"Erasing all the individual 'rot' in the world would not lead to equality until our systems were also debiased.”

Dolly Chugh


The traditional recruitment process is riddled with bias. This in  turn minimises effective decision making. To ensure we are hiring  inclusively and smartly, there are several scientifically-grounded  techniques and tools to understand and utilise. Debiasing systems  takes courage and effort. There is often an attachment to systems  and processes that have been used for a long time. Many of us  like to believe that we are an excellent judge of character. In our  personal lives this may have served us well. When it comes to hiring  talent, individual judgements are potentially dangerous derailers  for effective team building. The evidence for increasing diversity,  long-term job performance and retention by debiasing the hiring  process is striking. If your organisation is serious about building  diverse teams, then ensuring an objective and less biased process  is essential.  

The Bias Barrier 

One of the greatest barriers to achieving equal representation in  the workforce is bias. A wealth of research in multiple countries has  consistently found that bias prevents equal access to employment  and leadership opportunities. A significant number of studies have  shown entrenched gender bias at work at every stage of the career journey. Even when other differences are eliminated or controlled,  women are offered less pay than men for the same work, offered less  informal support when joining organisations, and offered fewer and  less desirable leadership positions. 

Ethnic Minority Call-Back Rates 

In a recent British field experiment covering 3,200 job opportunities,  academics found that ethnic minorities got call-back rates that were  less than half the rates of white applicants, despite being identically  qualified.33 As shown in the graph below, 24 percent of majority  group applicants got a call-back from employers. Despite identical  resumes and cover letters, minorities had to send 60 percent more  applications in order to receive as many call-backs. Nigerian and  Pakistani names received the lowest call-back rates overall. 

Inclusive Role Descriptions 

Critical to any hiring decision is a clearly defined and communicated  role description. To achieve this focus on the competencies and experiences required to be successful in the role. Avoid having a  dream candidate in mind or comparing the ideal person to anyone  else in the organisation. This will ensure a more inclusive process  and avoid unconscious biases creeping in. There are many  competency-based templates available for roles on the internet.  It is worth cross-checking your template with other online versions  to ensure you have as broad a specification as possible. This will  increase your chances of being able to recruit from a wider talent  pool. A skills-based role description will enable you to develop  specific competency-based questions to ask during the interview  process, rather than relying on individual judgements. Flesh out the  point on competency and highjumping process.

It is also worth being aware of coded language which can attract,  or deter, certain groups of candidates from applying. In terms of  gender diversity, research shows that certain masculine-coded  phrases and words (for example adjectives including, competitive  and determined) reduce the likelihood of women applying to jobs.34 There are free software programs available to scan role descriptions  for gendered words – ensuring that adverts are not actively  discouraging applications from certain gender groups. One example  is Textio, which helps you remove gender-biased terms from your  adverts, or the free version called Gender Decoder. Additionally, it s worth stating in the advert that your company is committed to  inclusion and diversity.


“A clear statement about diversity helps underrepresented groups perform better.”