As you may imagine, I come across a lot of common biases keeping candidates from accessing jobs – from education requirements, to gender, to title discrimination, and everything else imaginable. One rampant bias is around age. Countless stories about strong individual contributors – engineers, sales professionals, customer support, human resources – they cross a certain age and the opportunities dry up.
I have heard many reasons: the younger managers are afraid older employees will take their jobs, there is something wrong with older employees who don’t want to manage, older employees aren’t tech savvy enough, or can’t learn fast enough, and the list goes on.
At career.place, we recently put this common bias to the test, and we didn’t even realize it.
Case Study: finding an inside sales rep
We recently used our solution to hire an inside sales rep – someone with high integrity who was polite and respectful, engaging, comfortable on the phone, and skilled at drafting professional emails. As this was a remote position, we also needed someone who would have a high level of self-control and self-management.
Most importantly, we were committed to walking the path we have been advocating for years – no requirements that would needlessly exclude anyone. Therefore, we had no requirements around years of experience, level of education, or anything that could be easily taught.
In summary, the basic qualifications for our job were simple:
Comfort with computers and SaaS solutions
Proficient at cold calling
Proficient at professional emails
We then used soft skills assessments to measure:
To measure ability, we used the following situation question:
During an initial call with a prospect, the prospect says the following: “We are doing a lot of hiring, however, removing bias from hiring is not a priority for us. But, thank you.”
How do you respond?
And finally, we completed the evaluation process with a couple of recorded video questions including:
“Sell me something… anything.”
The whole process was designed to take a total of 30 minutes of applicant time, less time than many candidates spend adjusting their resumes to try to pass ATS filters.
The results were eye-opening
For reference, 531 people viewed this job resulting in 4 qualified candidates.
Incidentally – it took us about 1 hour of resource time total to qualify these candidates, but that is a story for a different blog.
With so few basic requirements to pass the criteria questionnaire, much of the emphasis was on the scenario question to see how the applicants (specifically, the 54 who had met the criteria and passed the assessments) would perform on the job.
The submissions were eye-opening. While we had no idea of the candidate’s gender, age, ethnicity, or anything else, we did have their responses. Many of which were:
Rude and argumentative: “you are wrong because…”
Polite non-starters: “Thank you.”
Lecturing rants “I think you should care about bias because… [then several sentences]”
Desperate pleas “please just look at the solution…”
And then we had the golden few that we were looking for – the ones that were clearly skilled at initial sales calls. They were polite and respectful, engaging, and pivoting the conversation to keep it going: “I understand, what is your priority…”
Score one for career.place against bias
After we made our hire, we went back and took a look at the demographic data, and this is what we saw:
Note: the last stage is hidden to protect the demographic data of our team.
With over half of our successful applicants over the age of 40, think of the amazing talent we would have missed out on if we fell into the black hole of age bias.
It’s time to leave our biases behind and evaluate candidates based on what they are capable of and the value they provide to our organizations, our teams, and our jobs.