Written by Nathan Hewitt

Eliminate recruitment bias by not using CV data

There are some steps we can take to eliminate bias in recruitment and it begins with not relying on CVs as a method of evaluating candidates.

CVs are full of information that is irrelevant to assessing a person’s suitability to do a job. They instead highlight things that we often use to confirm our biases, and draw our attention from other key attributes or aptitudes that might make someone especially suitable for a job.

For example, if a CV mentions a certain university it might pique our attention (a form of pedigree bias). This is problematic, as there may be socio- economic reasons why someone attended a certain university (or did not attend another) and CVs do little to reveal this. Situations like this confirm the bias that lead to it in the first place, compounding bias for these long-term systemic issues.

Additionally, CV data reduces a candidate pool in a way that is not optimising for better fits for the role, by relying on the wrong input data and criteria to find a candidate. Amazon discovered this when it abandoned its machine learning based recruiting engine that used CV data when it was discovered the engine did not like women.

Automation has been key to Amazon’s dominance, so the company created an experimental hiring tool that used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars.

The issue was not the use of Ai, but rather its application. Amazon’s computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry. As a result of being fed predominantly male resumes, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable. It penalised resumes that included the word ‘women’ as in “women’s chess club captain.” It also downgraded graduates of all-women’s colleges.

Studies have shown systemic unintended bias occurs when reviewing resumes that are identical apart from names that signify a racial background or gender, or a signifier of LGBTQIA+ status. The solution for this has been to remove names or any identifiable data from an interview or CV screening, but these have still experienced bias issues like those discussed earlier.

In order to be truly blind, any input data needs to be clean and objective. This means that it gives no insight into someone’s age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic standing, education, or even past professional experience.

To truly disrupt bias, recruiters and hiring managers should utilise a new wave of HR tech tools such as Sapia, stepping away from using CV data as a way to determine job suitability.


We cover this and so much more in our report: Hiring for Equality. Download the report here.


The future of HR! Be the change you want to see

Are you an HR visionary, a fast follower, a sceptic or even a laggard?

How do you want to be remembered in your organisation?

2020 was tough for everyone, but in some way, HR had some unique challenges. Workplaces were uprooted across the globe and at a velocity, no one was prepared for.

From crisis comes opportunity and did HR in your organisation grab that opportunity to accelerate transformation?

Did they:

  • Automate the obvious processes that suck up organisational time, such as candidate screening?
  • Invest in Ai tools to interrupt bias at the top of the funnel now that we are becoming more aware of the systemic unconscious and conscious bias?
  • Treat candidates just like your business treats its customers by revolutionising the candidate journey and experience – ending ghosting of candidates? 

Inertia is not a strategy.

In the life of a business, especially a start-up, your growth is defined by your ability to find the innovators and early adopters to lead the change, and then the fast followers to scale and mostly trying to avoid the laggards. 

Innovation curve

Most organisations now say publicly and internally that their success is down to their people-finding, hiring, developing and retaining that talent.  

For many organisations, the talent pool has now gone global. 

What has changed in your organisation to tap into a wider pool of talent, which will also help your diversity agenda, core to your innovation agenda?

For many organisations, the volume of applicants has gone up as the unemployment rate goes up.

What has changed in your organisation to automate screening to be able to move fast to get the best talent and save your organisations a huge invisible cost- screening all those candidates?

For so many of us, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought a social responsibility that is expected of companies to promote your brand as one that supports inclusivity and equity.

What kind of technology does your organisation use to take action on what you are saying and screen talent fairly at scale?

Values-based hiring and hiring for culture creation is now on the agenda for most sophisticated businesses.

How has the HR team embedded your values in your hiring and promotion?

If you really truly care about treating the candidate like your customers, read this.

If you are tired of talk and ready for action on creating inclusive workplaces and processes, read this.

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

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We need to talk about bias and the trouble with video interviews

To find out how to interpret bias in recruitment, we also have a great eBook on inclusive hiring.

And then suddenly the video interview went mainstream! 

Whether it’s Google Meet, Facetime or Zoom, 2020 will always be remembered as the year that video meet-ups went mainstream. It’s how kids kept up their lessons. How their parents hooked up with their personal trainers. It’s where people met up for Friday drinks. And of course, it’s the technology that enabled millions to stay connected to colleagues and clients while working from home. 

And just as video has impacted so many parts of our lives and businesses, it also accelerated the adoption of video tools in contemporary recruiting.

It might be considered the next-best-thing to ‘being there’, but could video interviewing actually be filled with traps that are working against the best interests of recruiters, candidates and employers? 

What is a video interview?

There are two types of video interviews:

  • one-way or asynchronous video interviews – where candidates record their responses to a set of job-relevant questions.
  • two-way video interviews  – using one of the platforms described above or bespoke tools that connect the interviewer (or interviewing panel) in conversation with candidates.


Can video interviews really reduce unconscious bias?

Within both types of video interviews, an ability to reduce unconscious bias is promoted as a key benefit.

Unconscious bias is the sum of the inherent beliefs, opinions, cultural background and life experiences that shape how we assess, engage and interact with others.

There are several ways that video interviewing might help reduce unconscious bias:

  • A consistent experience – With a structured approach to interview questions and process that provides every candidate with the same parameters. A standardised experience for every candidate can be seen to reduce bias.  When questions are set, there’s little or no room for distracting small talk (in two way interviews) that may reveal bias triggers.
  • No geographic or travel barriers – By interviewing all candidates in a location of their choosing, the bias of distance and the effort and expense of travel to attend an interview in person is reduced. 
  • Open the opportunity to more candidates – With the ability to automate video interviews and applications, recruiters can connect with many more candidates, helping to reduce the bias that may see a CV or application ignored or put aside.


The bias problem that’s staring you in the face.

As much as proponents of video screening or interviewing claim it removes bias from the process, by its very nature, the opposite is in fact true. 

As soon as an interviewer or hirer sees a candidate, the blindfolds of bias are removed. No matter how aware or trained in bias the reviewers may be, images and sound can trigger bias. Additionally, it can distract attention from the things that really matter. Here are just a few things that someone talking to the camera will reveal. All possible points of unconscious bias:

  • gender
  • age
  • skin colour
  • cultural background
  • visible disabilities
  • attractiveness or otherwise
  • what people wear – headscarves, religious jewellery, or maybe you just don’t like stripes or the candidate’s personal style
  • the background of the video – are you making judgements about candidates because of their home environment or choice of art on the walls 
  • accents might sound ‘funny’ or strange to your ear
  • candidates may have unusual voices or speech impediments that would not impact their ability to perform in the role 
  • you may negatively associate candidates with other people you’ve worked with or met 
  • the candidate may be highly nervous  about ‘performing’ for the camera, affecting their ability to speak normally and communicate clearly

No rule says you need to see someone to hire them

That’s just a bias (much like the bias pre-Covid) that you need to see someone at work to know that they are doing the work. 

Blind hiring means you are interviewing a candidate without seeing them or knowing them. It’s fair for the candidate and also smart for your organisation. 

If you are hanging your hat on the fact you just finished bias training- research has shown consistently unconscious bias training does not work.  

While we have all been dutifully attending it for years, the truth is the change factor is zero. 

Video interviews vs text interviews. Which delivers blind interviewing at its best?

Sapia’s Ai-enabled, text chat interview platform has been designed to deliver the ultimate in blind testing at the most important stage of the recruitment process: candidate screening. 

Unlike video interviewing, Sapia removes all the elements that can bring unconscious bias into play – video, visual content such as candidate photos or data gathered from social channels such as LinkedIn. Sapia even takes CVs out of the process.

Read: The Ultimate Guide To Interview Automation With Text-Based Assessments

An enjoyable and empowering candidate experience

While being ‘camera shy’ works against many candidates in video interviews, Sapia evaluates candidates with a few simple open, transparent questions via a text conversation.  

Candidates know text and are comfortable using it.  A text interview is non-threatening and candidates tell us they feel respected and recognised as the individual they are. They are grateful for the space and time to tell their story in their words. It’s the only conversational interview platform with 99% candidate satisfaction feedback.

Better hiring outcomes with Sapia

Beyond a more empowering candidate experience, the platform helps recruiters and employers connect with the best candidates faster and cost-effectively. The platform uses Ai, machine learning and NLP to test, assess and rank candidates according to values, traits, personality, communications skills and more. 

Recruiters can gain valuable personality insights and the confidence of a shortlist with the best matched candidates to proceed to live interviews. By removing bias from the screening process Sapia is helping employers increase workplace diversity. 

Find out more about Sapia’s Ai-powered text interview platform. Also, see how we can support your best-practice recruitment needs today. 

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

Finally, you can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now HERE > 

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Why qualifications are increasingly irrelevant

A recent article in The New York Times declared “the relationship between American businesses and their employees is undergoing a profound shift: For the first time in a generation, workers are gaining the upper hand.”

It’s quite a statement, particularly within the US, where the issue of minimum wages has been an ongoing battle, with employers largely having the upper hand for decades. The article goes on: 

“The change is broader than the pandemic-related signing bonuses at fast-food places. Up and down the wage scale, companies are becoming more willing to pay a little more, to train workers, to take chances on people without traditional qualifications, and to show greater flexibility in where and how people work.”

There are two things happening here to create this ‘moment in time’: the first is that companies are understanding that treating workers better has a long-term benefit in a market that has a talent shortage, which is something that we have seen signs of across markets emerging from COVID lockdowns. This is fantastic to witness and as a card carrying member of the “hire with heart” club I am profoundly excited to see candidates put front and centre. But, the second change is equally as groundbreaking and that is around qualifications and past experience. Companies are realising that qualifications and past experience can reduce a talent pool with very little to justify the benefit of doing so.

It’s a significant trend we’ve seen emerging over the last year, when Google and Microsoft announced that you didn’t need a college degree anymore to get a job there and also opted for on-the-job training certificates. Microsoft made it clear at the time that the move was a bid to address the lack of opportunity for underrepresented populations.

The NYT article highlighted the work done at IBM in taking a fresh approach through its apprenticeship program on how it views people’s qualifications for a job. Since 2017, in a bid to find better talent, executives concluded that the qualifications for many jobs were unnecessarily demanding and so they did away with them. Where jobs might have required applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in the past, for example, they realised a six-month on-the-job-training course would adequately prepare a person for the role. It’s been a huge success.

IBM’s senior vice president for transformation and culture is quoted as saying “By creating your own dumb barriers, you’re actually making your job in the search for talent harder.” 

We couldn’t have put it better. You have to ask yourself when the world’s most innovative companies, and often the most competitive to work at, decide that qualifications don’t matter and that broadening their talent pool has better hiring outcomes, can you afford not to pay attention?

We think not. 

In fact, Sapia was built specifically to ignore qualifications, CVs and past experience. That might seem like quite a radical thing, but we believe that is the only way we can truly empower companies to find the best talent and circumvent the (dumb!) barriers we all put up in our search for talent. 

It’s not just qualification and past experience that don’t matter, CVs are a barrier as they are full of irrelevant information that only contribute to biased outcomes. Schools attended, past experience, gender, ethnicity, age can all be inferred from a CV even when names are removed. As hiring managers we scan them looking for queues that demote good hires based on no data, and no evidence – all while confirming our own biases.

Our technology was built so that companies can find undiscovered talent from attributes that qualifications, CVs and past experience can’t reveal by understanding the unique attributes that individuals bring to a job, and how those might align with the job requirements. We look further than any human can to understand what it is that motivates individuals, how they respond to things, what their strengths and weaknesses are and whether they might be a good fit for a job – based on real data. 

If you want to attract talent and remain competitive in a market where the employee has the upper hand,  you need to be doing more than”posting and ghosting”. You need to be doing more than looking at blind CVs, and haphazardly parsing information that does little to serve your company.

You need to draw a red line through past experience and qualifications. You need to treat everyone with heart. You need to be looking at what makes a person tick, and you need to respect the potential value everybody has. Anybody could be your next hire, and everybody should be considered. 

That’s the only way you are going to be able to hire in this new – and welcome – world where candidates aren’t just numbers, but valuable, unique humans who you need, more than they need you. You need undiscovered talent. 


We cover this and so much more in our report: Hiring for Equality. Download the report here.

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