Like blind hiring and diversity hiring, fair hiring is gaining ground in recent years as a solution to a multi-faceted problem. Many organizations are spending significant funds to find the so-called “best hire.” The cost of hiring the wrong person is, financially, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add in the non-monetary costs of lost time, productivity, and morale, and it’s clear why companies are so invested in solving flaws in the recruitment process.
Fair hiring, however, is not just about hiring someone based on merit. Fair hiring processes also require staying abreast of national and local hiring employment laws and regulations. There are clear anti-discrimination regulations that can lead to steep penalties if a company is seen to be intentionally ignoring fair hiring rules.
This guide will highlight what constitutes fair hiring, some of the benefits of fair hiring, and how to ensure fairness in your company’s vetting and selection process.
What is fair hiring?
Fair hiring is a term that encompasses not only job discrimination laws but also the idea that hiring should be based on merit — and not related to a candidate’s ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other quality unrelated to their skills and expertise. Companies must both adhere to labor laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring and incorporate blind hiring and other diversity hiring tactics to achieve a fair hiring standard.
Fair hiring is grounded in the legal policies of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This body makes it illegal to discriminate against an applicant (or employee) based on that person’s “race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
The goal of the EEOC is to provide an even playing field to every candidate who applies for a job. As such, language in a job ad that seeks “recent college graduates” may violate EEOC protections for candidates over the age of 40, depending on the specific ad.
Fair hiring also refers to overcoming unconscious biases in your hiring process. Unconscious bias — learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, and deeply ingrained within our beliefs — are one of the reasons why diversity hiring is so difficult for many recruiters. Without training, awareness, and intentional changes to create a fair hiring process, unconscious bias can hinder a company’s growth, success, and innovation.
Fair hiring is essential not just for legal reasons but also for better business results and a more positive employee experience.
Why is fair hiring important?
Fair hiring practices allow an organization to accomplish a number of things. At the most basic level, fair hiring practices help you stay compliant with EEOC policies. Damages related to EEOC complaints can range from $50,000 to $300,000 and more if a lawsuit is raised. Fair hiring helps you avoid expensive court battles that can ruin your brand reputation.
More importantly, fair hiring can lead to a more diverse workforce, which has several tangible and intangible benefits. Companies that have diverse and inclusive workplaces are shown to have lower employee turnover due to higher employee engagement. This means their hiring costs are much lower. And, organizations that rank in the top 25% for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom 25%.
Plus, diverse teams are shown to be better at decision-making, more innovative, and “smarter.” Fair hiring enables not only diversity hiring but also the construction of an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued for their skills and experience. Inclusion — the measure of how empowered each individual feels to contribute to their workplace — stems from merit-based hiring. Each individual must be made to feel like they belong and that their contributions are valued not because of their background but because of their knowledge and capabilities.
[Read more: 6+ Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace]
Fair hiring is quickly becoming the expectation, rather than the goal, among job seekers. That leaves many business leaders wondering how to ensure recruitment and selection processes are fair in their organizations.
Fair hiring practices
Fairness in the selection process is the first step to creating a more diverse workforce and achieving the innovation, employee engagement, productivity, and financial success that comes from an inclusive company. Make progress toward fair hiring with these six fair hiring practices.
1. Use inclusive language
You may be unwittingly discouraging well-qualified, diverse candidates from applying to your organization in the language you use in your job ads. Words like “competitive” or “strong” are subconsciously perceived as male-specific, while words like “support” and “assist” are perceived to appeal to female candidates. Run your job descriptions through a tool like Textio or The Gender Decoder to strip biased words from your ad.
2. Implement a skill assessment
Skill testing is an efficient and effective way to make hiring about merit. A pre-employment skill assessment allows you to assess how well a candidate’s career readiness: can they take on the level of responsibility called for in the job description? Tools like Vervoe allow recruiting teams to test both technical skills and soft skills. Coding challenges, interactive question types, and virtual task-based outcomes can be combined with questions designed to test someone’s attention to detail, collaboration, and communication.
AI-powered skill assessments make the selection process even fairer for two reasons. First, an AI-powered skill assessment is scored by machine learning removing human unconscious bias from the process. Secondly, no candidates are eliminated during the skill test step of the hiring process. Instead, candidates are ranked with identifying characteristics removed to ensure blindness in the hiring process.
Not only can skills testing improve fair hiring, but skill testing can also save recruiters time and money too. AI can review hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates, giving everyone a fair shot to make it to the next stage in the hiring process.
3. Include blind hiring practices
Blind hiring involves hiding any identifiable characteristics from a candidate’s application that are not related to their experience and job skills. For instance, a blind application may obscure things like the candidate’s name, education, zip code, hobbies, age, and gender. Ideally, blind hiring removes any data that could cause a hiring team to form a preference unrelated to the person’s skills and abilities.
Blind hiring practices range from the literal — e.g., an orchestra audition happening behind a partition to hide someone’s identity — to the technical. There are different ways to include elements of blind hiring at every stage of the hiring process: read more in our guide to blind hiring.
4. Use job-related selection criteria
Before you begin sourcing applications or reaching out to potentially qualified candidates, make sure the hiring team has agreed on selection criteria against which to evaluate each person. All criteria must be job-related to be compliant with EEOC and other state and local labor laws.
One trap that many companies fall into is hiring someone solely based on the idea of “culture fit”. While company culture is an important part of the employee experience, it can also cause hiring managers to simply hire someone “like them.” Culture fit can lead hiring teams to focus too much on bringing in candidates that look and act like everyone else already at the company, rather than identifying diverse candidates who can contribute to a more inclusive, more innovative culture.
Fair hiring requires coming up with some company values that can help guide decision-making when evaluating candidates. Translate these values into desired skills and work experiences. Be transparent about those values in your job ad and employer branding. And, as you assess a candidate’s “culture fit”, refer back to selection criteria to help resist any unconscious bias.
5. Gather diverse hiring teams
Fair hiring practices benefit from diverse hiring teams. Start by creating a panel of employees to oversee the interview processes. A hiring panel gives you a way to bring more perspectives into the process.
Hiring decisions by group consensus helps to overcome unconscious bias — but it’s important to make sure the hiring team is diverse, too. When Intel implemented diverse interview panels, the company was able to increase overall diversity at the company by 41%. This is also an important step in building an inclusive culture for your employees.
6. Offer training on EEOC policies
Last but not least, fair hiring benefits from training — on EEOC policies, but also unconscious bias training too. Ensure anyone participating in the hiring process (not just recruiters) understands the potential pitfalls of ignoring federal and state labor laws. Unconscious bias training should be offered regularly to all employees to ensure they are supported and supportive of the inclusive work culture you are building.
Fair hiring requires a combination of diversity hiring strategies and goals, blind hiring techniques, training, and technology. Fair hiring can be accomplished by taking measurable steps to remove biased language from your job descriptions, adhere to EEOC laws, and include as many diverse perspectives in the hiring process as possible. For more steps you can take to improve fair hiring at your organization, check out our guide on How To Measure Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion.