Recruitment in the current climate is a challenge. The Great Resignation has seen employers scramble to attract candidates and the buoyant jobs market means that applicants have got the pick of the bunch. This means that it is crucial for employers to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) if they want to secure the best talent. This is particularly important as research shows that job seekers want to work for an organisation that aligns with their own values, with six in ten happy to change jobs in order to find a better cultural fit. This is where an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can help eradicate unconscious bias, giving every applicant a fair shot based purely on their genuine ability and suitability for the role.

Beating the bias

Historically, a particular pain point for recruiters has been the struggle with unconscious bias. As human beings, we take our cues from pre-conceived views and ideals – otherwise known as precognitive cues. In doing this, we elect certain attributes that we think are more attractive, useful or appropriate, or attach negative connotations to them, forming opinions based on these notions – often completely incorrect and unjustified. This can mean that we are unconsciously biased towards applicants from different demographics depending on our views – subconscious or otherwise. In fact, even the most politically correct and self-aware recruiter that believes they are committed to equality can be subject to unconscious bias and prejudice, which makes spotting it even harder than more obvious forms of direct discrimination.

The hiring industry needs to be particularly careful when it comes to displaying unconscious bias, not only to provide fairness and transparency for candidates but to ensure inclusivity and diversity within their organisation. Recruiters have a duty to keep the process as free from prejudice as possible if they are to attract the brightest and best talent to the business. While unconscious bias is something that may not be able to be completely eliminated, it is possible to build awareness of it in order to make more conscious hiring decisions – and using specialised HR software is one way to create a more robust, prejudice-free recruitment process.

 What is ATS and how can it help conquer unconscious bias?

Missing out on that perfect candidate is something recruiters are keen to avoid, so using an anonymisation method, such as an ATS, is an emerging practice that is being implemented in both agency and in-house recruitment teams. The system effectively redacts personal identifiable information (PII) from a CV such as removing names, emails and postal addresses, and actually goes a step further by removing an applicant’s career and education history timelines, images, universities and previous employers.

While this is the obvious advantage of using an ATS, there are additional benefits. Large corporations, for example, receive thousands of CVs every week, so it is unfeasible to think that each one will be seen by an actual person. In fact, 99% of Fortune 500 companies and 70% of large multinationals are currently using an ATS and these are estimated to take around 70% of the workload and reduce administration time significantly.

Other pros include speedy and superior CV screening, a more collaborative approach to hiring, better quality hires, facilitating an improved employee experience, and perhaps most importantly, enhancing the organisation’s reputation for transparency and a commitment to its DEI promises. And with 70 per cent of candidates expecting transparency around workforce diversity, it certainly would seem to be an option for recruiters to consider bringing into their hiring processes.

How does CV anonymisation work?

 A CV anonymisation tool is typically used by agencies to brand CVs before they are sent to organisations for consideration. There are various options available to choose the level of anonymisation desired by the hiring company. Removing the PII data then provides a prejudice-free CV for hiring managers to consider for shortlisting. The hiring manager will only see the anonymised CV and as soon as a candidate is moved to the interview stage, the original CV will be released to the interviewing panel and the hiring manager.

An ATS is a simple way of helping reduce unconscious bias during the preliminary stages of the recruitment process. This will provide candidates with peace of mind that they are being selected based on an equal footing with other applicants and demonstrates a commitment to DEI by the hiring organisation. If true diversity, inclusion and equality are to be achieved, then transparency, clarity and a willingness to improve recruitment practices will level the playing field for everyone

If you want to understand how Hireserve’s CV Anonymisation Tool can remove bias from your recruitment process, find out more here.

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.