I read an article over the weekend that seems to be causing a stir in the recruitment sector.  People Management reports how “Recruitment Agencies Accused of Casual Racial Discrimination.”  Race for Opportunity did some research to determine whether there was any racial discrimination during the recruitment process, and was it affected by the method (using a recruitment agency versus applying directly to an employer.).

The article made for some very challenging reading.  It is clear that racial discrimination in recruitment is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed.  However, I’m not sure that this report helps to deal with this.

The “success rate” was 29% for both White and BAME (the report use this term to describe black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates) candidates when they applied directly to employers.  When applying through an agency the success rate for still 29% for BAME candidates but white candidates were successful 44% of the time.

I struggled with the results of the survey.  I don’t believe that recruiters (whether they’re agency or in-house) are any more or less racist than the public at large.  Our whole reason for being is to fill jobs, so we don’t turn away people who are perfectly qualified for a role.

Unsurprisingly after being called “casually racist”, the agencies came out swinging.  A few agency comments pointed out that they have to reject lots of candidates because of “right to work” issues, and that would account for the differences in their stats.  But corporate recruiters have the same challenges there, so I’m not sure how that works as a logical argument.

Other recruiters said they were giving the clients what they want – and they won’t put a BAME candidate in front of a client if they know the client won’t be interested.  Again that doesn’t make any sense, it suggest recruiters are being racist because they’re choosing to work morally bankrupt clients.  Nor does it make sense given that the corporate recruiters stats in the study don’t back up that opinion – they just suggest that corporate recruiters don’t like anyone.  I’ve always understood that my role was to present the best candidates and sell them to clients who might be unsure so if a recruiter isn’t doing that, then maybe they aren’t doing their job properly.

Without forcing all applicatns to confirm their ethnic background (illegal and rightly so), how can we ever really know how we’re doing?  But it is clear that recruitment has some way to go to show that the processes we use are fair to all.


Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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