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Embracing Digital Recruitment

Coming from a more traditional route of recruitment, the Norwegian company of Schibsted had to completely re-evaluate and update all their recruitment processes and procedures thanks in part to a big shove from the global pandemic as well as the long term underlying needs that only now could be properly addressed.
2021.08.09.

Coming from a more traditional route of recruitment, the Norwegian company of Schibsted had to completely re-evaluate and update all their recruitment processes and procedures thanks in part to a big shove from the global pandemic as well as the long term underlying needs that only now could be properly addressed.

They run a renown training program called The Schibsted Trainee Program which accepts recruits from the four corners of the globe. The program has been running since 1997 and receives applications from hundreds of suitable candidates. But once the dust has settled, they take on no more than six or eight. The actual recruitment process itself makes a number of rounds of interviews and group exercises.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that they had to change tack suddenly and work out how they were going to go through the recruitment process without actually meeting any of the candidates face to face. But this was certainly not the first hurdle that the company has had to overcome. There was the long feared move from analog to digital and the dot-com bubble before that. Once these hurdles were behind them, they were able to digest and learn.  

Within the job interview process there are many opportunities for bias to make an appearance. Of course, if you’re trying to recruit top talent for a particular job, then you should be solely focussed on that, and not care for any other attributes. But that’s often easier said than done. For example, it’s been shown time and again, that if the candidate  looks like the interviewer, then they are much more likely to get the job.

So the question arises, can we use digital tools and technology to remove or at least minimise this bias and other inconsistencies? At Schibsted, they thought they’d give it a go. So, going back to the beginning and starting with the basics, they decided to re-write the recruitment rulebook for the age of pandemics. 

Selection And Interviews With Anonymous Recruits

The whole process starts with an application for a trainee position with the company. For this the recruiters will only focus on the grades, and will totally ignore the cover letter. This means that, providing you fulfill the qualification requirements, you automatically move on to the next level. This is interesting, in that in reality, the recruiters know nothing about the applicants. Only their qualifications for the job at hand. They actually ran this process so that they wouldn’t even know the recruits name, age, gender, grades, which University they attended or their work experience. Nothing at all! It sounds crazy, but it does get better. 

Then came a logical test...a simple test in logical thinking. Nothing special here, and those that passed moved up a level. Wait, what! You mean that their grades weren’t important in any decision making process? How can this be? Surely a grade A from MIT is worth more than an A from an unknown university? And what if the same applicant had oodles of relevant experience? 

This returns us neatly to the same old problem of bias. They argue that no employer really cares about the grades that are written on a piece of expensive parchment. What’s more concerning is the applicant's ability to learn and apply new information in a logical and clear manner. The logical test uncovers this. It means that the initial scan of the applicant's resume was like an entry ticket and nothing more. In fact, they refuse to read any more into it, so if you went to a prestigious school, they wouldn’t even see the fact. All that matters is performance.

Next up the applicants received a video interview which contained pre-recorded questions. What was special about this process was that the assessors didn’t get to even see the applicants, thereby removing any bias which might have stemmed from appearance or gender. After this process, then a number of candidates were invited to play an online escape room game. Obviously, thanks to a raging pandemic, a physical location was totally out of the question. 

Of course, it could be argued that there are a huge number of possible biases creeping in at this point. For a start there can be huge differences in knowledge already acquired before the interview. Also, some players might have a lot of experience with escape room games, meaning that they already know the rough way they function. In this, they will either directly or indirectly affect the overall group dynamic. 

Using an Escape Room game

The solution which Schibsted came up with was watching a group of four candidates playing an online game. They had to complete a number of tasks which needed inter-group cooperation. Each team member had a different but essential part of the puzzle under their control. The company’s HR was able to watch their interactions remotely. Though the company claims that such tools remove prerequisite knowledge and thus makes for a level playing field, we’re not so sure. Nevertheless, many other observers and applicants have stated that they enjoyed this method of assessment and thought it is both creative and productive.

Though the company Schibsted is absolutely committed to having a diverse workplace and also an unbiased system for choosing candidates, they are the first to admit that it’s still an uphill struggle to completely remove bias from the whole process. But they feel that they are slowly but surely getting there. 

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