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‘Skills-based’ hiring driving 70% increase in senior role hires for women hired

A study of over 2,000 successful job applicants has shown that the number of women hired into senior roles increases by almost 70% when a ‘skills-based’ hiring process is used, instead of a CV-driven approach. The new research has been released in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2022.

A study of over 2,000 successful job applicants has shown that the number of women hired into senior roles increases by almost 70% when a ‘skills-based’ hiring process is used, instead of a CV-driven approach. The new research has been released in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2022.

The research, led by de-biased recruitment experts Applied, tracked the gender split of 2,260 candidates hired into senior-level roles by 102 international companies (with at least 10 employees) between 2017 and 2021. Seniority was defined by job titles which included the term ‘senior’, ‘head’, ‘lead’, ‘director’ or ‘chief’.

Instead of using CVs or cover letters, all participants secured their roles following an anonymised recruitment process that focused on identifying and testing the specific skills they needed for the job.

Candidates answered questions designed to find out how they would fare in role-specific scenarios. Answers were then anonymised, randomised and scored by hiring managers – with candidates scoring highest making it through to the next round. Next, candidates undertook cognitive ability tests and structured interviews. Questions which focused on ‘culture fit’ or personal interests were not permitted.

Of the 2,260 candidates hired into senior roles following a skills-based interview, 52% were women. This is a 68% increase on the global average, where women account for just 31% of senior positions. 

Men accounted for 36% of successful senior hires in the study, whilst 1% identified as non-binary, and 11% declined to disclose their gender. 

In the study, female candidates had a particularly high success rate in the publishing industry, where they accounted for an overwhelming 81% of senior hires. Women also dominated in education (gaining 67% of top roles), health (65%) and the third sector (61%). 

In the study, female candidates had a particularly high success rate in the publishing industry, where they accounted for an overwhelming 81% of senior hires. Women also dominated in education (gaining 67% of top roles), health (65%), and the third sector (61%). 

Khyati Sundaram, de-biased recruitment expert and CEO of Applied, comments:

We’ve seen progress towards increased representation of women across the workforce at large. But women are still scarce in senior roles. Not only is this doing a disservice to women with a wealth of talent and expertise to offer, but it’s actively holding companies back. Organisations with women in senior roles outperform companies run by men by almost 40%. Women’s absence from senior teams is also driving the gender pay gap, which sees women earn two-thirds less than men.

“The solution is simple. In honour of International Women’s Day, we dug into the data to find out how skills-based hiring impacts the gender balance of senior hires. It didn’t surprise me to discover that when hiring is anonymised and women are tested for skills alone they come out on top, successfully landing over half of the senior roles we studied. 

“Women have so much to offer and so much to gain from sitting on senior teams. We need women in these positions to act as role models and advocates for other women rising through the ranks. It’s time we empowered female leaders to seize the positions they deserve by making hiring fairer and more objective.”

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