more accessible to them.

Keep Questions Consistent

Many brands can favour interview questions that look at a candidate’s character to find out whether they would be a good fit for their company. Although that can be a reasonable way to get to know a candidate better, asking separate interviewees different questions without a clear structure could unfairly disadvantage BAME candidates.

Director of Talent Acquisition at IT firm Credera, Alex Moore, warned of the risks in an interview with SHRM: “There is rarely an objective interview methodology in place to evaluate a candidate’s true cultural alignment.”

“Common unconscious biases like anchoring bias (relying too heavily on initial information) or confirmation bias (affirming already held beliefs) can lead the interviewer to make decisions based on too little information to make a subjective assessment of the candidate,” she said.

Examples of Companies Doing It Right

The disproportionate effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed disparities in the workplace. But at the same time, the outcry over the death of George Floyd in the US has also caused companies to reflect on how they could do more to prevent discrimination against BAME communities in their workplaces.

Online retailer ASOS pledged to “re-examine every aspect of their business” to ensure that they were doing enough to support black customers and colleagues. Meanwhile, DEPOP published a blog post that reveals that 0% of their executive team are black, despite the fact that more than 1 in 10 of their employees are black.

Both brands took an honest approach and made a public commitment to do more. Sharing your diversity goals with your audience helps to keep you accountable and also encourages BAME candidates to apply for positions within your company. By letting people know that you are seeking to improve, you can demonstrate the kind of working culture that you are looking to build.

A Summary of Approaches For Brands To Take

For brands to overcome unconscious bias and discover BAME talent, understanding the nuances and differences between the candidates you interview is key.

For example, ensuring that your company doesn’t make assumptions about working from home setups, and doesn’t discriminate based on an employees’ ability to work from home, can help your brand overcome unconscious bias. Look at ways to actively accommodate new workers from BAME backgrounds, even if it means breaking away from your current way of doing things.

Meanwhile, ask your current BAME employees what they would appreciate, whether that’s a more flexible schedule or better access to company equipment.  Being active in trying to learn how you can help your current BAME talent will help you attract other BAME talent in the future.

When it comes to recruitment, take time to assess and think about how and why talent might be slipping through the net. BAME candidates might not have had the same access to internships, work opportunities or stable employment, so your brand needs to have a clear sense of exactly the kind of worker you are looking for. Focusing more on skills, rather than relying solely on qualifications or work placements as markers of talent could be a winning strategy.


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