Challenging biases in recruitment

By Amy Lieberman 07 August 2017
A scene from the video jointly released by the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Human Rights Office that prompts hiring managers to recognize some unconscious biases.

NEW YORK — A job candidate named Wu Weixa is on the line with a recruiter for a position at the United Nations. As the Skype call launches, Weixa’s name pops up on the interviewer’s computer screen.

Just as quickly, the questions flow through the interviewer’s mind: Does he call her “Wu” or “Weixa?” A glance at her resume reveals she is female, 32 years old and Chinese. How is her French? She says she wants a U.N. headquarters position to “settle down for a bit.” Does that mean she wants to become a parent — if so, how will she combine that with her career?

The International Organization for Migration and the U.N. Human Rights Office are challenging this caricature and other preconceived notions about job candidates with a new video. All IOM recruiters are now tasked with incorporating the five-minute video into their hiring process. The aim is to tap into the problem of unconscious bias in the workplace, representatives said, after surveys showed great disparities in the career progression of men and women within the organizations.

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“We preach to the member states that they have to uphold the highest standards of equality from international conventions. But if you look at the U.N. staff you realize that it is predominantly male, older and white people at the senior management level,” said Saori Terada, policy officer for executive direction and management at the U.N. Human Rights Office. “At the end of the day, it is the decision of the hiring managers that impacts the office's demography, not just the measures and rules on parity.”