Is Your Diversity Being Held Hostage?


Is Your Diversity Being Held Hostage?

There’s never been a bigger push to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices in the workplace than there is today. With good reason too.

Discriminatory hiring practices are wrong from human and ethical perspectives, are bad for business, and are against the law.

The Case for Diversity in Contact Center Hiring

Diversity is not an option anymore. Today, there’s more data than ever outlining how important creating a diverse workforce is from companies’ performance, financial, and candidate attraction perspectives.

Companies that prioritize creating a diverse workforce are far better positioned to meet the needs of customer bases and are 70% more likely to capture new markets than those that don’t. More diverse companies also tend to have better results when it comes to innovation and financial performance (e.g., nine percentage points higher EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin on average).

A diverse and inclusive workforce is also something that’s increasingly a top priority for job seekers in determining where they want to work. If you want to attract the best, you need to prioritize diversity.

In the customer service and contact center world, the need to foster this diversity has become particularly important.

Delivering positive customer service experiences has become a critical way to drive competitive advantage and ensure the retention of customers. Companies must do everything they can to find skilled customer support professionals who can easily connect, relate, and empathize with the people they are trying to help.

Nine times out of 10, if a customer is phoning your contact center, it’s not because they want to. When your contact center workforce represents the diverse groups of people you serve, you have a far greater chance of connecting those customers to agents they can better relate to and have a better experience with.

Opening the doors wider and actively recruiting from a broader base of workers is also critical to meet staffing levels in providing that excellent service. Many of the recruitment leaders I speak with daily cite talent shortages, even with today’s economy.

Why the Resume is Holding Back Your Diversity Efforts

Senior management does get it on diversity. Somewhat. 65% of senior executives say recruitment of diverse employees was their top priority, but most are still behind on their diverse hiring goals.

From 2015 to 2020, only a third of the large organizations tracked by McKinsey significantly improved the diversity of their employee base while the other two-thirds stalled or went backwards.

From my years of experience working with countless organizations on how they can refresh their contact center hiring, I’ve realized that despite the best efforts, legacy processes for candidate evaluation at the point of application continues to be the problem.

The key issue I’ve found is the emphasis on the resume. I continue to question why the resume remains a central part of the hiring process for customer service and contact center roles.

Yes, our industry (along with others) has become comfortable with the perceived scale and convenience the resume provides for initial candidate screening, but this approach is doing more harm than good.

From my experience, resumes alone are one of the poorest indicators of a contact center hire’s future success. They contribute to troubling realities that exemplify why our investments in diversity are failing:

  • Resumes that include minority racial queues get 30% to 50% fewer call backs than equivalent resumes.
  • Companies are more than twice as likely to call minority applicants who used a “whiter” sounding resume versus one that gives an indication of their race.
  • Workers aged 45 and older often hide their age or experience given two-thirds of them have seen or experienced age discrimination.

Resumes often drive such troubling figures around hiring diversity due to the implicit and unconscious biases of those who hire. Because most high-volume recruiters have only seconds to review individual resumes, they can default to implicit assumption heuristics that are triggered by conscious or unconscious biases.

A common example is when a recruiter quickly reviews the resume of someone with a non-“white” sounding name, resulting in making unfounded and problematic assumptions about the candidate’s fit for a contact center role.

Additionally, it’s common for those who hire to anchor their screening decisions on specific job titles or types of experience as indicators of a potentially good fit without considering other types of experience. Each of these situations is problematic when it comes to ensuring diversity in hiring.

Bias can extend to the evaluation of older candidates with lots of documented experience. In these situations, it’s easy to wrongly assume such candidates are less adaptable, slower learners, or not as knowledgeable about the latest technology.

Given the valuable qualities and experience these individuals tend to have and how difficult hiring continues to be, contact centers can’t afford to lose out on these individuals due to ageism.

Lastly, the resume does a wonderful job of biasing towards candidates who know how to write a good resume, not those who might be best for the job. These practices become problematic as those from more privileged backgrounds can have greater access to professional resume writing support.

This leads to certain candidates “looking” better on paper, triggering biases related to what a resume should encapsulate. Certain groups of people may get a leg up in the interview process based on their financial resources, not merit. I acknowledge resume writing is a skill, but it’s not one that is needed to be a great contact center agent.

It’s no wonder why, given these challenges, organizations are experimenting with blind resume evaluations that strip away a person’s name and other identifiable information to avoid biases. The problem with this, however, is that despite our efforts, most resume screening tools continue to be built with bias as a feature, not a bug.

Since success as a contact center agent comes down to verbal communication skills, energy, enthusiasm, and personability, we need to rethink the use of the resume as the primary initial screening tool for contact center roles.

It’s Time to Fight Back; Toss the Resume

If you are looking to immediately increase the size and diversity of the candidate pool at your fingertips, doing away with the resume for contact center hiring is an effective first step.

And instead of using the resume alone, complement its use with a standard set of questions candidates must fill out that establish the minimum requirements needed to successfully do the job.

Then, put all those who are actually interested in your roles in front of a recruiter as fast as possible via a simple video screen, so they can quickly and efficiently evaluate the skills that actually matter without spending wasted time on resume review and phone scheduling.

Leading organizations like Pandora, The Body Shop, and Ikea have all successfully implemented similar practices to increase their hiring efficiency and speed, but they can also be used to support hiring diversity.

I’m a firm believer that eliminating the resume for contact center hiring and adopting different practices is critical for the establishment of a more diverse workforce, but it’s just the start.

I also implore organizations to make more efforts to meet their candidates where they are and invest in bias reduction across the hiring process end to end.

As humans, we can’t avoid or eliminate the biases that impact hiring decisions, so we must evolve and re-evaluate our hiring systems holistically.

Today, let’s start with re-evaluating the role of the resume in contact center recruitment.

If you’ve ever hired someone for a role, you likely know as well as I do, that a good resume doesn’t always equal a good candidate and a bad resume doesn’t always equal a bad candidate.

Ravin Shah

Ravin Shah is the Founder & CEO of Hellohire, a software platform that helps contact centers hire the best agents faster, while reducing recruiting time and costs. Ravin is a serial tech entrepreneur on a mission to expedite and humanize the hiring process.