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Visage Is Helping Improve Diversity By Conquering Unconscious Bias

That a diverse workforce is good for business is no longer a matter of debate. Study after study shows diversity improves innovation, broadens a company’s market reach and, close to the heart of every CFO and CEO, adds to the bottom line.

One of the most compelling of the recent studies comes from the world of venture capital where the goal, as the study authors point out, “is to choose and groom the companies that will yield the best possible outcomes.”

They found, “Venture capitalists are far more likely to partner with people if they share their gender or race. They’re also significantly more likely to collaborate with people if they share their educational background or a previous employer.”

But the result is that the more similar the VC and the portfolio company’s leadership, the less successful the outcome. 

“Thriving in a highly uncertain competitive environment requires creative thinking in those areas, and the diverse collaborators were better equipped to deliver it,” the authors explain in their Harvard Business Review article.

Encouraged by the business case and spurred by sociocultural dynamics, companies of every size and in every industry are scrambling to diversify their workforce. As they do, they’re coming up against the same kind of discrimination that bedeviled the VCs. Like the VC investors, recruiters and hiring managers have a natural tendency to favor individuals of similar backgrounds and similar ethnicity and gender, creating an unintentional hurdle to diversity.

This kind of bias can be more insidious than outright discrimination because we are unaware of it. For that reason it is called implicit or unconscious bias

Decades ago, the major orchestras of the world begin auditioning musicians behind screens to eliminate the bias of selection committees toward those they knew. Several went so far as to require candidates to wear certain type of footwear to eliminate the telltale sound of women’s heels.

Recognizing the potential for unconscious bias in candidate selection, our clients asked us about removing the photos some candidates included on their resume. Although not a common practice, especially in North America, enough resumes had pictures that companies worried they could influence candidate selection.

We all know a photo attracts our attention more than text, making it more likely for a first impression to be made on appearance rather than on the substance of the resume – experience, skills, background and the like.

So in a recent product update, we introduced a feature eliminating photos. This “blinding” is an important and powerful step to helping our partners improve the diversity of their recruiting process. 

We are also working on other ways to anonymize a resume to eliminate telltale “footprints.”

More than a few studies have shown that resumes with Black sounding names are more likely to be passed over by recruiters. In one study, candidates with white sounding names were 50% more likely to receive an interview call than were identical resumes with Black sounding names. 

When a similar study was done in 2013, recently graduated students with white sounding names had a 14% advantage in being called for an interview. For jobs that involved interacting with customers, the white resumes had a 28% advantage. 

In a real world example, when the Space Telescope Science Institute fully anonymized the process for deciding who gets time on the Hubble telescope, women scientists came out ahead of their male counterparts for the first time in 18 years.

Visage is committed to creating a bias-free sourcing process. Removing photos is one step. As we explore others, we are also mindful of the importance of a diversified workforce. We know our partners – you – want to hire the best, most talented people and it doesn’t matter their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. 

Our sourcers know this and know their candidate search must be broad, diverse and inclusive. Diversity is itself an advantage.

About Visage

Visage is a sourcing technology that combines the expertise of 4,000 sourcers and AI to deliver high-quality candidate profiles within hours. Founded in 2015 by Joss Leufrancois, Visage simplifies candidate sourcing and outreach so you can focus on what really matters – people. Providing flexible sourcing solutions that can quickly scale up or down according to your unique hiring needs. Joss has spent over 15 years in the recruiting industry – after 10 years heading a top global recruiting firm, Joss decided it was time to revolutionize the way recruitment was done. Traditionally recruiters spend up to 60% of their time on robotic sourcing tasks: boolean queries, reviewing resumes one by one, finding contact details, and reaching out manually. Joss created Visage, to efficiently locate qualified and interested candidates by building passive candidate pipelines and automating multi-channel engagement (email, LinkedIn, text, and ads).

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