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Job offers made through recruitment agencies are disproportionately skewed

Job offers made through recruitment agencies are disproportionately skewed

Slow responses and poor matching of skills with job roles turns ethnic minority workers off recruitment agencies

Casual racial discrimination from recruitment agencies when dealing with job seekers from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background is prevalent in the UK, hindering BAME candidates in securing interviews and roles, reports Race for Opportunity (RfO) the race campaign from Business in the Community. “Race and Recruitment: exposing the barriers”, launched today is an in-depth research piece of more than 2,500 people who have looked for work in the UK in the last twelve months*.

It is clear that BAME job seekers are not treated equally by recruitment agencies. In the past 12 months, just 29% of BAME candidates were offered a job compared to 44% of white candidates when going through recruitment agencies. This problem starts with a significantly lower proportion of BAME applicants being invited to interview when applying through a recruitment agency - just over half of BAME applicants (57%) compared to nearly three quarters of white applicants (73%) reached this stage.

Sandra Kerr, director at Race for Opportunity, said: “Tough economic times and rising unemployment levels mean that the current job market is extremely competitive, with a high number of applications for every role. If BAME candidates are not being treated fairly by the recruiters at all stages of the job application process, then they are at a distinct disadvantage from the outset.”

It is perhaps unsurprising that BAME applicants are less likely to go through a recruitment agency again than a white job seeker, citing poor initial contact and responsiveness and being put forward for roles that do not match their skills set**.  In fact, BAME applicants are more likely to apply directly to employers (91%) than white applicants (88%).  This approach is worthwhile, as employers do not display the same level of disparity as recruitment agencies. In the past 12 months, 29% of white candidates and 29% of BAME candidates secured a job role through this channel.

When it comes down to deciding which agencies and employers to approach, evidence of diverse role models and openly welcoming applications from diverse candidates makes a big difference to the decision making process for nearly half of BAME applicants (47%). The importance of diverse role models and active diversity and inclusion policies can never be emphasised enough.

Lack of support and evidence of diverse ways of working aren’t the only aspects of job seeking that concern BAME candidates.  The interview stage throws up its own challenges and more than a third of BAME candidates would prefer alternative assessment methods (39%).  Further, despite BAME applicants feeling adequately prepared for their last interview, with 66% saying they had sufficient knowledge about the industry and the potential employer, there remained low conversion to interview or job offer.

Race and Recruitment has clearly shown that the biggest challenge facing all job seekers is poor communication and has identified four simple & lsquo;asks’ of recruitment agencies and businesses to address that will strengthen their ability to be fair and become more diverse:

Feedback at each stage of the process to manage candidates’ expectations 

Feeling respected and included

Having a single point of contact

Availability of alternative assessment methods

RfO has developed three Best Practice Recruitment Tips factsheets for employers, recruitment agentsand job seekersincluding relevant key findings from Race and Recruitment and top tips to each for equal recruitment of BAME candidates. A toolkitauthored by an expert recruiter is available on the RfO website for all job seekers detailing a checklist of top tips and do’s and don’ts for the application and interview stages.


An industry perspective – comment from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC):

Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy and Professional Services said: “An immediate priority is to dig beneath some of the findings as there are always a number of  factors at play when employers decide who to offer a job to, such as the relevance of a candidate's qualifications and previous experience. One factor to take into account is that the sample of BAME of candidates was much younger overall and a time when we know that employers are prioritising experience as a selection criteria.

“At the same time, there is always more that can be done to recognise and address unconscious bias and to look at established procedures that may indirectly create barriers for job-seekers. This is something the REC and the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP) will continue to drive through research, qualifications and training.

“The role of recruitment agencies is to match candidates to roles on the basis of their skills, experience and suitability for the job, with the employer making the final decision on who to pre-select for interview and who to offer the job to. There is absolutely no reason for recruiters to do anything other than put together to best possible short-list.

“Most of the recommendations in the report complement the processes and policies we already have in place as an industry. We now need to move the agenda forward and to harness that positive role that recruiters can play and, in the vast majority of cases, are already playing.”

Deputy Mayor of London – Richard Barnes:

Richard Barnes, Deputy Mayor of London, said: “The recruitment industry has a key role in ensuring that London's businesses can access the widest talent pool possible to support their growth and sustainability. As well as the top tips produced by RfO, Diversity Works for London has a wealth of help and advice to help employers and recruitment agencies find the best people for the job.”


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