How to be fair and non-biased when reviewing job applications

Although the focus of recruiters and employers is to attract and retain the best talent, it is important that the recruitment process is fair, legal and complies with the relevant standards.

A fair recruitment process is one that is consistent, objective and non-discriminatory. This will ensure that the best person is selected for the role, based on their skills and abilities, rather than their background or other irrelevant factors. There are lots of ways that you can make sure that recruitment is both fair and unbiased:

Craft inclusive job advertisements

Be mindful of the language you use in job adverts as this can discourage certain groups of people from applying. For example, using ‘junior’ instead of ‘entry-level’ may deter more experienced applicants, whilst mentioning the need for a ‘clean driving licence’ could rule out those without one. Also avoid gender specific language (e.g. ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘chairman’, ‘foreman’) and instead opt for gender-neutral alternatives (e.g. ‘they’, ‘chairperson’, ‘supervisor’).

Create and Promote an Equality and Diversity Policy

An Equality and Diversity Policy sets out the organisation’s commitment to diversity and provides guidance on how employees should approach recruitment and selection. The policy should make it clear that all job applicants will be treated fairly and equally, regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability.

Creating an equality and diversity policy is a good way of highlighting your organisation’s commitment to fairness and can help to attract a more diverse range of job applicants.

Ensure all decision makers are trained in equality and diversity.

Anybody involved in the recruitment process, from those writing the job advert to those conducting interviews, should be trained in equality and diversity. This will ensure that they are aware of the relevant legislation and know how to avoid discrimination when assessing job applications.

Apply principles of 'Blind Hiring'.

Blind hiring is the practice of making decisions about candidates without taking into account their name, age, gender, race, etc. This can be done in a number of ways, such as removing personal information from application forms, using an anonymised CV format or using software that randomises the order in which candidates are viewed. You can also anonymise names on assessments where candidates are asked to complete them during the interview process. By doing this, you can help to prevent any unconscious bias creeping into the recruitment process.

Define Selection Criteria

When drafting criteria for the role, make sure that each one relates to job specific skills and behaviours. Once you have decided on the must-haves, consider which would be nice to haves. For each selection criterion, ask yourself whether there are any other ways that the candidate could demonstrate they meet this. For example, if you’re looking for someone with great attention to detail, instead of just asking for examples of this in their CV, you could also give them a test or ask them to complete a written exercise as part of the interview process.

Ensure a Fair and Equal Interview Process

When conducting interviews, it is important to treat all candidates equally and fairly. This means having the same questions prepared for each person, as well as giving everyone the same amount of time to answer each question. It is also important to give candidates the opportunity to ask their own questions at the end of the interview. Make sure that candidates are provided with information on how to request additional arrangements for access, or special considerations if they have a disability.

Implement a fair policy for conducting background checks

Although it is important for you to conduct the relevant background checks on candidates, this process should be reserved for the later stages of the recruitment process. Make sure that employment checks are conducted in line with legislation and best practice. Where possible, avoid eliminating those with a criminal conviction from applying for the opportunity altogether – where it is possible and safe to do so. Instead, evaluate each case on its own merits and give the person a chance to explain any relevant circumstances.

Making job offers

Once you have decided on the successful candidate, check that your decision is in line with the Person Specification and job advert. If you have been using a scoring system, check that the candidate’s score meets the required threshold.

When making a job offer, it is important to do this verbally first, followed by a written confirmation. The written confirmation should include information on the main terms and conditions of the role, such as hours of work, salary and start date. It is also important to make sure that the candidate is happy with the offer and has all the information they need before accepting it. If the candidate accepts, make sure that you check if any reasonable adjustments may be needed to the workplace or role, to support them in carrying out their duties.

By following the above steps, you can help to ensure that your recruitment process is fair and non-biased. This will not only help you to attract and retain the best talent, but will also show that your organisation is committed to promoting equality and diversity.