Recruitment – A Strategic Cultural Intelligence Decision

Recruitment – A Strategic Cultural Intelligence Decision

In a highly competitive local and international market, who you hire is one of the most important strategic, Culturally Intelligent decisions any company or organisation can make.

With New Zealand’s increasing culturally diverse workforce, decisions about how we harness the talents of all who come here take on an increasingly strategic importance.

From all over the world people have come to these shores to build a better life for themselves and their families. One of our biggest challenges lies in how well our businesses and organisations make their strategic recruitment decisions to leverage the talent of ALL our people for the benefit of New Zealand as a whole, now and into the 21st century and beyond.

The case for the need to change the ways we ‘do things’ in New Zealand business is already here, and growing stronger such as with the recent “SuperDiversity Stocktake,” published in November 2015.
What practical actions can businesses and organisations take to tap into the significant talent that SuperDiversity has to offer to help them better achieve their organisation’s business goals?  This article offers one suggestion.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Almost twelve years have passed since the Auckland University study ‘A Rose by Any Other Name,’ outlined some of the very real challenges newcomers to New Zealand face in getting a job.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the need for a long-time migrant with almost fifteen years living and working in New Zealand to change his or her name to get a job interview or a job might have passed.

Regrettably in 2016 New Zealand in some instances, this appears not to be the case.

A professional colleague recently shared his story where after months of applying for roles in his chosen profession he has been advised by some well-meaning members of his family that he might need to change his name from Dhari to Dave just to get an interview. (Or from Tavita to David, José to Joseph or Xen Chu to Cheryl as other examples).
When he does make the interview cut,   the feedback received is either he is “too senior”, “too experienced” or “overqualified” for the roles he is applying for. Sound familiar or exaggerated?

Sadly it is difficult to do anything other than conclude that the negative side of NFAH (Not From Around Here) is at play and that Bias whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, is alive and well and at play in the beautiful land of Aotearoa New Zealand.

So what can we do to mitigate the effect of this ‘blind spot’ in the recruitment process?

Overcoming the cultural intelligence ‘Blind spot’

Companies may be denying themselves the opportunity to reap the benefit of the expertise and talent they’re looking for, because the candidate standing right in front of them may not, on the surface appear to be the assumed right ‘fit’ for the company. 

Building greater Cultural Awareness and Cultural Intelligence into the selection process would certainly go some way towards offering part of the answer.  We need to be able to consciously set aside our assumptions in the shortlisting process, focus on the skills for the job and enable the candidate to best present themselves and their strengths for the role.

Practical first steps to shifting mindsets

Shifting mindsets and changing assumptions in the recruitment process is easier said than done. To help, here are some useful tips that will help your organisation to set aside bias and broaden the net to get the best person for the job:
1. Approach the shortlisting and interview process with an open mind. Be aware that you may be making unwarranted assumptions about candidate suitability purely on the basis of name.

2. Develop of a checklist for avoiding recruitment Bias as a reminder

3. Blind CVs – Removing people’s names from CVs. Here is a link to recently released Unconscious Bias App that is designed to help do this. It is worth looking at to explore for yourself. 

4. Focus on the Skills sets required for the role including an agreed evaluation grid with multiple criteria such as rapport/communication, 2nd language skills, community leadership, motivation, adaptability as well as the requisite technical skills. 

5. Ask about case scenarios relevant to the role. This gives the opportunity for the candidate to show their approach and for interviewers to gain some insight into how the candidate might address potential challenges.

6. Focus questions on previous experience where the candidate has demonstrated he or she has the key requisite skills for the role.

7. Ask open ended clarifying questions especially when some candidates may be overly modest or only give short, literal answers in a formal interview.

8. Ensure diversity on the Interview panel – e.g. Women, panellists from different cultural backgrounds

9. The interview structure should be ‘culturally adapted’  to enable the candidate to better reveal their skills and suitability for the role. E.g. For candidates from, for example relational cultures it is useful during initial introductions to put the candidates at their ease by asking more personal background questions such as about their family before leading into the specific questions about the role the candidate is applying for. 

Similarly for some cultures humility is a core value which might mean that these candidates may be uncomfortable in ‘singing their own praises.’  For these candidates reference checks take on a heightened degree of importance. 

These practical tips are by no means exhaustive but they will help your organisation to mitigate recruitment bias and broaden the talent pool when making that all important strategic, Culturally Intelligent decision on Who to Hire.

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