Written by: Team PredictiveHire
Did unconscious bias cost these recruiters £3m?
A story from a recruiter
I spent 13 years working as an agency recruitment consultant but my customer-facing jobs started a lot sooner – at the age of 12, collecting monthly charity raffle contributions for the local hospital. Paper rounds and retail jobs through school were followed by contact centres and bar work at uni, where I first learned about recruitment. It just seemed to fit with my previous experiences as well as my mindset so I figured that’s what I’d do when I graduated.
Actually, that’s a lie. It’s what I decided to do once I’d graduated and decided I hated the idea of being an employee number within a grad scheme but knew it was about time to lock in a career.
I remember my first round of recruitment interviews – I just couldn’t understand why recruiters didn’t understand that when I said “this is what I want to do” i really meant it. I explained I’d done my research. I knew that if I worked harder, longer and smarter than my competitors I would find the best candidates, I’d place them and I’d be rewarded for doing my job
But I just couldn’t get past those infernal recruitment industry group balloon debates/assessment days of the early 2000s that principally involved a white male in his early 20s talking more loudly than the rest despite not really having any substance to his bellowing. I couldn’t understand why Timmy from Surrey’s slightly shouty, verging on passive-aggressive bullying tone always got him progressed to the next stage while the more insightful, reflective comments from others around the table went unnoticed?
I persevered nonetheless and I eventually joined a recruitment process that involved one-on-one interviews followed by a group presentation from the MD. No fake debates, no pitting people against each other – just truth and honesty from the company owner.
I called my recruiter as I walked out the door to tell him I really wanted to work there. And I did, for 8 years.
Now I wonder how much more quickly I could have found a job if those balloon debating sessions had instead been replaced by a tool that helped the recruiters understand my propensity to succeed within recruitment, leveraging my personality and behaviours, my competitive nature, my desire and drive to succeed and then the recruiters combined that with my demonstrable passion for technology…
I’m pretty confident I articulated them during my interviews and backed up my answers with my life experience (at the ripe age of 22!). Alongside my early start in the world of work, I was in the first team for all sports for my entirety of senior school (I even gave Fives ago but it really wasn’t for me). I started played the piano at 4, violin at 7 and self-taught the saxophone as a teenager. I’m a classical pianist (seeing as you didn’t really ask, Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto with the school orchestra was my proudest musical moment) and finally I graduated with a 2:1 from a Redbrick University.
An outstanding childhood? No, I don’t think so. But I know I was well above the average for a candidate applying for a graduate recruitment career. I know there was enough about my school and working history to show my commitment to learning, dedication to working hard individually and collectively and displaying a consistent understanding of work = reward. And until those recruitment interviews I had a 100% interview to job-offer ratio. And so I wonder, how many of those companies said “no” to me because they weren’t aware of their biases?
And look, I get it. There were no AI crystal balls back then. Recruiters had to make judgement calls on candidates without the benefit of technology tools to guide them towards the right talent. But I wonder how many of those money-hungry agencies would have paid more attention to candidates like me if a recruitment tool had helped them look beyond their biases and told them I was an applicant worthy of closer attention?
My guess is pretty much all of them.