HR Technologist, "Technology: Reducing Discrimination in Hiring"

Apr 12, 2018
Arran Stewart Co-owner, Job.com

From age to race to sex, discrimination is as prevalent as ever in recruitment. Technological advancements can change this, though it will take active participation from many parties to make it happen. In this article, Arran Stewart, Co-founder at Job.com explains the many challenges involved and how organizations can make eliminating discrimination a real likelihood.

Whether it be age, race, education, locality, or sex, discrimination is hiring is an ongoing issue for both job-seekers and hirers. Many large corporate firms have made efforts to diversify their workforce, but few have been truly successful thus far. Only last month, Google received considerable flack for their biases towards white and Asian men in their hiring. While undoubtedly a bold statement, I feel confident in saying that thanks to the properties and development of blockchain technology, discrimination in recruitment can gradually become a problem of the past and I, for one, welcome it with open arms.

My entire career has been in the recruitment industry and I’m fortunate to have seen the industry’s evolution through the many sectors, industries, and locations I’ve been involved in. I’ve witnessed it all when it comes to malpractice and have seen first-hand examples of discrimination in the shortlisting of candidates. Unconscious bias is a real issue and not the fault of the hirer, but rather the systems and processes he/she is given to work with to facilitate their decision making .

Something as simple as a name on a resume can result in instant judgment. Biases on sex, race, location, and character have been made without anyone involved making a recognized, conscious decision to do so. Location, both national and international, backed with racial and cultural discrimination has always been at the forefront of shortlisting candidates, when in fact many roles, especially in tech, can be performed remotely, making location an irrelevant, or at least unimportant, candidate attribute. Locally, certain neighborhoods and area codes provide their own biases and it’s not uncommon for hirers to use area of residence as their first filter in their hiring process.

Another extremely common basis for discrimination is education. Many individuals receive their education from schools considered less prestigious than others as a result of their financial circumstances. This “lesser education” should surely be offset by drive, hunger, and work ethic but many still find it difficult to receive equal opportunities despite being several years into their careers and having already proven themselves as valuable employees.

So how can technology further reduce discrimination and see an end to the above-mentioned points? Through blockchain technology and withholding irrelevant information in the hiring process, these problems can be eradicated. In the near future, when a candidate applies for a role, the information that will be extracted and shared with a potential employer will simply be their skills and experience, closely followed by the level and discipline of the education they’ve received. It’s likely that the name of the institution attended won’t even be mentioned, just the qualification and grade achieved.

As a person with vast experience in hiring, I know first hand that the only information required to make a shortlist is experience, skills, and qualifications. If a person ticks these boxes, it is suitable to conduct a telephone, video, and face-to-face interview with them. Blockchain technology coupled with other working components in the online recruitment process will allow candidates to solely reveal the necessary information to facilitate the hirer’s decision . Providing the candidate with the opportunity to then speak directly to the hirer greatly increases their chances of securing the position they deserve.

Sadly, discrimination isn’t going away entirely as, during the interview process, it is very possible that unconscious biases come into play. However, we all know, that when you finally get to speak to someone, any predetermined judgments can swiftly be overcome through conversation.

My hope is that technology will take further leaps forward in removing all irrelevant barriers for candidates and we will continue to work towards a truly equal opportunity workplace. However, there is still a lot of progress to be made when it comes to making blockchain technology effectively streamline candidates and enable fairness throughout the hiring process.

A recent study showed that the matching algorithms behind pairing candidate resumes and jobs together were slightly biased towards the soft skills typically held in men. According to the study, the algorithms being written were written by men, who weighed the importance of skills in favour of where their personal skills lied. As a result, up to 300,000 women could be shortchanged on the jobs they match and get shortlisted to due to unintentional biases written within the algorithms behind their job search. The solution to this is quite simple. Aside from striving to utilize technology such as blockchain into the hiring process to provide trust, we need to ensure that hiring boards have a diverse panel of members covering different demographics, races, and ages.

As with all important changes, the first step needed is awareness, followed by solutions and completed by action. I hope this article helps to raise awareness for this issue and that the solutions I and others have proposed make for a more equitable future workplace for all.

Paul Sloyan