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Recruitment agencies – barriers to BAME candidates

[private]The Race for Opportunity charity has alleged that candidates from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are not treated in an equal way to white job seekers, the race campaign arm of Business in the Community has claimed. This has resulted in less interviews being offered to this group of candidates.

In the past 12 months, 29 per cent of BAME candidates using recruitment consultancies were offered a job compared to 44 per cent of white candidates, according to new Race for Opportunity research. Furthermore, only 57 per cent of BAME candidates were invited for at least one interview, compared to 73 per cent of white applicants, said the report, Race and Recruitment: exposing the barriers.

Sandra Kerr, director at Race for Opportunity, said: “Tough economic times and rising unemployment levels mean that the current job market is extremely competitive, with a high number of applications for every role.

“If BAME candidates are not being treated fairly by the recruiters at all stages of the job application process, then they are at a distinct disadvantage from the outset.”

The study of 2,500 job seekers was jointly commissioned with Diversity Works for London – an initiative from the London mayoral office which supports business efforts to become more diverse. The BAME applicants surveyed cited poor initial contact and responsiveness by recruitment consultancies, and being put forward for roles that did not match their skill sets.

There was not the same disparity in the figures when candidates applied direct to employers, the study found. An equal proportion (29 per cent) of both BAME and white applicants had secured a job role through this channel in the past year.

In response, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has questioned the methodology of the research. “An immediate priority is to dig beneath some of these findings as there are always a number of factors at play when employers decide who to offer a job to, such as a candidate’s qualifications and work experience,” said Tom Hadley, REC’s director of policy and professional services.

“We would also question the way that the data was gathered as the sample of BAME candidates was much younger overall. At a time when we know that many employers are prioritising experience as a selection criteria, this is likely to have had an impact on the findings.” Hadley added that there was “absolutely no reason for recruiters to do anything other than put together the best possible shortlist” for a vacancy, and that REC would continue its work to address any unconscious bias in the recruitment industry and drive forward qualifications and training.