Do we continue to unconsciously discriminate in recruitment?

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An article by David Woods in HR Magazine throws some interesting light and statistics around our recruitment habits in the following piece published this week:

One in six (16%) workers feel they have been discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion at some point in their career because of favouritism in the workplace.

According to the Employers Forum on Age, which carried out the research, the findings are backed-up by the theory that there is a tendency for people to recruit workers who bear similarities to themselves or to others in their company and this is done, for the most part, unconsciously.

In total, over a third (35%) of respondents felt they have been discriminated against when trying to move company or applying for a more senior position in the same company.

Age is the most common reason (17%), closely followed by favouritism/ the other candidate fitting the company’s ‘personality’ better (16%).

Denise Keating, chief executive, Employers Forum on Age said: “Whilst age is the biggest discriminator in the workplace, it is important not to overlook other biases, such as favouritism or gender. There seems to be a very high instance of people being selected for a new job or promotion if their ‘face fits’, which unfortunately means some people feel that talent isn’t enough to overcome prejudices. Whilst many companies have solid diversity policies, this may not run throughout the company down to individual team level, which is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The study also found that almost two thirds (62%) of employees said that all, most or some of their colleagues are similar to them. When asked what it is they had in common with their co-workers, age was found to be the most common factor (68%), followed by gender (62%) and social background (53%).

Keating added: “To some extent we all feel some bias that unconsciously affects our immediate reactions to people. However, it is important that employers do all they can to ensure this does not lead to discrimination or favoritism which could cause the exclusion of talented individuals from the recruitment process. Variation in the workforce brings fresh ideas and perspectives from which companies will always benefit.”

This study has been commissioned to mark the annual Employers Forum on Age and Belief conference, ‘Progression without Prejudice’, which explores how employees at every level face discrimination through other people’s prejudices, consciously or unconsciously, affecting their ability to progress. The event will take place on Wednesday 30 March at One Birdcage Walk, London.


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