Practising inclusive interviewing, the first step towards building a diverse workforce

Here is how some Indian organisations are practicing inclusive interviewing

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One of the most effective ways in which companies can attract truly diverse talent is by making the first interaction or interview a welcoming, comfortable and – most importantly – equitable experience for the candidate. Inclusive interview practices include, but aren’t limited to, using blind reviews to shortlist candidates, having a steady and streamlined interview process in place, and creating a scoring system, among others. So, how far are organisations in India adhering to such practices? And what more needs to be done? Leading voices from the HR industry provided several illuminating answers.

Blind recruitment & other sector-specific policies

It is neither uncommon nor unnatural for interviewers to nurture unconscious bias even before the actual interview. Blind recruitment is often held by experts as effective in helping reduce such bias.

Seema Bangia, VP & CPO, Mahindra Agri, Defence & Aero, says this practice is strictly adhered to at her organisation in the preliminary shortlisting round. “When the CVs are sent to the hiring managers, the name and other personal information of the candidates, such as gender, age and address are hidden,” she elucidates.

The first selection for interview is done purely on the basis of skill-sets, experience and background. However, she adds that details regarding experience could indicate, by default, the age of the candidate.

“Although we are a gender-neutral organisation, the aero-defence sector is unfortunately male dominated and preference is given to male candidates for a variety of jobs,” laments Bangia. “Nowadays, wherever possible, we try to recruit women and differently-abled candidates as long as business objectives are being met,” she says, on a more optimistic note.

“When the CVs are sent to the hiring managers, the name and other personal information of the candidates, such as gender, age and address are hidden.”

Seema Bangia, VP & CPO, Mahindra Agri, Defence & Aero

Bangia expresses a desire for better gender diversity in the sector. Accordingly, the job description or JD is kept gender neutral. “Also, we are increasingly giving preference to hiring women candidates, while ensuring that merit and business needs are not neglected,” she states resolutely.

Speaking of the tech industry, Chirag Doshi, CHRO, Thoughtworks, emphasises the need to widen the talent pool to achieve greater diversity. “Right from the time of the sourcing stage of interviews, the number of female applicants can be increased through efforts such as special referral campaigns, regularly connecting with women’s colleges, and running marketing campaigns that speak to women in IT to encourage it as a career choice,” suggests Doshi.

Speech patterns, language & bias

According to new research cited by the Harvard Business Review, experienced interviewers are able to quickly and accurately discern the socioeconomic background of candidates by listening to them speak. Consequently, their opinions can be negatively influenced, causing them to judge those displaying a ‘lower class’ speech pattern as less competent, deserving of a lower starting salary than their higher status counterparts, and a worse fit for the job in general. Alarmingly, according to the study, these judgments were made without any information about the candidates’ qualifications.

“Questions such as ‘when are you planning to start a family’ – particularly to women candidates – are a strict no-no.”

Mangesh Bhide, senior VP & head of HR, Jio Network & Infrastructure

Mangesh Bhide, senior VP & head of HR, Jio Network & Infrastructure, opines that language and speech patterns should solely be used to gauge linguistic competency for meeting specific role requirements. Bhide cites the example of BPO call centres to drive home his point. “Proficiency in English or other foreign languages is a must for candidates applying to work at international BPOs. However, there is no question of rejecting a candidate for their English if they are to be recruited for a domestic call centre, where fluency in the local language is required.”

When it comes to other aspects of inclusive interviewing, Bhide rejects the practice of asking interviewees personal questions. “Questions such as ‘when are you planning to start a family’ – particularly to women candidates – are a strict no-no,” he stresses.

A streamlined hiring process

According to Bhide, organisations that recruit candidates on the basis of knowledge, experience and skill set; have clear hiring guidelines and a robust standardised hiring process, are more likely to conduct inclusive interviews.

The same idea is echoed by Doshi. “Having a uniform, structured interview process is critical. An unstructured interview could set off a domino effect, reducing inclusivity over time,” he explains.

“Right from the time of the sourcing stage of interviews, the number of female applicants can be increased through special referral  and marketing campaigns.”

Chirag Doshi, CHRO, Thoughtworks

Doshi goes on to describe several practices that help Thoughtworks — an organisation in which women and gender minorities comprise 39.1 per cent of the workforce — ensure diversity and talent among new hires. These include attribute-based hiring and a strengths-oriented approach. “We are very clear about what skills/attributes are needed when hiring for specific roles. Accordingly, our interview process is designed to uncover a candidate’s strengths that are in alignment with those needs,” says Doshi, elaborating the former practice. As for the latter, he describes it as an approach in which the hiring process is geared towards identifying strengths and hiring individuals for those rather than focussing on weaknesses and rejecting people on their basis.

“Additionally, we ensure diverse interview panels, so each candidate meets at least five Thoughtworkers during their interview process. The entire interview panel, across all rounds, typically represents diversity of gender, age, tenure and even roles to make sure we are able to see the candidate through a broader spectrum of experiences,” elucidates Doshi.

Doshi further informs that interviews at Thoughtworks are conversational with real-life puzzles and real-life situations thrown in as topics, rather than in a Q&A format. “Additionally, in most interview rounds, we let candidates interact with a pair of interviewers. Pairing lends interviewers each other’s support and guidance in creating an environment that allows the candidate to be their best,” says Doshi.

Inclusive interviews may call for additional resources and time, but the efforts are worthwhile.

1 COMMENT

  1. Nothing can and should be forced. Diversity is good but not at the cost of effeciency and effectiveness. Question on family planning is asked to predict workforce planning so there is nothing wrong in asking it.

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