Could blindfolded interviews be the answer to recruitment bias…

Is the perceived talent shortage actually just a confused recruitment process that is failing a third of new hires?

It is not talent shortages that keep employers and willing/capable job-seekers apart; it’s a hiring process, suggests new research published by the recruitment-tech firm, Worksome.

The worrying insight suggests the UK’s recruitment processes are based on an uncontrollable and confused mix of unconscious bias and experience-based logic that is causing employer-to-candidate matchmaking to fail miserably.   

Hiring new employees was ranked the No. 2 challenge facing companies of all sizes in 2015, while by 2017 it had become No 1.

Hiring the right people is essential. Yet Worksome’s research shows businesses are significantly failing in the employer-to-candidate matchmaking process, which could be due to elements beyond their control as a result of their confused approach to decision-making.

Confused recruitment needs

Worksome asked 515 senior business decision-makers what personality traits were preferable when it came to recruiting new hires, and many of the responses were contradictory – highlighting how decision-making can become a complicated wrestling match between unseen biases and what you know you should need in a successful candidate.

  • 84% of people choose someone who is adventurous, while 66% want someone who is unambitious/content (66%) 
  • 78% prefer an extrovert over an introvert. Yet 76% prefer a follower over a leader. 
  • And while 76% of senior decision-makers want a follower, they also want them to be proactive (77%) rather than reactive and be more inclined to display audacious behaviour (86%) over mild-manners.

The research showed that businesses’ current approach to recruitment is hitting them hard through the impact of mismatched or under-skilled hires resulting in:

  • Only a third of new employees making it through their probationary period 
  • Only 8% of businesses feeling like their new hires have all the skills needed for the job

Costly mistakes

In total, that means that one in every three new hires could be wasting businesses £23,000. Worksome’s research found that, on average, businesses spend nearly £6,559 a year on recruitment and hiring. If a candidate doesn’t work out, not only are these fees lost, but the salary for the probationary period is also wasted. With the average advertised UK salary being around £35,000 (according to Adzuna), this equates to potentially £17, 000 lost over a six month probation period. 

Dr Charles Seger, School of Psychology at the University of East Anglia said: “We constantly make decisions based on gut instincts and unconscious bias. Our brains are wired to process much of what we see without a lot of cognitive effort. When we perceive another person, we automatically integrate their appearance, manner of speaking, and overt behaviour into our impressions of them. These automatic perceptions can make recruitment difficult because our decision-making will be biased without our awareness.

“Factors unrelated to a candidate’s answers or abilities may be the deciding factor for who is hired, even if we try to correct for any biases we think we have. Blindfolded interviews would allow for recruiters to avoid being biased by the appearance of the candidate, better allowing them to focus their minds on the tangible, relevant quality of the candidate.”

A desire for flexibility

However, these seemingly contradictory responses might be pointing to more than just confusion, according to Dr Seger, who suggests it indicates a desire for flexibility. He said: “Those senior business decision-makers who cited both autonomy and being a follower in their desired characteristics likely want someone who can be both when the situations warrant. 

“Always being a leader rather than a follower, always being reactive rather than proactive, or always being adventurous over-cautious could be recipes for disaster. Rather, show a willingness to lead when appropriate, follow when appropriate, and show a willingness to be flexible. Such flexibility will be particularly valuable for someone in their probationary period, when they may still be learning about the company’s culture and the nature of their position.”  

Mathias Linnemann, Co-Founder of Worksome, said: “On the surface, the research seems to support the reasons why there is a growing practice of ‘name-blind’ application policies. You could argue that to counteract the damage that this confused approach to recruitment can bring, businesses could even extend this further to ‘blindfold’ style interviews to discourage unconscious bias. 

“The process of metaphorically ‘blindfolding’ parts of your recruitment process has its merits, because it eliminates the traditional variables associated with bias, such as the age, gender, race, location, education, etc. However, where we have seen true success is with organizations who have used recruitment technology to solve this issue. Tech-based solutions match and filter by skills and capabilities solely, and offer hiring managers a pool of the top-most qualified people to choose from.”
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