The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder has many of us asking, “What can I do better?” when it comes to ending racism. This is critical in that racial bias in hiring have changed little in 30 years. HR and I/O psychology play a unique role in that we create the processes that allow for equal employment.
None of the suggestions below require lowering of standards. Rather, it provides a framework for applying standards in an equitable way. Science and good sense points us in this direction with these actions:
- Widen your recruitment net. If you recruit from the same places, your workforce will always look the same. There is talent everywhere—go find it. Whether from a high school in a different part of town or a historically black college/university.
- Make Resumes Anonymous. The science is very clear that anonymous resumes reduce racial and gender bias. It is not an expensive process to implement and works for all kinds of business.
- Examine minimum qualifications carefully. Whether based on job experience or education, these can serve as barriers to black job candidates. The ground breaking employment discrimination lawsuit, Griggs v. Duke Power, was based on an invalid requirement that supervisors needed a high school diploma. Don’t get me wrong—I want my surgeon to be an M.D. But, do your entry level positions really need a college degree? Do your managers really need to be MBAs? If you analyze the relationships between education/experience and job performance, you are likely to find that they are not as strong as you think.
- Use validated pre-employment and promotional tests. As a rule, validated pre-employment tests do not adversely affect blacks and are certainly less biased than interviews (see below). This is particularly true for work sample tests (show me what you can do) and personality tests. However, cognitive ability tests, especially speeded ones, may lead to discrimination. If you use them, analyze your cutting score to ensure that it is not set so high that qualified candidates are being screened out.
- Reduce reliance on interviews. Interviews can be biased by race and ethnicity. And, more often than not, they are far less valid than tests. We need to convince hiring managers that they are not good judges of talent—very few people are. Remember, interviewing someone to see if s/he is a “good fit” is another way of saying, “this person is like me.”
- Make your interviews more structured. This can be achieved by asking candidates the same questions and using an objective scoring methodology. Adding structure to the interview process can reduce bias (and improve validity).
You may already be doing some of the above. I would encourage you to do all of them. The outcome is fairness AND better hires. What could be better than that?