9 ways to avoid discrimination in recruitment

How to ensure a fair and equitable hiring process

9 ways to avoid discrimination in recruitment

Employers have a legal obligation to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. However, it’s not just employees who can face discrimination, but potential employees.

Keeping a workplace free of discrimination starts at the beginning, when employers are recruiting people to join their teams.

Read more: Can discrimination arise from just one incident?

What is recruitment discrimination?

Discrimination involves members of a group of people with personal characteristics protected under human rights legislation suffering adverse effects because of those characteristics — which include age, disability, gender identity, family or marital status, race, religion, creed, sex, and sexual orientation. In the case of recruitment for a position, the adverse effect would be not getting the job. Employers must make sure that their recruitment process is fair and not discriminatory against any protected groups.

Removing names from employment applications could help reduce recruitment discrimination, says one HR consultant.

How to avoid recruitment discrimination

  1. Create a standard set of criteria

Determine what is necessary to do the job and what skills you’re looking for before starting the recruitment process. Create a list of standardized criteria that apply to everyone, formulate interview questions based on these criteria, and give them to hiring managers. This will help to avoid the risk of biases influencing any questions or decisions.

  1. Decide what the job role needs from your applicants

Determine what qualifications are essential so you can eliminate applicants based on them. That will make it easier to use an equitable approach and allow you to focus on those qualifications. Also, be aware of the difference between essential qualifications and desirable qualities. Certain characteristics may be nice, but if they’re not essential to the job and inadvertently place some people at a disadvantage because of a protected ground, there is a risk of discrimination in the hiring process.

  1. Advertise widely to everyone

When advertising a position, think about the accessibility of the medium. Posting a job ad only on certain media or at certain locations could limit who sees it and exclude people. The language of the job ad should reflect the essential criteria, skills, and experience that were set out in the beginning.

  1. Choose who fits your needs

The selection of candidates for a shortlist should reflect only the standardized criteria and essential qualifications.

  1. Don't ask a question if it focuses on someone's protected characteristics

If a job applicant is asked about any protected characteristics during a job interview, then that is discrimination. For example, don’t ask a woman if she plans to have children and don’t ask anyone about their religion. Questions should focus only on the criteria and qualifications for the position.

The only exception would be if the position has legitimate occupational requirements for which someone’s protected characteristics would prevent them from being able to do the job safely and competently, and accommodation isn’t possible without undue hardship to the employer. For example, age and disability could prevent someone from doing a job that has certain physical or health requirements. If you’re concerned about someone’s potential need for accommodation, it’s their decision whether to raise it in the job interview. Otherwise, the employer should only ask about it once a job offer is made.

  1. Use non-discriminatory language

The language of a job posting should be as inclusive as possible. Focus on the qualifications for the position and not any characteristics that might exclude people due to certain characteristics. The same applies during interviews, so standardized questions will help in this regard.

  1. Avoid unconscious bias

Just about everyone has some element of unconscious bias, so it’s important for hiring managers to be aware of that — possibly through training or required reading — and ensure that it doesn’t affect their approach. A standardized set of questions and the standardized criteria will help guard against unconscious bias manifesting in things like empathy for certain candidates or dislike of others based on certain personal characteristics.

3 in 10 female workers in Canada face obstacles in recruitment, according to a survey.

  1. Offer based on ability

Make an honest assessment of each candidate’s ability to do the job. When it comes time to make a final decision and a job offer, it should come down to how their qualifications and skills match those set out for the position. Record everything during the process — from developing job criteria through the interview process to the final selection — so if any problems come up, things are documented.

If any of characteristics protected under human rights legislation are a factor in the decision to eliminate a candidate from the running or offer a particular candidate the position, and they are unrelated to a bona fide job requirement, then that’s discriminatory recruitment.

  1. Give unsuccessful candidates feedback about their interview

Candidates who don’t get the job are likely going to be disappointed, but they should be satisfied that they had a fair and equal opportunity. Providing constructive feedback on how they did and why they didn’t get the job may help them accept the result. Go over the job criteria and where they could improve to eliminate any uncertainty about whether discriminatory elements were part of the decision — and it will help the failed candidate in future job searches while fostering a positive employer brand. Invite them to apply for future job vacancies to emphasize that the company is still open to the possibility of employing them.

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