How to avoid job-hunting, job-seeking discrimination at work
A new report finds that, when hiring managers don’t know the right people, they’re likely to be biased against them.
The report, by the consulting firm McKinsey, says employers are likely to hire people based on their personal attributes such as education and job experience, rather than on how much they can do.
While hiring managers have been working to change the way they recruit, the report finds there’s a lack of action.
For example, the researchers found that the median hiring manager thought the best candidates had a bachelor’s degree and at least a high school diploma, but they also believed that applicants with a high-school diploma or less were more likely to perform poorly in the job market.
“In this environment, it makes sense that the best and brightest people with those attributes would not have the job opportunity,” says McKinsey VP of research and consulting Brian Hwang.
“They may not have even been in the pool.”
In other words, companies are likely not looking for the best applicants because they’re biased against those with less experience.
“The reason for this is because they are the ones who actually are doing the hiring,” Hwang says.
“So they may have been at a higher level of education and have better knowledge of the market and more knowledge of what the marketplace is looking for.”
While hiring teams are already working on ways to better understand and apply the research to their hiring practices, it’s not clear how much of an impact the McKinsey report has.
In the past, hiring managers at companies with more than 10,000 employees were asked to answer a series of questions about their hiring and career plans, but the study was only conducted in the U.S. And even though the U, U.K., and Australia have enacted legislation aimed at limiting job discrimination, hiring and promotion policies vary by country and are often at odds with federal guidelines.
In Canada, for example, a ban on mandatory job postings has been in place since 2015, but some companies still don’t enforce it.
For now, Hwang is calling for companies to use data to better measure and evaluate the effectiveness of their hiring policies.
“There’s no single, universally perfect metric to measure whether a company is hiring the right talent,” Hwan says.
In fact, he notes that many hiring managers can be swayed by the personal characteristics of candidates, such as their social interactions or hobbies.
The McKinsey research suggests the best practices are focused on building relationships with the right candidates and identifying the people who can do the job.
The good news is that companies are starting to realize they’re better off hiring the best people for their needs, rather the worst, according to Hwang and his colleagues.
“It’s becoming more common, so there’s been a real shift toward this idea that you should hire the people you need, rather people you don’t,” he says.