Sifting and selection

Unconscious bias will naturally exist throughout sifting, assessment and selection processes. To neutralise such biases and hire the best talent from the broadest talent pools, organisations must ensure objective assessment of candidates.

Employer recommendations

At the outset

Set targets for diversity across the recruitment pipeline (apply, pass the sift, interviewed, made an offer, hired). Read more from The Behavioural Insights Team on how to set effective targets. By agreeing inclusive recruitment goals, targets and KPIs, organisations can increase accountability in decision-making.

➖Collect candidate demographic data to monitor inclusion outcomes and explain why you are collecting demographic data. See Indeed's FAQs for an example of explaining the why. Acas has an equality and diversity monitoring form template that you can include with job application forms.

➖Provide formal training for hiring managers and recruiters to mitigate bias at the selection stage.

➖Have managers and recruiters test themselves for bias using online assessments such as the Harvard Implicit Association Test to raise personal and group awareness and help to mitigate bias playing out in actual decisions.

➖ Revisit rejected candidates that were borderline cases. Read about Google's experiment revisiting some of the rejected software engineer resumes that were borderline cases.


➖Anonymise applications (use 'blind CVs').

Remove identifying information from CVs and application forms before hiring managers review them. Google's Unbiasify is an open source chrome extension that allows you to source candidates from LinkedIn and Lever without seeing people's names or faces. We're working towards expanding these features to other popular websites. According to Mark Lomas when he was Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at HS2, one of HS2’s most successful moves was a ‘blind audition’ approach to recruitment – removing CVs and application forms and replacing them with an anonymous, skills-based assessment. This approach increased the diversity of applicants at shortlisting stage significantly: from 17 per cent to 47 per cent for women, and from 14 per cent to 50 per cent for BAME groups, while ensuring applicants met the right level of technical competence'. Read more about this approach in this article.

Gartner says that 'While anonymizing résumés is part of it, true blind hiring also removes the same information from assessments, personality tests and other materials candidates may be asked to complete when they apply. For example, applicants can be assigned randomized ID numbers before their information reaches anyone. Assessments can be given under those numbers. Recruiters can be instructed to do the same'.Tactics for Recruiting Diverse Candidates, Gartner (paid subscription required).

➖Instead of using resumes, use skill-based assessment tasks to help objectively determine experienced candidates.

Skill-based assessments are a form of assessment that assess skills and abilities relevant to the role the employee is applying for. They can include work sample tasks, situational judgement tests, simulation exercises, or assessment centres. Skill-based assessments should resemble real tasks in the job as far as possible. In 2023 Molson Coors Beverage Co (MCBC) announced it will no require job applicants to provide a CV or provide details such as level of education and prior experience for certain roles.The brewer said the move would make the recruitment process “more inclusive and encourage a more diverse range of people to apply”. Applicants for these roles will undergo “gamified, task-based psychometric assessments” to detect natural aptitude and suitability.

➖Leverage automation in the applicant tracking system (ATS) to remind recruiters of potential bias and biased language while they screen candidates.

➖Involve a range of diverse reviewers for the sift.

➖Avoid looking through candidates’ social media profiles to learn about them prior to the interview. CIPD says 'Incorporating social media searches into the screening process undoes any efforts taken to anonymise the application process and to use objective criteria to evaluate candidates. This can result in candidates from marginalised groups being screened out (whether consciously or unconsciously). There is evidence that employers looking at candidates’ Facebook pages while screening applications led to marginalised applicants of foreign origin receiving far fewer callbacks for interviews', Inclusive Recruitment for Employers, CIPD


➖Provide formal training for hiring managers and recruiters to mitigate bias at the selection stage.

➖Ask managers to test themselves for bias using online assessments such as the
Harvard Implicit Association Test to raise personal awareness and help to mitigate bias playing out in decisions.

Reflect existing diversity in the assessment process. If candidates only encounter one type of person throughout the process they're likely to think this is reflective of the organisation as a whole and might deter them from accepting a job offer if they feel they're different from the rest of the workforce.

Use objective and standardised assessment tools to evaluate candidates, such as skills tests and structured, behavioural interviews, to reduce bias in the selection process. Use structured interviewing techniques to test an individual’s contribution – rather than how they fit in – to culture. According to Gallup, 'Hiring for a culture fit can unwittingly encourage unconscious bias'. They say 'it's better for employers to stop trying to fit employees or hiring candidates to the workplace culture. Instead, they should add to the workplace culture by adjusting hiring practices to align with employee talents, competence and aspirations.'

➖Have hiring managers and recruiters take real-time, accurate notes to identify the skills and competencies of the candidate in a clear and concise manner, removing bias along the way.

Minimise small talk to limit potential bias creeping into the interview - stick to a script.

➖Establish shortlisting and competency scoring systems upfront and ensure consistent interview questions are asked to all candidates, in the same order. 

Take a skills based approach to applications and assessment. Read about 'Why IBM Chooses Skills Over Degrees'. The US based Multiple Pathways Initiative is a multi-year targeted effort to reform companies’ hiring and talent management practices to emphasize the value of skills, rather than just degrees, and to improve equity, diversity and workplace culture and has nearly 80 Business Roundtable member companies participating (including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Accenture, American Express etc). In 2022 the Multiple Pathways Initiative released a set of resources to support employers to implement skills-based talent management strategies at their companies:

➖'Recruit for potential and be alert to the socio-economic biases inherent in recruitment such as ‘polish’, ‘fit’, or ’culture’', Social Mobility Foundation's Employer Index Report 2022. Read more about hiring for potential in 'The Playbook for CV-less Hiring'.

➖Use a scoring system and aggregate scores before de-briefing.

➖Use a 'devil’s advocate' role to help assessors and hiring managers to make fairer and more inclusive decisions. The purpose of the 'devil’s advocate' is to push for evidence to help reduce bias playing out in the final decision.  The effectiveness of this approach is dependent on the alertness and competence of the people in this role. Read more about this approach in this article by McKinsey.

Overall recommendations

Seek candidate feedback. Conduct focus groups, and exit and stay interviews with successful and unsuccessful candidates from underrepresented groups to understand the challenges they faced in recruitment to improve the experience of future candidates.

➖Make your recruitment process inclusive for talent with a disability. Watch this video with Mark Lomas, Head of Culture at Lloyd's of London, about the importance of making reasonable adjustments and how aspects of the recruitment process impact disabled candidates.

➖For graduate and entry level roles, do not score an applicant based on their extra-curricular activities in recruitment processes as this disadvantages young people from lower social economic backgrounds.

Diagram from CIPD's Inclusive recruitment: Guide for employers

CIPD 2023-stages-of-inclusive-recruitment-8294

Further information