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Gartner analyst sees limit to tech's ability to fix hiring bias

The best approach to fixing hiring bias is through an analysis of actual hiring data, a Gartner analyst advises. New technologies have clear limits and won't solve the problem.

To combat hiring bias, tech vendors are developing tools that anonymize candidates. These tools use technologies that strip any reference to gender, including photos and certain profile details seen by recruiters. There are other approaches that seek to "blind" initial recruiting through the use of tests. But software has clear limits in combating hiring bias.

Relying on new technologies won't solve the problem, said Brian Kropp, Gartner group vice president of its HR practice. Technologies that seek to anonymize candidates for recruiters help "to a point but not nearly enough to actually solve the biases that occur throughout the hiring process," he said. The best approach to fixing hiring bias, Kropp said, is through an analysis of a firm's actual, historical hiring data.

Despite the cautionary note from Kropp, the use of anti-bias hiring systems may be on the way to becoming standard features in vendor recruitment platform offerings. SAP, for instance, has technology to get rid of bias in job ads. Greenhouse recently announced a new product with its recruiting platform, Inclusion, which uses analytics, anonymized tests and prompts that help guide the process.

Software removes photos, gender references

One of the latest products to add an anti-bias capability is Entelo, a recruiting automation platform. Users who enable this capability will get candidate profiles, assembled by its platform, that reduce full names to initials and remove photographs, graduation dates and gender-specific pronouns.

But Entelo isn't advertising this capability as a cure-all to hiring bias. The tool is intended to help firms "get a handle on their unconscious bias," said Lisa Holden, spokeswoman for the firm. Entelo sees it as just a step toward mitigating bias, she said.

The companies that get the best [hiring] results are those that are able to reveal where problems are.
Brian KroppGroup vice president of HR practice, Gartner

These methods "might create a slightly more diverse slate that recruiters look at, but it doesn't actually solve a problem of creating a more diverse workforce," Kropp said. The bias can come into play once the recruiter talks to the candidate or when the candidate comes in for an interview with the hiring manager, he said.

But there is a data-driven approach in recruiting management that can help identify hiring bias, Kropp said. "The companies that get the best results are those that are able to reveal where problems are," he said.

For instance, a firm that finds that 35% of the male job candidates make it to an in-person interview, versus only 25% of the women, has revealed a problem in its hiring process, Kropp said. By analyzing hiring data, a firm can identify where the hiring bias is emerging in the recruiting process, he said.

With this data, firms can develop specific remedies, Kropp said, which can include creating a more diverse set of hiring managers, an approach that may lead to a more diverse set of people that get offers.

Blind testing as an alternative approach

There are other approaches to fighting hiring bias. Triplebyte, which finds software engineers for its client firms, uses blind testing as the initial screen in its recruiting process.

Before candidates submit a resume or LinkedIn profile, they take a multiple-choice, rapid-fire test that lasts about 25 minutes. To thwart cheating, the test questions change constantly. If a candidate passes the test, a follow-up technical interview is scheduled with an engineer, said Harj Taggar, Triplebyte's CEO.

Triplebyte's system could lead to opportunities for people who might otherwise be immediately rejected by recruiters, Taggar said, such as candidates who didn't graduate from a prestigious program but picked up their training, for instance, at a community college.

People who have gone through Triplebyte's recruiting process have been hired by Apple and Dropbox, among others, Taggar said, adding that "anyone who feels that their resume doesn't really do them justice, this test is worth it for them."

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