Is This a Fix for Hiring and Labor Market Discrimination?

Labor market discrimination is rampant.

Every research that’s done, at least here in the Netherlands where I live, tells the same story. And even though the Netherlands is very egalitarian, open, and multi-cultural, our unconscious bias when it comes to selecting candidates makes all the difference.

Ethnic discrimination

Earlier this year, research from several different universities showed that even criminals convicted of violent crimes have a bigger chance of getting invited to a job interview than someone named Mohamed or Abdul with a perfect record. For their research, they send out exact replicas of cover letters and resumes where people with “white” names admitted in their cover letters to different types of crimes.

People that admitted to having served time for violent crimes got invited to an interview 28 percent of the time, whereas migrants with no criminal record only got invited 9 percent of the time.”

Age discrimination

Last year, a Dutch Ph.D. student analyzed 440,000 resumes (he had access to all the anonymous resumes from one ATS provider that has hundreds of clients in all kinds of markets) and had an algorithm make correlations.

After teaching the algorithm the human behavior (he knew who got invited to an interview and who eventually got hired) he let the algorithm select from the second part of the sample. Guess wha happened? The algorithm was 80 percent correct when selecting based only on a resume.

The biggest correlation the algorithm found in human behavior when selecting candidates was age.”

Testing and data is the solution

Recently, I came across some really interesting data from Harver.

For those who do not know Harver, they build pre-selection testing for contact centers and retail sales staff. Basically, they let their applicants play a game, and during this game, they measure the quality of the candidate for the specific job.

So for contact center applicants, they measure, among other things, the ear-hand coordination, spelling ability, and about 20 more relevant skills for the job. Every candidate gets scored on several different aspects of the job, resulting in a total “fit for the job” score based on testing.

Many of their clients don’t even ask for a resume anymore since it has no predictive value whatsoever and the test scores have lowered attrition at many of their contact center clients from over 100 percent to less than 20 percent a year.

They recently did an analysis of 130,000 Dutch applicants from whom they knew who was hired. The divided these candidates into two different groups: “native” and “migrant-background” based on the first names of the applicants. This is basically the same way a recruiter looks at a resume.

Guess what? The results were staggering:

  • Of all the native applicants, 22.585 percent were hired.
  • Of all the migrant-background applicants, 22.505 percent were hired.

Hiring on abilities, not on biases

These results were not correlated with the actual scores from the test, but since most of Harver’s clients reply mainly on the test scores, it’s safe to assume they all scored well. The very small difference (0.08 percent) in the percentage of hires this shows that hiring based on testing and data rids the recruiter of his/her unconscious bias.

Replacing a resume with actual test scores and data about the quality of the candidate seems to rid us of unconscious bias.”

The future of recruitment is in getting away from the resume. This is a future is much more inclusive that actually selects candidates on their abilities instead of our biases about their abilities.

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Bas van de Haterd is a self employed professional that helps companies, mainly corporations, recruit smarter. He is passionate about HR technology and how it can improve hiring processes. In the Netherlands, he runs a research and event called Digitaal-Werven that focuses on the candidate experience for over a decade, and he is also the co-organizer of Talent Acquisition Live. Follow Bas on Twitter @bvdhaterd or connect with him on LinkedIn.




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Bas van de Haterd is a self employed professional that helps companies, mainly corporations, recruit smarter. He is passionate about HR technology and how it can improve hiring processes. In the Netherlands, he runs a research and event called Digitaal-Werven that focuses on the candidate experience for over a decade, and he is also the co-organizer of Talent Acquisition Live. Follow Bas on Twitter @bvdhaterd or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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