Ethnic minorities are far less likely to get hired than white candidates

'Unconscious bias' is still a huge problem in recruitment.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 10 Nov 2015

British business has a problem with race. That’s pretty much the only conclusion you can come to from new Business in the Community research that shows black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) candidates are far less likely to get hired than white ones.

There is a significant drop off in BAME candidates getting shortlisted for jobs and eventually hired in all industries except ‘uniformed services’ and ‘support services’, both of which get a very low proportion of BAME applicants anyway. In construction and housing the fall is especially striking: more than 45% of applicants are from an ethnic minority, but they get less than 30% of jobs.

White people, on the other hand, apply and get hired at a similar rate across the board.

‘Unconscious bias’ is to blame, according to BITC. That is, the judgments we make about people without even realising. Organisations that have mandatory unconscious bias training, ethnically balanced recruitment panels and make efforts to attract diverse applicants at careers fairs are a lot better at shortlisting and hiring BAME candidates (although that may be a case of correlation not causation – businesses that would overcome unconscious bias anyway making more efforts to do so).

A potential glimmer of hope is that the research may not be all that accurate. Only 114 organisations took part and just 86 submitted ethnicity data. They were also all voluntary participants, rather than an academically selected representative sample.

But then again the results are sadly not all that surprising. Ethnic minorities are far more likely to be unemployed: in July-September 2014 14.6% of black Britons were out of a job, compared to just 5.6% of white people. And more than half of FTSE 100 boards have no non-white directors. British business still needs to do a lot more to overcome unconscious bias.

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