Understanding the value of sector : a view on sector-bias in recruitment activities

Walter-Nelson, Liza Jane (2021) Understanding the value of sector : a view on sector-bias in recruitment activities. (DoBPsych thesis), Kingston University, .


Mobility in the labour market, the movement of staff between roles and industries, is needed for a vibrant economy. However, mobility across both the private and public sector appears to be close to its lowest in almost 30 years. There is a propensity to focus on the differences between the sectors within the literature, particularly so in the grey literature. This narrative of difference may have far-reaching implications, and specifically, could impact the perceived suitability of individuals moving from one sector to another. With an alleged 7.4 seconds given to scanning CVs in the recruitment industry (Ladders inc., 2018), keywords, including sector, maybe being used to ‘rule out’ what could be good hires, highlighting a presence of ‘same-as -me’ bias. A systematic literature review was conducted to examine research into the perceived differences between public and private sector values, behaviours, and attitudes. The studies included in the review identified several similarities, including on items such as Honesty, Reliability, and Intuitiveness. Differences were also found in items such as Achievement, Competitiveness, and Impartiality. These findings were used to inform the subsequent research stage, which specifically looked at sector bias in the recruitment decision-making process. In an exploratory investigation of sector bias in selection decisions, thirty Recruiters (working in the public and private sector and agency) were asked to rate CVs (either with or without employment history) and complete an Implicit Association Test. The Recruiters were actively working and making recruitment decisions in their daily employment. The findings indicated that the recruiters did not score CVs from their sector significantly higher than those CVs from candidates in other sectors (where they see employment history), although, as expected, CVs with no employment history scored higher than those with employment history. The IAT revealed that the recruiters did show an implicit bias towards their sector; however, there was not enough data to explore the relationships between these two datasets, so we could not understand whether this implicit bias has any relationship with the selection decision. This research contributes to the recruitment and selection literature and our understanding of the impacts on recruitment decisions and ideas about how broadly we may need to think about candidates’ demographic details to reduce bias in the recruitment process further. The implications of this work on research and practice are discussed.

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