Article · 5 minute read

How Psychometrics can Support Social Mobility: Reflections from ISE EDI Conference 2023

By Laura Stewart – 28th November 2023

Social mobility in the UK is in its worst state for over 50 years, according to a leading British Economic think tank. The recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that parental income is an increasingly significant predictor of an individual’s income at 28 years old, suggesting systematic factors are making it more difficult than ever for individuals to improve their economic circumstances.

The role of early careers employers in combating this issue was raised by Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS) at the 2023 Institute of Student Employers EDI Conference. Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in talent pipelines has been a key priority for organizations for some time, but ensuring socio-economic diversity and representation is an area which has received notably less attention. In a talk alongside highly regarded student employers Deloitte, Rolls-Royce and Santander, AMS highlighted current recruitment practices that are adversely impacting candidates from lower-socio-economic contexts.

Firstly, using academic results to screen out candidates was highlighted as a key risk to maintaining socio-economic diversity. Research has shown an individual’s economic background is linked with educational attainment, an effect that has been observed up to university level.

A myriad of additional challenges mean those from lower income backgrounds may not be able to achieve the same grades as their more affluent peers, despite being equally capable. Therefore, screening out candidates who did not achieve a 2:1 or a first class degree runs the risk of unfairly excluding capable candidates due to their economic background. Thankfully, things are already moving in the right direction, with the 2022 ISE Survey reporting that less than half of the UK’s key graduate recruiters require a specific degree qualification for applications.

The impact of socio-economic status on educational attainment also introduces concerns around the use of CVs when seeking to develop the socio-economic diversity of talent pipelines. Factors, including lower school resources, pressures outside of school, or the necessity of paid work alongside studying, can have a negative impact on academic attainment in school. This could impact the competitiveness of the results they are able to list on a CV and also has consequences for which universities they may have attended.

The problem with CVs...

Requesting CVs introduces the potential that candidates are screened out based on unfair prejudices towards academic results, school or university attended, or other irrelevant biodata such as a candidate’s name. As CVs are a pervasive early-stage recruitment method, organizations run the risk of introducing bias to their early careers process at the very beginning.

Graduate CVs also often heavily rely on the inclusion of unpaid experience to demonstrate a candidate’s interests and skills. Practically, individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may not be able to undertake unpaid internships, work placements or work experience opportunities, due to the necessity of completing paid work. This creates another disadvantage for candidates applying from lower income backgrounds when they need to submit a CV.

The panel cited these issues and their impact on the socio-economic diversity of talent when pressed on why they had decided to remove CVs from their early recruitment processes and recommended this approach to other organizations.

Ultimately, AMS, alongside the panel from Deloitte, Rolls-Royce and Santander, made a strong case that companies need to prioritize economic diversity within their current diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals. Those committed to this goal must then reflect on current recruitment practices to ensure adverse impact on candidates from a lower economic background is removed. This leaves companies seeking to increase the socio-economic diversity of their talent pipelines facing the issue of how to screen candidates without introducing biases. The fundamental problem is that traditional techniques introduce additional non-job relevant information which, consciously or unconsciously, can influence recruitment outcomes.

A smarter approach...

Saville Assessment is able to provide the tools to rigorously evaluate candidates in a way that is fair, consistent and robust. Psychometric tests evaluate candidates based only on factors that extensive research has shown to have a significant impact on job performance. This allows candidates to be assessed solely on their suitability for the role in question, not their economic background. Furthermore, the quantitative and objective nature of psychometric assessments reduces the role of individual judgment, mitigating against partiality, prejudices and bias in recruitment decision making.

For employers considering how to screen candidates without impacting diversity, we can create an end-to-end screening process that targets only the behaviors, skills and abilities required for the role, resulting in a fair measurement that directly relates to a candidate’s fit for the role.

For example, when technology giant Fujitsu experienced challenges maintaining a diverse talent pool, we partnered with them to rethink their graduate assessment experience. We worked with the business to create a custom immersive Situational Judgment Test (SJT) and implemented an aptitude test measuring verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning skills. The introduction of this blended solution assessing behaviors and abilities resulted in a 20% increase in the proportion of candidates who had received free school meals as a child,  gaining a place on the graduate rotation. A significant achievement for advancing the social mobility of Fujitsu talent pipelines.

You can find out more about this project by reading the full case study here.

Find Out More

If you want to know more about how Saville Assessment can support you in developing socially mobility within your organization, our team will be happy to help.

About the Author
Laura Stewart

Laura is a Consultant Analyst at Saville Assessment. She has previous experience as a project manager in the Expert Network industry.

You can connect with Laura on LinkedIn here

Laura Stewart Saville Assessment