This blog post was originally published on The Greenhouse Blog.
You’re likely no stranger to the bias we’re all susceptible to, especially at the very top of the hiring funnel, when a trivial six-second scan of a resume is all we have the bandwidth to do when creating an initial shortlist. Whether you’re currently shopping for a pre-employment assessment now or have already implemented one in your hiring process, diversity & inclusion (D&I) is probably an organizational priority for you.
The good news is, a pre-employment assessment can mitigate top-of-funnel bias by providing recruiters with a more objective selection method. The bad news? Not every assessment is up for the challenge.
Many assessment providers don’t have significant proof that they can reduce bias in your hiring process. That’s why, whether you already have an assessment or you’re “assessing” the space (get it?), we recommend you ask these three questions to determine whether your pre-employment assessment is D&I-friendly.
1. What does this assessment measure exactly?
Let’s be honest, there is no shortage of pre-employment screening software, and they all measure different things. Some assess candidates’ coding skills before they step into a software development job. Others require applicants to play a series of games that assess behavioral competencies.
If an assessment that sits at the top of your hiring funnel to reduce bias from the very beginning is a priority for you, we recommend leveraging an assessment that quantifies talents, not skills and knowledge.
Whereas skills and knowledge refer to a specific set of learned activities required for the job (e.g., mopping, brain surgery), talents are recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior. Talents include innovation, persuasion, teamwork, adaptation, communication and so on. You’d find skills and knowledge on a resume, but talents are a little harder to determine at a glance.
That’s why assessments that quantify talents are so useful at the top of your hiring funnel. Not only can they provide you a better interview shortlist (talents are 4X more predictive of on-the-job success than skills and knowledge), but they can provide you a more diverse shortlist, too.
Think about it – a lot of the bias toward a resume can be traced back to the skills and knowledge sections. We are more likely to favor resumes that list an education at Harvard over one with a school we’ve never heard of before. Our eyes will be drawn to candidates who complete prestigious unpaid internships at high tech companies over applicants who had to wait tables through college to pay their bills. Whereas these factors are more intrinsically linked to one’s class, race and gender, it is talents like adaptability, innovation and communication that offer a more objective and holistic picture of a person.
We’re not suggesting you rule out skills and knowledge completely; after all, you still need to ensure that when you’re hiring for a nurse, they’re a registered nurse, or when you’re hiring a developer, they at least have some coding knowledge! What we’re suggesting is that you assess talents first, and then determine candidates’ eligibility from that initial shortlist, perhaps by providing them with a hard skills assessment like HackerRank. The result will likely be a much more diverse shortlist of candidates.
2. Does this assessment account for varying types of ability?
In order to ensure that your talent assessment is as inclusive as possible, it’s important to step into the shoes of your applicants and ask, “Could someone with a disability, who has an alternative first language, or who experiences some other barrier complete this assessment and be considered equally?”
Here are a handful of the type of questions we suggest you ask yourself when shopping for a pre-employment assessment:
- Could someone who is color-blind or has another visual impairment complete these image-based questions?
- Could someone who speaks English as a second language, or is not a high school graduate, understand and complete these questions? In other words, could this assessment be completed by someone with a grade 9 reading level?
- Does answering these questions depend on prior knowledge or experience? For example, would someone who had taken certain math classes be at an advantage when answering these problem-solving questions?
- Is the assessment timed? Could this disadvantage groups who do not speak English as a first language or people who experience test anxiety?
Carefully considering how your talent assessment answers these questions is key to ensuring that certain groups aren’t self-selecting themselves out of the hiring process before you even get the chance to meet them.
Carefully considering how your talent assessment answers these questions is key to ensuring that certain groups aren't self-selecting themselves out of the hiring process before you even get a chance to meet them.
3. Has the assessment provider proven no adverse impact on certain groups?
Before you buy a pre-employment assessment, always ask for the technical manual. This is a handy document that all online assessment vendors should provide, as it outlines important research around the assessment’s validity and whether there is evidence to show an adverse impact on certain groups of people. For instance, has the vendor proven through valid research that the assessment does not disadvantage women (versus men)?
The path to designing your hiring process for diversity is not an easy one, that’s for sure. Once you start noticing all the ways bias can creep into conventional hiring practices, the task to make the processes in your organization’s hiring funnel optimized for D&I can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are software innovations, such as online talent assessments (like Plum), that can help. Being intentional and asking the right questions before purchasing an assessment can make all the difference.
For more questions to ask before buying an assessment that's D&I-friendly, download our essential checklist here. In the e-book, we outline 12 concrete steps to consider before taking the talent assessment plunge.