COVID career anxiety is creating biases in your hiring – here's how you remove them

We know that the global pandemic has caused a disruption in global workforces. Much has already been said about the Great Resignation, and how it has morphed into the Great Reshuffle, a period in which many are looking to reinvent themselves in the light of new jobs and careers. No industries or role types have been spared, either, it seems – even recruiters are leaving positions in the tens of thousands.

With a reshuffle, however, comes uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety. The war on talent may have benefited some, but the path to career reinvention is by no means guaranteed. Consider the following factors, factors job-hunters must face every day:

  • Bias in recruitment. According to a recent survey, 65% of tech recruiters believe their hiring process is biased. You may not get a fair shake, and you may not ever know why.
  • Ghosting. According to CandE research, In 2020, 33% of candidates in North America who completed job applications had still not received a response more than two months later.
  • Unfair competition. 78% of people admit to misrepresenting themselves on their resume.
  • Threats to longevity and progression. According to Harvard Business Review, almost two thirds of the tasks that a manager currently does may be automated by as soon as 2025.
  • Changes to the very nature of work. Noted future-of-work columnist Dror Poleg said it best: “It is not just where or when we work that is changing; it is the nature of work itself. For a growing number of people, work is becoming indistinguishable from leisure. In some cases, the workers don’t even know they are working. In others, workers think they are working while they are, in fact, resting. In the emerging world of work, video gamers are getting paid to play games, and fans are paid to listen to music.”

It’s little wonder that some Great Reshufflers, especially emerging adults (ages 18-24), are experiencing anxiety about working in the post-COVID world. Instability is the only constant. Consider, too, that some people are better at dealing with uncertainty – or, in technical terms, they are higher-than-average in the HEXACO personality traits Flexibility (or Adaptability, as it’s sometimes known).

This hypothesis is supported by at least one study, published last year in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. It suggested that, “…due to the outbreak of ‘Fear of COVID-19’, people are becoming depressed and anxious about their future career, which is creating a long-term negative effect on human psychology.”

How this translates to good (or not-so-good) candidate experience

The traditional face-to-face interview is typified by stilted small talk and a general air of nervousness. If a candidate is low in Extraversion, high in Agreeableness, or high in the Anxiety and Fearfulness scales of the Emotionality personality domain, their experience of walking into a blind interview is likely to be worsened by the additional stressors left by COVID-19. 

Consider, as is likely to be the case, that the candidate might possess a combination of all three traits, in the proportions laid out above. These people, especially if they are young, may not even bother to apply for a job in today’s climate. 

The ramifications of this are obvious: You risk, at best, filling your workforce with open, disagreeable, type-A employees. At worst, you risk baking unfairnesses or bias into your recruitment process, at the cost of good candidates who don’t shine in awkward face-to-face situations.

How good candidate experience data, and talent analytics, can help you ease gender biases at the top of your hiring funnel

Take this small data visualisation from our TalentInsights dashboard as a key example. Please note here that the following results apply to the outcomes of the hiring process, and not Smart Interviewer’s recommendations.

HEXACO personality data in recruitment | Sapia recruitment Ai software

It presents an assessment of candidate hiring outcomes according to key HEXACO personality traits. The red dots represent female candidates, the blue dots male. Immediately, we can see that when it comes to Conscientiousness – one of the best predictors of workplace success – females and males are more or less identical.

The main differences between the two genders occur, however, in the domains of Agreeableness and Emotionality. Combined, these two traits are good predictors of anxiety and/or aversion to fear. As you can see, females tend to be higher in Agreeableness and Emotionality than males. 

Though the difference is not incredibly significant, it is still present – and it may require a slight change to the way you bring female candidates into your hiring process. The data proves, of course, that your best candidates are just as likely to be female as male – but your recruitment tactics may be producing outcomes that favour males.

How to account for fear, anxiety, and Agreeableness in your recruitment process

We’ve said it before, and it’s the whole reason we exist: A blind, text-based Chat Interview with a clever, machine-learning Ai. Smart Interviewer is our smart interviewer, and it has now analysed more than 500 million candidate words to arrive at the kinds of data points you see above. It helps you combat bias at the top of your funnel, and gives you the Talent Analytics you need at the bottom.

And it works. Take it from the candidates high in Agreeableness:

“I have never had an interview like this online in my life… able to speak without fear or judgement. The feedback is also great to reflect on. I feel this is a great way to interview people as it helps an individual to be themselves and at the same time the responses back to me are written with a good sense of understanding and compassion also. I don’t know if it is a human or a robot answering me, but if it is a robot then technology is quite amazing.”

– Graduate Candidate A

“[It was] approachable, rather than daunting. I found the process to be comprehensive and easy to complete. I also enjoyed that the range of questions were different than those commonly asked. The visual aspects of the survey makes the task seem approachable rather than daunting and thus easier to complete.”

– Graduate Candidate B

The future of work is uncertain. But with a fair and unbiased assessment tool, you can prevent the best talent from being lost under the dust of the Great Reshuffle – and save a lot of time and money doing it.


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