This week, Sky excitedly announced that it was bringing in “video applications” for people applying for jobs in its back-of-house marketing team. No more CVs, but instead the submission of a two minute video where candidates explain why they want to work on the team and what they do for fun.
When I read this news, I held my head in my hands in despair.
Sky said the initiative was brought in to help find “more diverse” talent, but it will do the opposite.
Recruitment processes which focus on people’s faces, names and accents are incredibly vulnerable to bias, with Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates coming off worse. In other words, hiring via video is a potential powder keg of discrimination.
One study shows how women whose applications included images of them wearing headscarves are far less likely to get callbacks. Kicking off the initial interview process with a video application will whittle down the pool.
As part of the application process, Sky also asks applicants to “explain what you do for fun” – another major reg flag. Whether we like it or not, humans are consciously and unconsciously biased. When we ask candidates questions around hobbies, interests, or schools, we’re programmed to respond favourably to those we have something in common with. The result? People hire in their own image, doubling down on the homogeneity of teams.
However well intentioned its aims, the new recruitment plan is therefore doomed to discriminate against diverse candidates.
The UK has a massive problem when it comes to hiring. Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals are 13 per cent less likely to be employed than their white counterparts. However, in processes where they are hired “blind”, rates of success shoot up. All the evidence (and there’s a lot) shows that stripping out identifying factors and replacing “culture fit” questions with skills based hiring processes starts to level the playing field.
Sky isn’t the first company to make such a misstep. Last summer, TikTok trialled a “TikTok resumés” feature, where users were invited to create videos for prospective employers. Chipotle, Target and Shopify all quickly signed up. Discrimination experts were dismayed at the potential issues for non-white applicants.
In the rush to attract talent in an era of record vacancies, companies are grasping at so-called innovation to lure in candidates in fresh ways. But companies also have a responsibility to promote genuine diversity and inclusion. A simple Google search yields dozens of results about how problematic video applications are. A company like Sky, which employs 30,000 people, should know better.
Lazy forays into recruitment experiments perpetuate discrimination along ethnicity, gender, disability and age lines.
Blind applications, skills-based questions and work sample tests, and review processes which are randomised and peer-reviewed are the most objective and accurate way of predicting performance. These measures help level the playing field and improve outcomes for both candidate and employer.
I’m all for throwing away out-of-date hiring tools like CVs, which also invite prejudice. But to replace them with another, potentially more damaging recruitment process, is a major step backwards – one that will hurt employers and candidates alike.