(The following is an excerpt from our research report, “Stepping Up: Workforce Practices That Raise the Bar on Business Performance,” which is available for free download.)
In the past, when companies focused on narrowing large numbers of applicants to select a low number of hires, the balance of power was in the employer’s hands. There was little perceived pressure on companies to accommodate candidates in the screening process. Today, however, the balance is even, and a candidate-first approach to screening can help a company stand out against the competition. Toward that end, an intentional focus by employers on fighting bias, giving candidates a voice in the process, and showing respect for the candidate’s time are all areas for improvement in the screening process.
Take an Active Approach to Eliminate Bias
Unconscious bias is one of the most common pitfalls in the screening process. Without knowing it, interviewers may judge candidates on factors unrelated to the job (e.g., consider shared experiences or attendance at the same schools). Interviewers with the same backgrounds and perspectives may also bring their shared biases into the process. For example, a qualified worker with a long work history may be passed over for a programmer job associated with newer entrants into the workforce. Gender bias may influence hiring decisions for roles historically associated with male or female workers (e.g., truck drivers or nurses). Any number of seemingly small, hidden biases can add up to a major inhibitor of the candidate-employer relationship.
Today, bias remains an important issue that deserves attention from employers, not only because fighting bias is “the right thing to do,” but also because bias can limit an employer’s ability to attract and retain talent. Only 45 percent of surveyed employers say they always take steps to eliminate unconscious bias during screening and interviewing. High-performing talent acquisition organizations are more than twice as likely as others (89 percent versus 42 percent) to always take steps to eliminate bias during screening, and highly engaged workers are nearly three times more likely than others (37 percent versus 13 percent) to strongly agree their current or most recent employer took steps to eliminate potential bias in the process.
To fight bias in screening, employers can improve in several areas. First, consider who is participating in the interview. Instead of putting the decision into the hands of one interviewer, expand participation to a variety of stakeholders. Additionally, including people of diverse backgrounds can help ensure a balanced perspective. The structure of the interview itself can also influence bias. In particular, establishing a specific and consistent set of interview questions helps to streamline the process and ensure that prospective candidates are evaluated in an apples-to-apples comparison. Creative approaches to candidate assessment can also eliminate bias. For example, gamified assessments test candidates on job-related skills through an interactive interface. The evaluation is the same for every candidate, and the results are objective and measurable.
Give Candidates a Voice
The interview process is a two-way street. Just as the candidate answers questions from the employer, the employer should provide enough time to answer questions from the candidate. However, only 43 percent of organizations always provide enough time or insight to address all candidate questions. High-performing talent acquisition organizations, on the other hand, are nearly twice as likely as others (75 percent versus 40 percent) to do so, and highly engaged workers are three times more likely than others (39 percent versus 13 percent) to strongly agree that their current or most recent employer did so. Along the same lines, when an employer has a concern about the candidate’s qualifications, the candidate should be given a chance to respond to that concern. Only 25 percent of surveyed employers always share their concerns with candidates, with high performers being much more likely to do so (67 percent versus 23 percent), and highly engaged workers are three times more likely than others (33 percent versus 10 percent) to say they were given a chance to address employer concerns.
Another key aspect of the interview is the salary discussion. Just as salary transparency can improve the effectiveness of a job description, fairness and transparency in salary negotiations during the interview and hiring process can also go a long way toward forging a trusting employee relationship. Only 34 percent of organizations say they always approach salary negotiations fairly in the interview process, but high-performing organizations are more than twice as likely as others (68 percent versus 31 percent) to do so, and highly engaged workers are three times more likely (31 percent versus 10 percent) to strongly agree that their employer was fair in salary negotiations.
Overall, the imperative for giving candidates a voice is clear. Candidates want a chance to put their real case forward and to ask and answer questions. Employers have ample opportunities to improve their candidate relationships by providing clarity on requirements, honesty in expressing concerns during interviews, multiple stakeholders in the interview, and an opportunity for fair and transparent discussions around pay. Together, these measures of commitment on the part of the employer provide a footing for a high-value relationship with a productive, engaged employee.
Respect the Candidate’s Time and Effort
Time is probably the most undervalued element in the candidate-employer relationship. Just as the recruiter’s time has been overwhelmed in the past by large volumes of resumes and high numbers of people to shepherd through a process, the candidate has traditionally been subject to multiple interviews on different days with indefinite outcomes. In some cases, multiple flights are booked, responses to other offers are delayed, or candidates are left hanging in the balance about a hiring decision.
For the employer, respect for the candidate’s time can make the difference between engaged employees and lost talent, yet only 34 percent of surveyed employers say that they always efficiently conduct interviews and screening. High-performing talent acquisition organizations are more than twice as likely as others (78 percent versus 31 percent) to say they always conduct the screening process efficiently, and highly engaged workers are more than twice as likely as others (40 percent versus 15 percent) to say their current or most recent employer displayed the same level of efficiency.
Candidates feel disrespected when companies take their limited time for granted, but employers can embrace measures that not only streamline and improve the experience for candidates but also reduce hiring time and effort for the recruiting organization. For example, consider interview days, where multiple interviews, screening assessments, and introductions to the organization can occur together, reducing the burden of time and travel for the candidate. At the same time, video interviewing and online or virtual skills assessments can help cover essential screening steps quickly and efficiently.
Click here to get the full report of “Stepping Up: Workforce Practices That Raise the Bar on Business Performance.”