How to Build an Equal Opportunities Form (And Why Collecting Diversity Data Matters)

Joe Caccavale

12

October

2021

4

min read

|

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Asking people about their identity and background isn't always best received… and understandably so.

But whilst we want to make sure processes are as fair and unbiased as possible, we also need to be able to track and report on diversity data to demonstrate this.

What is an equal opportunities form?

An equal opportunities form (otherwise known as a diversity monitoring form) is a means of collecting data around things like ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic background to ensure processes result in fair outcomes

Why it’s important to collect diversity data

Here at Applied, we’re on a mission to debias the hiring process - our platform uses anonymized applications and skill-based assessments to identify talent that would otherwise have been overlooked.

"Isn't the whole point of debiasing your hiring process to anonymize people's identity?" 

Well, to effectively level the playing field, we also need to make sure our process doesn’t unfairly disadvantage any particular demographic.

And to do this, we have to collect diversity data - you can’t change what you can’t measure.

Collecting diversity data can be an invaluable tool for building more equitable, inclusive workplaces.

This doesn’t necessarily mean every organization is using this data to do so, or even using it at all but if we want to make a tangible impact on real-world outcomes we first need to collect this data - and the only way of doing this is by asking candidates for it directly.

How we use diversity data at Applied

Ensuring our assessment process is fair 

We want to see that the diversity of the initial candidate pool is consistent throughout the hiring process. 

If female candidates, for example, were tending to drop off at the interview stage, then it may be the case that the phrasing of a question may be more geared towards male candidates. 

An investigation into why female entrepreneurs receive less funding than their male counterparts found that venture capitalists posed different types of questions to male and female entrepreneurs.

They tended to ask men questions about the potential for gains and women about the potential for losses (this is why we use structured interviews).

How VCs frame questions depending on gender


Or it could be that the review guide we created for that question favours a particular approach - corporate hiring processes in the U.S, for example, have been shown to prefer a masculine style of leadership

Tracking sourcing channels

Not all job boards bring the same diversity of candidates, so we want to ensure we’re advertising jobs in the right places - we want as wide a range of people as possible to see our job ads. 

 Studies have shown that when there’s just one woman in the finalist pool, their chances of being hired are statistically zero.

Finalist pools vs hiring decisions chart


Reporting on diversity

Since we want to help organizations improve diversity through fairer hiring practices, we need to track the diversity of the candidates that are sourced and eventually hired. 

Even though not every hire will be from a minority background, we can show that over time, diversity does measurably improve.  

Below is what this diversity reporting looks like within our platform... How to ask candidates for diversity data

Diversity reporting within the Applied platform



How to ask candidates for diversity data

At Applied, we present candidates with our equal opportunities form at the very start of the process.

Beyond the basics like age and gender, we also ask about candidates about socioeconomic indicators such as the level of their parents' education.

Whilst this information may seem sensitive, it gives us an insight into less visible dimensions of diversity like social class.

Before asking for any personal background information, it’s absolutely essential to communicate to candidates that this information is only ever going to be used at an aggregate level (meaning candidates will remain anonymous) and will never be used to identify individuals. 

You should also be clear about why you’re asking for their information. In our case, it's to ensure our process is free from bias.

Below is what Applied candidates see at the top of the form.

Equal opportunities form explainer copy


Your equal opportunities form should always be optional

Although diversity data can be extremely useful - your equal opportunities form should never be made mandatory in order to apply for a job (a misstep the BBC made back in 2019). 

Candidates may be worried about their identity affecting their chances of being hired, they may be concerned about data privacy or simply too time-strapped to fill out the form.

None of these are legitimate reasons to prevent someone from applying.

There will always be risk-averse candidates who opt out… but they are in the minority. Our equal opportunities form has around an +80% completion rate.

Whilst that extra 20% would be valuable, it’s simply not worth missing out on potential talent.

Equal opportunities form template

Here is our equal opportunities form, made with the help of the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Applied equal opportunities form


Applied is the essential platform for debiased hiring - purpose-built to make hiring empirical and ethical.

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