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Digital Hiring: Fairness & inclusivity

Digital Hiring: Fairness & inclusivity

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns forced a shift change in how people and businesses operate across the country, not least in digitalising recruitment.

There are lots of advantages to digital recruitment. It can speed up the process and make it simpler for candidates and recruiters. Recruiters can automate communications, creating a smooth and clear process for candidates and it means new hires don’t have to be based in the same area as the office, allowing for a more diverse pool to recruit from.

One of the key benefits of digital recruitment and remote working is the ability to broaden the pool of candidates based on geography, allowing businesses to offer roles to skilled and talented people outside of their usual catchment area. This means that people from less advantaged communities, particularly rural areas, can benefit from similar professional opportunities to those living in more affluent, urban areas.

Digital recruitment can also have a big impact on making jobs more accessible to neurodivergent people, for example autistic people or those with ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette’s or trauma.

Last year, ONS reported that autistic adults face the highest level of unemployment out of all disability groups, with just 21.7% in employment. The reasons for this are complex, including a lack of awareness and understanding of neurodiversity across the board and genuine fears of judgment and exclusion on the candidate side.

But with digital innovations, recruitment processes can be more inclusive to neurodivergent candidates, for example making use of virtual interviews. Virtual interviews allow candidates to control their environment: lighting can be managed, background noise can be minimised, and fidget toys can be used off camera to help neurodivergent candidates avoid sensory overload, give their genuine best at interview, and avoid any judgment from recruiters.

This type of virtual interview allows candidates to prove themselves before disclosing any access requirements, meaning that they can enter the interview process without fear of any judgements, biases or concerns that may well be unrelated to the job that they’re applying for. Candidates with physical disabilities can show off their skills and experiences on a level playing field to those without and candidates with compromised immune systems don’t need to worry about making a bad first impression for refusing a handshake.

Another benefit – but also a potential drawback – of digital hiring is the removal of the human from some stages of the process.

Through applicant tracking systems (ATS), recruiters are able to anonymise applications, removing candidate names, addresses and other identifying information that could lead to biases on the basis of gender, race or socio-economic background.

However, it’s also argued that ATS can actually make recruitment less inclusive, for example, by using algorithms to search for key words, applicants may be automatically rejected for using different terminology than the recruiter would expect. This particularly affects those who speak English as a second language. As well as this, depending on how the ATS has been programmed, there is potential for older candidates who have O Levels instead of GCSEs to also be automatically rejected, which can be seen as a form of age discrimination.

There are also examples of ATS becoming discriminatory through AI. In 2018, Amazon ditched an ATS they’d been developing that screened applications and ranked them based on patterns in CVs over a decade. However, the tech industry is male-dominated, which meant that the system taught itself that women were less preferable than men.

It can be easy to assume though that, as digital hiring can be more straightforward in many ways, all candidates would prefer it. However, for many people in the UK, access to a device and internet at home is still not viable. This means that businesses exclusively operating on digital recruitment could be excluding talent from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

And, even if a candidate does have a device and an internet connection, not all candidates will have the luxury of a quiet, private working space. 

In a similar vein, less tech-savvy candidates may find digital recruitment inaccessible, particularly over-50s applying for roles that require minimal engagement with IT.

So with all of the benefits that digital can bring to many people, it’s worth considering if a hybrid approach and providing candidates with options may be more suitable for some employers.

There are a lot of factors at play when thinking about inclusion in digital hiring. In many ways, digital can help to level the playing field and remove biases from recruitment processes, making for not just a fairer system but one that allows candidates to be comfortable and present themselves at their best. But, as with any system, there are drawbacks. The perfect system may never exist, but as we continue to innovate and understand each other, we can make real steps towards an inclusive jobs market.

And don’t forget that Reed Screening are here to help get your next hire through the door. Whether you’re hiring one or 100 new employees a year, we want to make it easy to bring the right people on board.

To find out how we can support you with your recruitment through pre-employment screening, get in touch and take a look at our range of on-demand screening packages.