4 steps to unbiased assessment

Oct 8, 2020 | Selection & assessment | 1 comment

Improving the prospects of young people can be achieved through unbiased assessment says Alan Bourne, CEO at Sova Assessment.

For the class of 2020, the learning environment and jobs market are unlike any we’ve experienced before.

As well as the immediate challenges of isolation away from home and remote-based job hunting, fear that the Covid generation is facing a dark age of low social mobility is borne out by reduced employment prospects.

Reduced opportunity will affect the careers of young people and in particular, those from minority groups who are more at risk of discrimination.

The London School of Economics’ Covid-19 and Social Mobility report finds that since the pandemic “young people are even less likely to fulfil their potential regardless of their background”.

This is worrying, but it is something we can help to tackle as employers. We know that students and graduates will play a vital role in our organisations’ future so what steps can we take to help prevent these inequalities becoming entrenched in our businesses?

The entry point is recruitment. Therefore, it’s vital that potential employers assess candidates in a fair, objective and unbiased manner in recruitment and later, in development. This step is the basis of workforce diversity and therefore of supporting better social mobility.


Levelling the playing field

Objectivity needs to be instilled from the outset. Creating an unbiased assessment process requires a combination of techniques and analytics so that recruiters can continually monitor, diagnose, optimise, and refresh the assessment process in line with their diversity objectives.

As part of our new white paper ‘Levelling the Playing Field’, which is about improving diversity in hiring and career progression, the Sova Assessment team mapped out the building blocks of a fair assessment process.


4 steps to unbiased assessment

  1. Consider carefully and thoughtfully what good looks like for your organisation. This needs to be through a wide lens and with the scope of diversity in mind. Rather than addressing one aspect, think about what diverse talent means as a whole. Consider the way you describe what you’re looking for and how that could be exclusive if it’s framed without thought to diversity. For example, have a broad range of people provide feedback on a job advert.
  2. In designing your process think about which techniques are going to be fairest. Have an inclusive approach to design and gather insight about how your process design will be interpreted. Questions and assessment content need to be objective and not discriminate based on access to certain knowledge which is exclusive to some. Having input into the design from a diverse group is really important too so get different viewpoints on the assessment.
  3. Monitor the success of your assessment process thoroughly. Take the time and care to measure the easy metrics such as gender as well as the more difficult ones where it takes time to build up a picture such as promotion. To see the whole picture, you need sight of all the assessments in your process and across all groups. This data should be linked routinely and looked at regularly in real time, not only on an annual basis.
  4. Use analytics to work out which part of your journey, or which questions and content are working fairly, and which are not. Lay out the parts of your process shown to be generating unfair responses and consider whether to change them or remove them. For example, are certain questions excluding those without a university education? Are you excluding candidates based on language or numeracy skills that are not required for the job?

The Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt worsened economic and education inequality but it’s within our power as organisations to remove bias and unfairness from our own processes.

Creating a fair and objective hiring and development process will ensure that every student has career opportunity despite the challenges of 2020.

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1 Comment

  1. Agrajag

    Psychometric gimmicks like Sova Assessment discriminate against autistic candidates. Happily, most recruiters are willing to replace this nonsense with a written task that actually has something to do with the inherent requirements of the role.

    Two sources I’d recommend to anyone curious about how the misuse of psychometrics disadvantages neurodivergent candidates are “Neurodiverse voices: Opening Doors to Employment” and “Algorithm Hiring Tools: Innovative Recruitment or Expedited Disability Discrimination?”

    But recruiters shouldn’t need to read this stuff to understand that disabled candidates have a far better understanding of how they’re excluded than the people who first unthinkingly erected those barriers. In terms of candidate experience, having some anonymous recruiter ignore my request not to be filtered out by psychometrics is not ideal – it suggests the employer wouldn’t take my access needs seriously even if I did win their hiring lottery.

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