2015 saw leading accountancy firm Ernst and Young join PwC in making the brave choice to remove all academic and education details from its trainee application process. The aim of this was to gain access to ‘untapped talent,’ which many organisations might currently be neglecting, through having arguably unnecessary hoops for candidates to jump through during the recruitment process. Ernst and Young’s decision, although counter to most common recruitment policies, could help to create a more ‘fair’ recruitment policy, which also helps to get the most out of the talent pool.
Below are three benefits that we think Ernst and Young could see from doing this:
1. More Diverse Pipeline
This change in recruitment strategy was driven by a relatively homogeneous workplace. By discriminating on the basis of A-level grades, the head of student recruitment at PwC argues that there is a risk that those from disadvantaged backgrounds were losing out. By transforming the recruitment process to use an online ‘strengths’ assessment rather than A-level grades, Ernst and Young believe that they will be able to open doors to a more diverse audience.
2. Avoiding the Demographic Crunch
A recent CIPD research paper has identified a high risk of a demographic crunch in the future, where there are not enough talented employees coming through the ranks to replace the wealth of skills and knowledge that is leaving the workplace. The CIPD paper states that more ‘inclusive recruitment’ is a must, where employers have to make sure that they do not exclude relevant talent through requiring unnecessary qualifications.
3. Limiting of bias during interviews
Ernst and Young’s interviews will now be carried out ‘blind’, with no knowledge of the candidate’s academic background. This will arguably lead to a fairer judgment of interview performance, since it will diminish what psychology refers to as ‘anchoring’. Anchoring is a well-known human bias whereby we rely too heavily on the first pieces of information we have when making a judgement. For example, take the two people below, who do you prefer?
Ben: Intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn and envious.
Sam: Envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious and intelligent.
I hope you noted that the adjectives used to describe Ben and Sam are exactly the same. However, when only given one list, participants generally rate Ben as more likeable. This is because of the anchoring effect. The positive adjectives at the start of the list have been given greater weight in the judgment process. Within recruitment, the perceptions of interview performance may be unfairly biased by knowledge of the candidate’s examination records. Nonetheless, it should still be noted that scores to online tests are still known before the interview, so anchoring effects may still be present.
In conclusion, Ernst and Young’s decision to scrap the education ‘barrier’ is a brave one, though their talent pipeline could benefit as a result. What are your views? What do you think the selection criteria should be in order to have fair recruitment which also attracts the best talent?