In the latest White Paper from The Business of Fashion, 8 global experts within the D&I space shared their knowledge and expertise on four crucial areas businesses in every industry need to be assessing and overhauling within their hiring process in order to create a more inclusive recruitment process. We’ve put together a series of blogs that highlight the key takeaways from their report and panel discussion that can help you to work through your own hiring process and route out outdated practises in favour of more forward thinking and inclusive strategies.

Attracting diverse talent is crucial to improving diversity and inclusion, but in order for this diverse talent to make it into your business, there needs to be a unbiased and standardised interview process that ensures that all candidates are being assessed fairly and are given the best opportunity to interview well.

Step 3: Assess Candidates Fairly

Unconscious bias training is essential:

Unconscious bias refers to “the assumptions we make as a result of the brain’s tendency to take mental shortcuts, which lead to systematic errors in decision-making”. We all inevitably have internalised biases. Whether it be assumptions about someone’s competency based upon stereotypes, similarity bias in which we favour those who are similar to ourselves or people we closely associate with, proximity bias where we favour those physically close to us, or even recency bias, in which we place judgement soley on recent work -  there are many inherent ways bias manifests and impacts the hiring process. Therefore, education and regular training around unconscious bias is essential. “We can’t ever remove bias, but we can be aware that our biases exist and ensure that conversation around biases is an ongoing discussion at every single stage,” says Dr Ben Barry, Chair and Associate Professor of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Blind CVs might be the way forward:

But bias training is not enough in itself. It must be combined with other practices in order to tackle inequality within the hiring process. It may also be worth rethinking how you review your CVs. ‘Blinding’ the process by filtering out names, addresses, universities and other education information is one method of avoiding assumptions based upon bias determinations associated with these facts. Using software that blinds the process is one way to go, but we must be mindful of algorithms used by technology as they are ultimately still human generated. It might be worth considering utilising a hiring committee that provides multiple view points and allows for challenging one another’s assumptions to ensure you are reducing the impact of unconscious biases as much as possible.

Give your candidates the best opportunity to interview well:

Making sure that candidates are given the best opportunity to present themselves in interviews should also be considered. For example, asking candidates ahead of time what they may need in order to bring their best selves to the interview could really affect their performance on the day and consequently widen your candidate pool. It might be that a parent needs to interview during school hours, a hearing-impaired candidate may need a sign language interpreter, or if travelling is an issue a video interview may be better for them. By assessing individual needs, we are getting closer to levelling the playing field. Likewise, a list of standardised interview questions will ensure that each candidate is assessed equally, ideally against a formerly agreed rubric.

Strength vs. competency-based interviews:

In a competency-based interview, you are looking to see if the candidate has specific skillsets that they require in order to deliver the role successfully. Whereas a strength-based interview will allow you to get to know the candidate and assess if they have the basic strengths needed to do the job, such as their attitude, how organised they are and ultimately how they may develop in the role. Choosing to conduct a strengths-based interview requires more flexibility, but by seeing skillsets as more transferable you will widen your candidate pool further.

Use assessments to ensure consistency in the interview process:

Assessments can offer insight on the candidate’s approach to tasks and their quality of work. By offering the same task for all candidates to complete, hiring managers can assess skills based on the job itself rather than try to compare differing qualifications or skills laid out in CV descriptions. This keeps a controlled variable in the assessment and opens up the pipeline to those without typically requested qualifications. But do be mindful of the amount of time you’re asking your candidates to invest by completing a project or test.

Look for a ‘value fit’ rather than a ‘cultural fit’:

It’s very common to consider how well a candidate might fit into the business, or how much of a ‘cultural fit’ they will be. But in doing so, you are looking for those who are similar to your existing employees and workplace culture. The issue with this, is that if we always look for the same, it makes it very difficult to progress. Instead, try looking for candidates that share the same values as your organisation. “Look for those whose strengths align with the company’s needs, rather than what the current vibe might be within the group”, says Jane Hatton, Founder & CEO of Evenbreak. Show that you are looking to diversify rather than duplicate. It’s important to sit outside your comfort zone and look for those that will challenge your business and practises for the better.

Regular training is essential to ensure best practise within your business’ hiring process, but it’s important that employees stop viewing training as compulsory but rather as common place in order for D&I becomes a core value throughout all levels of the business. Shared corporate values shape the workplace culture and will determine how inclusive your business is, as we discuss in our final blog.

For a more indepth guide to assessing the incusivity of your recruitment process, be sure to read the White Paper produced by the Business of Fashion here & for further insights, watch the panel discussion here.

>> Read the final step: Post-Hire >>