From left, Andrea Keir, UK senior contract manager at Heineken, Conception Ribaud, Jim Carter, Cath Houlihan and Chris Harrington, divisional manager at Reed Procurement & Supply Chain
From left, Andrea Keir, UK senior contract manager at Heineken, Conception Ribaud, Jim Carter, Cath Houlihan and Chris Harrington, divisional manager at Reed Procurement & Supply Chain

CPOs: beware of unconscious bias when recruiting

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 November 2018

CPOs were warned against recruiting candidates in their own image during a discussion at the CIPS UK Conference.

Delegates were told unconscious bias was a massive risk and it was important to involve others in recruitment decisions.

Conception Ribaud, head of procurement at MTR Corporation (Crossrail), said: “Unconscious bias is probably the biggest risk we have. You are not even aware: ‘I see that person come in and I am not going to recruit them for something that’s nothing to do with their skills’.

“We have to understand what’s driving us, what are we looking for.

“I am not likely to have someone like me in my team – it would be a nightmare. You need a champion in different areas. I like the idea it’s not yourself that’s recruiting, it’s your team that’s recruiting. I let the team in the [interview] room and leave and let them talk.”

Jim Carter, transformation director at the Ministry of Defence, advised: “Definitely not in your own image.

“As we approach those interviews I can really feel that unconscious bias come to the fore and you need to take a step back and think about what I am hearing and how that will work in the team.”

He added: “It’s easy to get complacent and think you’ve got it covered but you can have blind spots.”

The panel agreed that job descriptions were not effective in attracting talent.

Cath Houlihan, global director of procurement & commercial legal at RICS, said: “Video is the way to go. That is the only way to get the culture of the team. You churn out these standard job descriptions and you wonder why you don’t get the candidates.”

Carter said: “Job descriptions are universally horrific. It’s an area for change.”

He added: “Attracting the talent is half the battle; retaining the talent is key. The time you invest understanding them and why they joined is time well spent.

“The idea that actually a lot of people in that [millennial] generation quite like having another career sideline. That’s a really important part of their life. Flexible working might be accommodating them to fix bicycles for two days a week. Portfolio careers at the end of careers is now happening at the start.”

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