Recently I received an email from a job candidate with this question, “How does your product (video interviewing) eliminate age discrimination in the hiring process?” As HR professionals we all know that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces laws discriminating on any of the following bases:
Right away I knew she was concerned about how old she would appear during her video interview and she feared she would be eliminated at the this early screening stage. After providing all the reasons how video interviewing actually counteracted discrimination she still declared her displeasure.
The unsettling truth for this candidate and others is that no product specifically designed to select people can eliminate discrimination when wielded by an individual who discriminates. The reality is that she could be the victim of age discrimination when the employer saw a graduation date on a resume, her profile on Linkedin or when they met in person. Hiring managers are supposed to “select” the best candidates for their organization and thereby eliminate those that don’t fit just as long as the candidates they disregard are not cast aside unfairly. How hard is this to do though?
Let’s face it, humans are inherently selective. As a child you chose your friends based on interests similar to you. You of course didn’t feel you were being discriminatory when you did this. Your parents likewise chose their friends based on a similarity of interests which are often related to demographic factors… If you are white then very likely the majority of your friends are white. If you are Latino then similarly many of your friends are also Latino. Older people hang out with older people, younger people hang out with younger people. Couples with children often gravitate to other couples with children. The matches go on and on. Unless we’re picking teams for a competitive sport seldom do we choose our friends based on skills alone and even when picking teams we sometimes ignore the chance to win in favor of choosing teammates we like.
Interview questions are designed not just to measure talent but to determine if the hiring organization will like working with the candidate. During the hiring process, however, often hiring managers are called upon to squash decades of conditioning and hire purely on skill. Well as they say, “that cake don’t bake” which is probably why 88% of organizations hire for the right “cultural fit” beyond just an acceptable set of skills, and why most feel they can tell in the first five minutes if a candidate is right for the job. Their concern of course is high turnover which they believe results from a team that doesn’t gel. Reducing costly turnover is one cause for why behavioral assessments, cognitive ability tests and video interviewing services are used to select candidates. Though these tools can reduce discrimination can we rely on them to fully eliminate it?
No, that is not until robots become our masters and all human emotion or bias is eliminated completely from the hiring process. Until the T1000 becomes our boss, hiring managers will just have to keep educating themselves on the benefits of a diverse workforce.