Communication with candidates

Studies have shown that job seekers with Arabic or African-like names are contacted less frequently and have a 30 percent lower chance of being interviewed by Swedish employers (Arai et al. 2007). In the interview situation, many foreign-born academics feel that the recruiter’s questions are more about their background and personal characteristics than about their formal skills and experience. Starting from the needs analysis and requirement profile and setting up a clear assessment matrix can be helpful in focusing recruitment on competence rather than personal characteristics. Anonymizing CV and personal letter can also be a good way to prevent discrimination.

Table of contents:

A) Assessment of competence (examination, work experience)

B) Tests (personality tests, work samples)

C) Anonymize CV and personal letter

D) Structured interviews

E) Transparent feedback

Jobseekers from the group of foreign-born academics testify that employers and recruitment companies consistently refrain from contacting references in the applicants’ home countries or from other parts of the world outside Sweden.

Foreign-born academics testify to unclear answers and unclear employers’ feedback on their applications. Many people state that they want more concrete and honest feedback on their efforts in the recruitment process.

Since I have an unusual name and I often get the question “Where do you come from?” and then the focus automatically shifts. When I go to a job interview, I think the most important thing is to talk about the job and the tasks.

/ Business manager Africa

It is often in this part of the recruitment process, in some form of contact with the candidate, that discrimination becomes both clear and noticeable. It is a matter of excluding applicants with certain names, that education and work experience from certain schools or countries are valued lower. Discrimination due to skin color and/or religious symbols occurs both consciously or unconsciously.

Studies have shown that foreign-born persons have a lower distribution of their experience and their competence than persons born in Sweden. (1) The value of diplomas and work experience from other countries is devalued on the Swedish labor market, as foreign grades and diplomas are not recognized or are not transferable to the new country. (11, 12) But even if a foreign-born person has a Swedish education and experience, these are valued lower than for Swedish-born persons. (13, 14) Among foreign-born academics and key personnel in recruitment, a higher knowledge among recruiters about educational pathways is sought for the skills required. There is also a need for more efficient validation systems.

Therefore, in the group of foreign-born academics who participated in the survey, anonymous application documents are requested where neither name, gender nor origin can be identified in the initial phases of the recruitment process.

One way could be to use tests specified early in the process for the properties that are requested for the service in order to screen candidates with a focus on competence rather than other extraneous features. However, there are also risks that the tests in turn discriminate in other ways and it is important to carefully think through what it is that is to be tested and why. If tests are used, they should also be certified.

Interviews are a necessary way to get to know candidates, but it is important in the meeting to be aware of stereotypical notions that we all possess. Interviews should have a clear focus on competence and should follow a clear structure that is the same for all candidates interviewed. The requirements profile can provide guidance. Be aware of how conversations about personal issues such as family situation and leisure interests can be discriminatory in the recruitment process. (3)

A) Do: Assessment of competence (examination, work experience)


• Set up a clear assessment matrix based on the needs analysis and requirement profile. Focus recruitment on skills and not on personal characteristics such as name and origin. Let several people who participated in the process make their assessments according to the matrix and then make a compilation and overall assessment. For example, assume the Lindelöw model. (3)

• Be thoughtful when assessing exams and references from other countries. If data registers are used to validate exams, some countries and individuals may be excluded. Then use UHR (University and University Council) validation of foreign degrees. Contact references also in other countries, keep in mind that in several countries, employers prefer to give written rather than oral references.

Experience is required here. But the problem is if you have experience from your home country then it does not matter.

/ Foreign born academic in Workshop

Why: To prevent discrimination and lose valuable skills. To make the assessment transparent and not perceived as subjective.

Focus groups conducted by Kantar Sifo with foreign-born academics show that there is a suspicion on which grounds are being assessed. Focus groups with recruiters describe that it is also in the interest of employers and their brands to be transparent in assessing candidates.

Research shows that the value of human capital from other countries is devalued in the Swedish labor market. (11, 12) Although foreign-born have Swedish education and experience, these are valued lower than Swedish-born. (13, 14)

Recruiters have restrictions. … They do not recognize the foreign qualifications, such as through evaluations of foreign grades from UHR.

/ Foreign born academic in Workshop

B) Do: Tests (personality tests, work samples)


• The Swedish Psychological Association recommends the use of personality tests in recruitment (and also talent tests), especially to avoid the risk of discrimination and conscious or unknowable special treatment of the candidates

• If tests are used, they must be reviewed and approved by the certification body DNV-GL. The tests should also come in at the right stage of the process and to test what is relevant to the service and to the step of the process in which they are used. If the test is used incorrectly, it can contribute to discrimination.

• Using tests requires a high level of competence from the recruiting person using the test, about how the test is structured, what it measures and does not measure, how it should be conducted, interpreted and the purpose of the test. Test users should also be certified (Eurocertificate) to ensure that those who use tests know how they work, how the results are to be interpreted, what the legislation says, etc. A list of Eurocertified people can be found on the Foundation for Applied Psychology’s website.

• Recruiters in the focus groups describe how they use tests as a first step to select candidates based solely on competence and not allow, for example, names or pictures to be included in the first selection.

Why: To avoid too much focus on individual inessential characteristics and subjective unspoken criteria. Research shows that recruiters tend to focus more on personal characteristics rather than occupational specific competence when the candidate is born abroad. Tests can be a tool for turning focus. (8)

C) Do: Anonymize CV and personal letter


• Consider anonymizing CVs and personal letters, using technical tools to remove what may lead to discrimination such as name, gender, age, religion, ethnicity and pictures of the applicant.

• If you have your own recruitment tools, then make sure that these do not help to systematically exclude, for example, certain issues that are culturally conditioned. Do not have the opportunity to upload pictures, surnames, leisure activities. If the tools are designed in a conscious way, it can increase the focus on skills.

Many things that remain in tradition, and when we develop systems. Why do they need to upload an image?

/ Recruiter in focus group

Why: To prevent discrimination and focus on skills.

Job seekers with “Arabic and African-like” names, regardless of work experience, have a lower chance of being called on an interview. (8, 15) Respondents in the focus groups, both with foreign-born academics and recruiters, all emphasize that they desire more anonymized processes, especially without names and pictures. A recruiter for a large hotel chain described the use of image on CV as “outdated”. Another recruiter described how managers systematically select candidates after photos.

… there is a risk of discrimination in personal letters, where many write what they do in their spare time … which is absolutely unnecessary.

/ Recruiter in focus group

D) Do: Structured interviews


• Use proven and well-thought-out interview technique and methodology, such as the Lindelöw model. (3) Conduct structured interviews with thoughtful questions in an interview template, the same questions for all candidates, several interviewers, possibly “blind interview” where the people do not see each other. Starting from the requirements profile.

• Key people that Kantar Sifo talked to describe how different people react differently to interview situations, but that it does not necessarily have to determine their competence. Recruiters in the focus groups describe how in some cases they provide extra support to candidates who they see have strong competence but who are not comfortable in the interview situation, by offering a preparatory interview and being involved in the interview with, for example, other employees or the hiring manager.

We write down all the answers so that no one can say that they have been discriminated against.

/ Recruiter in focus group

Why: To prevent discrimination and avoid the interviews being subjective and focusing more on leisure/ interests rather than on competence. Foreign-born academics feel that employers focus on personal characteristics, “fit in” and hobbies rather than competence in the recruitment process.

Recruiters in the focus groups describe how they use interview templates and always at least two interviews to avoid subjective questions and further evaluation of answers, and partly to increase transparency if any suspicion of discrimination should come. Templates can also help people whose main role is not to recruit to avoid personal issues such as hobbies and family.

[…]. A strange situation occurred, it was a ‘junior entry’ job opening, and the interview lasted for an hour. We talked about the job for 15 minutes, the other part was about women in the Middle East. And about me as a free woman, but it felt really bad. I have no problem talking about it, but in the job interview I wanted to talk about my career and skills.

/ Foreign born academic in Workshop

E) Do: Transparent feedback


• Always inform candidates why they did not get the job and what they can work on for potential future jobs.

• Establish feedback procedures in the organization’s recruitment structure. This is made easier by continuously documenting the process.

• Please also note that, according to the Discrimination Act, the candidate also has the right to contact you and request written information about the admitted candidate.

Why: For the candidate to know why they were not elected and to clarify that the person was not elected because of. discrimination.

Focus groups conducted by Kantar Sifo with foreign-born academics show that people demand clearer feedback – Why did I not get the job? To know what they can improve and develop to increase their chances in other recruitment processes.

The Discrimination Act: Information on qualifications

Section 4: If a job applicant has not been hired or taken out for an employment interview, or if a worker has not been promoted or taken to training for promotion, the applicant shall, upon request, receive a written statement from the employer about the training, work experience and other qualifications it had as was taken out for the job interview or who got the job or training place.

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