Survey: Male Recruiters More Likely to Judge Candidates on Appearance

Female recruiters focus more on credentials

By Roy Maurer Nov 14, 2017
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​When it comes to evaluating candidates, there are some startling differences between male and female talent acquisition professionals and between Millennial recruiters and their more-senior counterparts, according to Jobvite's 2017 Recruiter Nation Report.

The survey of 831 recruiters in the United States reveals their thoughts on the practice of recruiting, including the existence of hiring bias, among other challenges and trends.

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

Men and Women Evaluate Candidates Differently

Male recruiters said they tend to pay more attention to appearance, personal style and enthusiasm during the screening process. Men are more likely than women to look at candidates' photos before meeting them, and men are also more likely to admit that seeing the photo influenced their decision to move forward with a candidate or not. Male recruiters are also more likely to disqualify a candidate for wearing attire considered too casual to an interview. Female recruiters were more likely than men to put more emphasis on a candidate's college degree and references, the survey found.

Recruiters in their 20s and 30s put more emphasis on candidates' conversation skills and enthusiasm, while recruiters over 50 focused more on knowledge of the industry and appearance.

Older recruiters put much more weight on personal style and grooming when assessing whether someone is a cultural fit.

"Let's face it, humans are biased," said Jay Meschke, president of CBIZ Talent and Compensation Solutions, an executive recruiting and consulting firm based in Kansas City, Mo. "People make a decision in the first five minutes of an interview, and appearance often counts for something."

Prep the candidate before an in-person interview on the appropriate attire for the culture of the organization to establish clear expectations. "Workplace dress standards have changed dramatically over the years," Meschke said. "The suit-and-tie, hose-and-heels world of the past is not always applicable anymore."

This is more true in some sectors than others, he added. "If you're hiring for a bank, you expect to interview candidates in formal attire. If someone comes in for the interview in cargo shorts and a Grateful Dead T-shirt, they're less likely to get hired. [But] they could go to an interview in the same outfit at a startup in Silicon Valley and it'd be a perfect match."

Katie Gechijian, a consultant at Reveal Global Intelligence, a recruitment firm in Charlotte, N.C., added that recruiters and hiring managers will absolutely evaluate candidates on presentation once they are satisfied that experience and skills requirements have been met. "Presentation is not necessarily physical, but includes punctuality, enthusiasm, conciseness in their responses, and likability," she said.

For recruiters overall, the most important hiring factors are previous job experience (92 percent), followed by culture fit (83 percent). Conversational skills are the most important factor (69 percent) determining whether a candidate is a cultural fit, according to respondents, followed by knowledge of the industry (65 percent) and enthusiasm (62 percent).

"I don't care what the job is, employers should be hiring for attitude," Meschke said. "Attitude is enthusiasm."

Candidate behaviors that ranked as the top deal-breakers by recruiters are rudeness to the receptionist or other support staff (86 percent), checking their phone during an interview (71 percent), showing up late (58 percent), and bad hygiene (52 percent).

Hiring Bias Exists

Half of surveyed recruiters (57 percent) believe unconscious bias is part of the typical hiring process, and some respondents say they've witnessed biased attitudes in action. About a fourth (27 percent) of recruiters say they have observed or heard sexist attitudes expressed toward a candidate, and 22 percent said the same about racist attitudes.

"There is absolutely bias in the hiring process," Gechijian said. "The best way to combat it is to make sure there is an ongoing conversation about it with hiring managers. You can't eliminate bias, but you can educate on the impact."

Despite being aware of bias, over half of surveyed recruiters' companies are reluctant to make specific goals for gender (52 percent) and racial (51 percent) diversity in hiring, according to the report. Only 13 percent of recruiters ranked "increasing diversity at my company" as a priority for the next 12 months.

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