Location Bias: It matters which part of the town one comes from

Typecasting and prejudices based on location and postal address is rampant, but many are in denial

0
42438

A LinkedIn user who is a recruiter, mentioned an experience wherein she got to hear something shocking from her client. She reveals that the client had prejudices against a candidate who belonged to a posh locality even though she fit the job requirements to the T. ‘Does she even need the job?’ was her client’s reaction. As appalling as the client’s response was, the truth is that such a possibility cannot be negated. In fact the reverse can also happen – if one is from a particular part of the town, or a suburb he/she is not considered upmarket, and that’s another bias people may have.

Needless to say – this practice and the associated bias has to stop. In fact, unlike the pre-email era, one can actually do without mentioning the address on the resume. This is why many advise candidates to refrain from mentioning their full addresses on their resumes, because they lead to such unconscious biases mentioned above. Humans love to assume and judge, and that creates prejudices regarding certain locations.

“Location bias is real. If location is indicated as Gujarat, the bias is that of commercial cunning. If location is West Bengal, revolutionary attitude is the prevailing bias. A North Indian location leads to the bias of an aggressive attitude. Unless robust and fair capability is built for selection without bias, organisations are the ultimate sufferers and competency-based leadership selection is compromised.”

Adil Malia, chief executive, The Firm

However, the practice or prejudice will not stop by removing the postal address from the resume as that information can be gathered at the time of the interview.

Adil Malia, chief executive, The Firm, agrees that locational bias is a reality, and advocates the practice of only mentioning email ID on the resume. “Location bias is real. If location is indicated as Gujarat, the bias is that of commercial cunning. If location is West Bengal, revolutionary attitude is the prevailing bias. A North Indian location leads to the bias of an aggressive attitude. Unless robust and fair capability is built for selection without bias, organisations are the ultimate sufferers and competency-based leadership selection is compromised. Rightly, therefore, most contemporary ‘resumes’ have e-mail addresses so that a locational bias, if any, does not prevail or is duly neutralised,” elaborates Malia.

The point is that these biases are not just based on regions, but within particular areas within the city – say for instance – South Delhi vs West Delhi or East Delhi or Town vs Suburbs in Mumbai. Within the suburbs as well there is discrimination based on whether one is from Ghatkopar or Virar, or Powai or Andheri.

People generally love to typecast and that discrimination happens in jobs as well.

However, not everyone agrees to these practices or prejudices being rampant.

Praveer Priyadarshi, former HR head and now HR practitioner, reasons that demographic information, current compensation, and location preference are taken into consideration during the screening phase to understand candidates’ location or mobility preferences. Salary fitment is a function of job worth, salary benchmarks and internal parity, rather than the address mentioned by the candidate. “Well run professional organisations having good recruiting practices ensure such biases are taken off the equation through laid down hiring norms which includes designation, level, and salary for the role being evaluated,” he says.

“In today’s knowledge-driven networked organisations, talent is not physically restricted by any specific place and time. Organisations need to leverage the technology ecosystem and interconnectedness to drive distributed and dynamic capability management, irrespective of the physical location of their employees across geographies.”

Amit Das, director – HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company

It is true that at times, organisations prefer locally-placed resources or those nearer to the office site. A research conducted by David Phillips, an economics professor from the University of Notre Dame revealed that applicants who lived a few miles farther from the job location were considered far lesser than those who are around the location. This study was done in the low-wage category. Staying near the job site lessens commute time and dropouts, but focusing solely on that may lead to lack of diversity in the workforce.

Amit Das, director – HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Company, explains, “In addition to information, such as academic qualification, family details, contact numbers, and so on, the residential address on the resume is one more demographic data for organisations to have in their records. These records are referred to for different reasons to manage the employee lifecycle needs, and have nothing to do with increasing or reducing bias.”

Das opines, “In today’s knowledge-driven networked organisations, talent is not physically restricted by any specific place and time. Organisations need to leverage the technology ecosystem and interconnectedness to drive distributed and dynamic capability management, irrespective of the physical location of their employees across geographies.”

“The traditional approach of arriving at the compa-ratio of job roles driven by market benchmarks, linked with geographic locations, is fast changing. This is due to reverse migration of talent from metro locations, such as Mumbai, to less expensive hometown locations, where they can manage business continuity through remote working flexibility, enabled by 24×7 access and connectivity to their work, workplace and workforce,”points out Das.

He believes this will drive compensation design philosophy, linked to role expertise and related talent dynamics, instead of having any weightage on the base location address of the prospective candidates mentioned on their resumes.

Praveer Priyadarshi

“Well run professional organisations having good recruiting practices ensure such biases are taken off the equation through laid down hiring norms which includes designation, level, and salary for the role being evaluated.”

Praveer Priyadarshi, former HR head & HR practitioner

Priyadarshi also mentions that compensation based on location would depend on whether the cost of living is higher or lower in a particular location, and that’s justified.

Candidates are evaluated on various parameters, which primarily focus on evaluating and validating knowledge, skills and attributes for the role the person is being evaluated for.

True, it’s certainly the right thing to do, but what we are talking about is prejudices and not compensation based on rightful policies. It’s a fact that no company will have policies that discriminate against people and decide on their compensation based on their respective locations. However, it is also true that people do face such unconscious biases, and that is a reality.

HR leaders believe that to remove such prejudices, the way out is for organisations to invest in serious communications exercises and build the capability of managers to evolve the right mindset. The focus on pure competency-anchored assessment and selection process becomes thus critical.

Unconscious biases, such as the one pertaining to geography is a fact and can be worked upon by having a broader mindset. Excluding an address from the resume may not be one of the ways.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

four − three =