Law firms could hire “blind” to avoid recruitment bias – is this right for SMEs?

Prominent Australian law firm Clifford Chance has told Lawyers Weekly it is considering a “CV blind” approach to hiring, to ensure educational diversity in the graduates it takes on board.

The approach, which stems from the firm’s UK arm, is designed to strip CVs of school and university details in order to help reduce bias towards hiring based on where the candidate studied.

It is not just law firms that can be tunnel-visioned when it comes to hiring, but businesses across all sectors can easily fall into the trap, says Karen Gately, the founder of human resources company Ryan Gately.

“What they (business owners) will do is say, ‘I have to see these exact qualifications on the CV in order for it to be a quality candidate’,” she told SmartCompany.

“It is better to be more creative about who could be right.”

Gately says a degree from a certain university does not mean a candidate is competent in the workplace, or has the right experience for a business.

A risk employers have is “like” hiring – which is looking for candidates that have familiar traits and backgrounds to their own experiences, she warns. 

“It is hard to find great candidates that have the right experience, values, cultural fit, and are at the right next-step in their career. So by narrowing the universe to the alumni of your own university or networks you are by nature making the pool small.”

The idea of “like” hiring may lead to a good personality fit, but hiring with diversity can bring fresh ideas and innovation into a business, Gately says.

Gately advises employers to approach CVs with an open mind, paying most attention to work experience. She says the cover letter should show evidence of their attitude, cultural fit and attention to detail.

She says to look for how their knowledge has been applied in actual work experiences and consider what challenges they have successfully handled.

“Someone with the perfect education may not have the perfect resume,” she says.

Recruitment Coach managing director Paula Maidens agrees business owners can set their own experiences as a benchmark when hiring, but she says doing this “makes a lot of assumptions” about who could be right.

Maidens says it is often people who have not followed a traditional path that can bring the most vitality to an organisation. Looking for potential is essential.

“Especially in small business, people with a mixed skill set that can do a lot of different roles can bring a breadth of skills and experience,” she says.

Maiden says there are instances where looking for similar backgrounds or education can help, but this is best if the aim is to replicate a mindset for a specific role.

SmartCompany recently reported on the trend of “hiring by consensus”, with SMEs looking to their team members to make a decision on who to recruit.


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