Here's my latest 'Final Word' column from Recruiter Magazine, online and in print on the back page:

Been on the conference circuit lately? Been playing agenda bingo? If so, ‘inclusion’ is one of those squares that you always get to blot. Put that together with AI and #futureofwork and you’ve got yourself a winning card every time.

But on this occasion I need to talk about Exclusion.

Exclusion is the very nature of recruitment. Every recruitment process, no matter what techniques you use or how many steps there are, is an inverted pyramid. Loads of people narrowed down to fewer people, narrowed down to a shortlist and then to a hire. There will always be more people who don’t get the job than those who do. You have no choice but to exclude.

Human beings have quite helpfully adapted to bucket up stimuli into manageable, sorted groups, for ease of decision making. And ease is what you’re looking for if you’re trying to go from 100 to eight down to two.

So give yourself a break on the morality of it. Humans are, well… only human. You can’t underestimate how difficult it is to go through this process of exclusion and then expect to achieve diversity at the other end. So the question is, how can you preserve the healthy variety of your candidate pool?

Become mindful of bias

Accepting that bias exists is far more fruitful than trying to weed it out. It’s not realistic to ask a person operating at the volume and complexity that recruitment often requires to do that without using some tools and techniques to support. Do unconscious bias training. Make everyone attend, including the C-suite. Ban un-diverse shortlists. Ban un-diverse interview panels. These are blunt interventions but they certainly accelerate cultural shift, if you can convince your leadership or client to put them in place.

Be less human

Someone faced with a big CV sift can’t help being tempted to cut corners, work fast and act on instinct. A study by indicates that the average recruiter spends just six seconds reviewing a CV. It’s simply not long enough to think. I force myself to do a proper score card on each CV screen, even though it increases my workload. I’m a fan of the competency-based interview, a technique that drives focus on evidence rather than ‘chemistry’ or cultural fit. And there’s a Chrome plugin that allows you to turn everyone’s LinkedIn photos into pictures of dogs – so you cannot judge candidates on their appearance.

Measure for the future, not the past

Typically, we’ve measured three areas in candidates: capability, results and behaviour. They have a decent correlation to performance under two conditions: 1) that people have had the opportunity to develop the requirements and 2) that you know what will be required in the role in two years. On the first one, emerging talent and people from less represented backgrounds are going to struggle to get your attention. And on the second one – hand on heart, does anyone really know where their business will be in two years?

Broaden your measures to include factors like passion (genuine desire to do the job), purpose (alignment with the business and its work) and mindset (a belief that you can grow). It can help you focus on including people with potential, who need a less traditional way of expressing their talent, who can truly take an organisation forward – allowing you to exclude and include for the right reasons.