We’re told it’s a buoyant jobs market out there – and while there are more professional opportunities, agrees Linnea Bywall, Head of People at Alva Labs, not everyone is benefitting. “It’s a great market if you’re a white male with a good background. But it’s not the same if you’re not.”
Alva Labs is making the recruitment process more inclusive by offering psychometric tests as a screening tool, allowing candidates to be assessed on their suitability for a job and not on personal characteristics, which can cause bias.
An inclusive talent search
For Alva Labs, inclusive recruitment is a science. Their technology creates an “objective method” to assess talent, which results in a more diversified talent pool during the screening process than would be possible if hiring managers were sifting through cover letters and CVs.
Bywall explains that a hiring manager can send the assessment tool to candidates before CVs are read. This means that talent is assessed for their potential and individuality at the earliest stage of the recruitment process rather than what’s on their resume. By the time they get to the CVs, managers are already looking at a more diverse candidate pool.
“In a more traditional recruitment process, a recruiter spends six to seven seconds looking through a CV, and we know that a lot of people get subconsciously screened out like women, people of colour, and those with foreign-sounding names,” she says.
The markers of job performance
While Alva Labs’ product diversifies the hiring process, it also promises better talent retention by predicting job performance.
By assessing what Bywall calls the “core characteristics”, they determine who is right for the job. “The things we measure such as personality logic and ability are very stable constructs.”
She says what hirers usually look for, like experience and educational background, have “very low correlations with job performance” compared to the logic and personality scores Alva Labs uses.
“If you combine a logic and personality score with a well-structured interview, you have a correlation between the results and job performance of 0.65 whereas background and years of experience is at 0.1,” she explains.
Research aside, most businesses already know that candidates with ‘relevant’ experience and traditional academic backgrounds don’t always get on in job roles. So why do they continue to hire talent based on these aspects? The answer, according to Bywall, is ease.
“Either you have the experience, or you don’t, so it gives the recruiter something to go on. We continue to do it because it’s easy, and we don’t really know what to change it with.”
She says this means it’s better to assess a candidate based on their soft skills. “Hard skills get outdated fast,” explains Bywall. “I’m a psychologist, and what I learned during my education is already outdated. But my soft skills, including how I am as a person, will always be the same. Being someone who’s structured and ambitious, for example, is going to help you no matter what.”
She believes businesses should refashion themselves as places of learning for job seekers. “People with the ability to be upskilled aren’t necessarily the ones that look good on paper. Those with the soft skills to take on learning and do that well, that information can’t be found on a CV,” she adds.
While Alva Labs’ technology can help reduce human bias at the early stage of recruitment, Bywall admits it creeps up during later stages, like during face-to-face interviews. Here, she offers hiring managers advice on limiting its effects.
Making interviews fairer
One way that hiring managers can reduce bias manually is by asking “candidates the same questions in the same order.” This includes using a template of questions to assess the quality of answers as a measuring tool. She then explains the downsides of unstructured interviews.
“You might deviate from the plan and ask a follow-up question here and there,” she says. “Then you leave the interview and think ‘oh that was nice bloke’, or not a nice bloke. Then you can’t compare the first interview to the second or the third, and you end up relying on gut feeling.”
She also advises interviewers to avoid the question of asking about past work experiences as “some people will never have the opportunity to work in certain places.” She explains that the interviewer will judge historic backgrounds that are divergent from theirs and often unfavourably.
“If I were a tennis player and they say they play tennis, I’m going to like them. If I went to that university, and they say that they did too, we’re obviously going to have that connection.”
She adds that when a hiring manager feels an affinity with the subject and enjoys the experience more, they “tend to ask easier questions”, which gives similar candidates an unfair advantage.
Instead, she advises that managers ask situational questions, such as how they responded to a business problem in a past situation, as “past behaviour is the best prediction of future behaviour,” which can be collected as relevant data to inform eventual hiring decisions.
Moving away from job specifications
Bywall says that staying away from the experience and job-specification based job postings will widen the pool of interested candidates and encourage diversity.
“If I’m hiring for a manager position and I say that you need to have five years as a manager within this industry, there’s only a couple that could do that job, and then I need to hunt the people that already have that job. Also, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be good managers.”
“Instead, I want someone who wants to be a manager and has the right potential for it,” she says. “This way, I can open up space for way more applications and use the right tools to screen them.”
The specification-based job requirements model could lead to higher employee turnover due to a plethora of overqualified candidates for roles, which Bywall calls a “very likely hypothesis.”
“If you are looking for those senior candidates that have already done it, what’s the challenge with coming in and doing the same job for your organisation?”
In all, employers are making hiring decisions that are poor for two reasons; the first, they aren’t done with diversity and inclusion in mind, and secondly, the candidates are being assessed using the wrong criteria, which makes them less likely to be a good fit for the organisation in the long-term.
“When you’re hiring, you’re trying to find those hidden gems that will be a really important contribution to the team and the company, and you can’t find that information on a CV.”
To find out more about Alva Labs’ technology, click here.