By Stefanie Schultheis
Why should I not look at CVs or work experience?
CV assessments systematically put candidates from certain groups at a disadvantage
The average screening time for a CV is 7.4 seconds. During this short moment, the attention usually goes to a candidate’s name, their current role, their employer’s name and towards checking for any gaps in the dates.
Even just looking at a candidate’s name is a source of bias. Countless so-called ‘correspondence studies’ show that call-back rates differ when sending the same application and CV to lots of job postings, only varying the name used. The example below is a German study.
Anonymizing CVs only solves part of the problem
Of course we could avoid this by anonymizing CVs. But, when looking at the rest of the CV, there are plenty of other biases that could come into play. The image below shows just a few of them.
Typical CV metrics aren’t predictive of job performance
A meta-analysis by Schmidt and Hunter - that is a big summary study that pools data from lots of different studies and is considered a gold standard type of evidence - finds that the factors to which hiring managers are drawn (namely experience and education) have little to do with how well a person performs on the job. They found this out by linking the score candidates got for different assessment methods during the hiring process with their later performance in the job. The image below shows their findings.
Minority groups are treated differently when evaluating experience and qualifications
Many studies also show that groups who are typically a minority for a certain role are put at an unfair advantage when looking at education and experience.
For example, women need to achieve better grades to be rated equal to men: Employers in STEM industries rated the resumes of female and minority applicants with 4.0 GPAs equal to those of white male applicants with 3.75 GPAs.
Another study shows the lack of clear criteria when evaluating someone’s experience and qualifications and the fact that it is not straightforward to weigh candidates up against each other on these criteria, puts women at a disadvantage: The study asked people to choose a construction engineer from a list of candidates and explain their choice. Half of the participants had to choose between a male candidate with nine years of experience and an engineering degree and a woman who had less experience (5 years) but had special certifications to offer on top of her engineering degree. The majority chose the man, arguing that experience is more important. For the other half of participants, the gender was reversed - the man had the additional certification but the woman had more experience. However, that did not change the choice: this group also favoured the man, this time arguing that the certification is important.
In other words, when looking at experience and formal qualifications, we risk using this information to justify choices that we actually made on other criteria (like gender in the study).
Of course, there are certain roles that absolutely require certain experience or qualifications - like doctors, lawyers or architects. In this case, we recommend asking for this in the ‘eligibility questions’. These questions let you filter out candidates who aren’t eligible for the role but they won’t be scored or used to decide between candidates.
How can I assess candidates without a CV?
Applied enables you to shortlist anonymously and focused on skills
The image below shows an overview of the Applied shortlisting process. Multiple reviewers score candidates on their answers to 3-5 questions without knowing who the candidate is or being able to make inferences about which answers belong to the same candidate.
To get the most out of Applied use ‘work sample’ questions
If you take a look back at the chart above on the ‘Predictive validity of different assessment methods’, you’ll see that ‘work sample tests’ work well to predict how well someone will perform at a job. The basic idea of a work sample comes from more manual jobs: you just watch the candidate perform a task to get a sense of their skills. You move beyond letting the candidate tell you what they can do and let them show it instead.
Applied took this idea and transferred it to the world of office jobs. A work sample question confronts a candidate with a hypothetical work situation and asks them to respond to the situation (in written). You can then check how well the candidate’s response demonstrates pre-defined skills that are essential for the job.
We regularly run workshops for our customers to help with the design of effective work sample questions. Click here to learn more and secure your space for the next one. The images below show an example of a work sample question and review guide.