Less than a third of employers have mandated interview training around inclusivity, study finds

Diverse individuals found to be at a significant disadvantage as a result of poor candidate screening, as experts call for more training to ensure fairness

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Diverse individuals are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to applying for jobs due to poor candidate screening, a report has found.

The study by YouGov and social impact firm WithYouWithMe, forming part of its Are We There Yet: The State of Workplace Diversity & Inclusion in the United Kingdom report, found that just under two thirds (62 per cent) of organisations screen candidates using resumes, reference checks and cover letters, rather than assessments like psychometric or aptitude tests, putting individuals with diverse characteristics at a disadvantage.

The poll of 536 UK employers, at middle manager level or above, also found that more than half (54 per cent) of hiring managers surveyed said they don’t account for physical access or mobility barriers during the hiring process.

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Additionally, less than a third (32 per cent) of employers had enforced interview training for cultural understanding, sensitivity, and competence, while half (50 per cent) of those polled received no training on inclusive hiring before interviewing applicants.

This drops to 23 per cent for LGBTQIA+ awareness and 14 per cent for neurodiversity awareness.

Sally Walker, non-executive director at WithYouWithMe said while significant progress had been made to enhance EDI practices across the private and public sectors the research highlights the “scale of the challenge we still face”.

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“This isn’t just a major social issue – the lack of inclusive hiring practices in the workforce is causing serious economic challenges as well. We have a major skills gap, particularly in the technology sector, so it’s critical employers look at ways they can be more inclusive and accessible to all to help fill these critical roles,” said Walker.

Walker added that only 11 per cent of employers in the UK use psychometric or aptitude tests for applicant screening and that the continued use of resumes for entry-level positions is worrying because it's obvious that diverse people, such as those who identify as neurodivergent, continue to be at a serious disadvantage.

“A person’s potential is so much more than their experience or the opportunity they’ve previously been afforded – yet this is the sole focus of the CV-based recruitment model,” she said.

Despite this, nearly all of those polled (92 per cent) felt they had ‘rigorous processes’ in place to manage workplace diversity, while seven in 10 (70 per cent) managers claimed their firm goes out of its way to accommodate applicants throughout the hiring process.

Sunita Harley, inclusion consultant at Collective Insight, said it is becoming increasingly important for hiring managers and hiring colleagues to consider how they may recruit and evaluate candidates more “inclusively”.

“This means working on their inclusive recruitment skills, equipping themselves through building more awareness of what candidates may need from the recruitment process, and how they can encourage candidates to talk about their strengths and transferable skills,” she said.

Harley emphasised the importance of ensuring job specifications proactively flag that recruiters want to hear from candidates about any access or particular requirements before the recruitment process starts, and that candidates need to be encouraged and reminded of how the organisation is inclusive for their people should they become a future employee.

John Petter, CEO of Zellis said that organisations must begin collecting diversity data “systematically” and at a scale that requires employers to feel confident enough to disclose their characteristics including gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, and social background.

Ali Hanan, CEO and founder of Creative Equals, said the findings of the research are a “real concern” and that “inclusive recruitment is essential if a business is to build a truly equal, diverse and inclusive workforce…every organisation needs to understand how bias shows up because it impacts who we recruit, promote and retain,” she said.

Neha Sawjani, director at Business in the Community, said that a diverse workforce is one of the “best assets that a business can have,” adding that employers must ensure that their mandatory training supports hiring managers during interviews, or they risk losing out on diverse talent that their organisation will benefit from.