By Stefanie Schultheis
Disclaimer: Positive action may not be legal in the region you are hiring in. Applied does not provide legal advice on using positive action. Customers are fully responsible for potential legal consequences of using any of the methods described below.
Why doesn’t Applied have a product feature to facilitate positive action?
It is unclear whether the benefits of positive action outweigh the risks
We built and continue to improve Applied based on scientific evidence. For positive action, there is not yet a clear picture whether it is beneficial or harmful. It obviously helps to achieve goals of diverse representation. There’s also promising evidence that creating role models for other members of underrepresented groups is beneficial. But other evidence points at individuals profiting from positive action or quotas suffering disadvantages on the job because quotas aren’t perceived as fair: They are stigmatised and their abilities are more likely to be questioned. People are less willing to cooperate if their team has been created through a quota system, sometimes they even sabotage each other (Mollerstorm, 2014; Leibbrandt, Wang & Foo, 2015).
As long as it is uncertain whether the benefits outweigh the risks, Applied will not create a product feature for positive action.
Positive action may be illegal
In some way, positive action is just ‘reverse discrimination’. You use the criteria that traditionally led to being put at a disadvantage (e.g. black women) to give the affected people an advantage. In consequence, those groups who have no history of being discriminated against are put at a disadvantage (e.g. white men).
Most countries have strict regulations around discrimination, including positive action. Applied does not offer a product feature supporting positive action to prevent our customers from inadvertently breaking the law around positive action.
Hiring in the Applied way strikes the best balance between hiring for performance and hiring for diversity
If you hire in the Applied way - using situational work sample questions to shortlist candidates, running structured skill-based interviews and completely avoiding the use of CVs - you’re creating ideal conditions for skilled candidates from underrepresented groups to get hired.
Assuming you don’t face a pipeline problem (i.e. there is a sufficient pool of skilled candidates from underrepresented groups applying to your roles), you will increase your diversity and give your new hires ideal conditions to thrive - knowing that they’ve been hired based on merit.
You may see that this approach takes a bit longer to lead to your desired level of diversity if:
- you face a pipeline problem: For example, fewer women than men study STEM subjects. Therefore, you’d most likely hire more men than women even when following a completely fair and unbiased process.
- you don’t fully implement the Applied process: For example, you may have removed bias from your shortlisting through using Applied but then see bias at the interview stage if not following the Applied advice for this stage. Or you may have removed some bias from the shortlisting process by not looking at CVs but still experience some bias because the questions you ask to shortlist are too focused on past experience and credentials instead of future-oriented, situational questions to assess skills.
In these situations, positive actions would lead to faster changes in diversity but it would come with the risks of less acceptance, performance impairments and difficulty retaining your diverse workforce over time.
My organisation wants to use positive action. What can I do?
Reminder: This is technical, not legal advice.
You need to collect the candidate characteristics to enable positive action yourself
Applied won’t ever disclose the personal data candidates share as part of the equal opportunities form. Candidates share this information under the reassurance that it will never be disclosed and/or used to inform a decision on their application. This reassurance is key to achieving the high disclosure rates that Applied is known for, enabling our customers to track diversity throughout the recruitment process.
If you want to use personal characteristics in decision making, you will need to collect this data independently.
Use the section for unscored questions to let candidates opt in to positive action
Applied has a section for unscored questions, sometimes referred to as ‘eligibility questions’. You can use this section to explain that you consider positive action to decide between candidates with equal scores and ask your candidates if they wish to be considered for positive action related to the criteria you care about.
Bear in mind that asking for opt-in to positive action may discourage candidates from traditionally advantaged groups from applying.
Instead confronting all candidates with the opt-in choice, you may also look at specifically targeting the groups you’d like to see increased representation of with a separate ‘fast-track’ role (and keep a ‘regular’ role open at the same time for everyone). You can watch this webinar to learn how Koreo implemented this approach successfully.
The benefit of this approach is that you can utilise an entirely different sourcing campaign, e.g. selecting specific job boards and communities that index well with the groups you’re trying to engage.
You can then bring your fast-tracked candidates from underrepresented groups and your other candidates who applied to the ‘regular’ role together at the interview stage.
Whichever approach appeals to you, be sure to to think through the legal and moral implications before implementing it.