Adverse Impact and Hiring

What do we mean by Adverse Impact?

By Nick Jarman – Research Assistant at Cognisess

…Adverse Impact is most pertinent when it has a negative effect on candidates of a protected class, namely: Age, Disability, Gender, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Marital Status, Pregnancy/Maternity.”

Any candidate, for any role, within any organisation, could potentially be adversely impacted by the way they present themselves at each stage of the selection process.

This Adverse Impact is most pertinent when it has a negative effect on candidates of a protected class, namely: Age, Disability, Gender, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Marital Status, Pregnancy/Maternity.

Adverse Impact can be felt even during apparently neutral processes, a measure of indirect discrimination.

An important aspect of indirect discrimination is that it is often identified statistically. The intention to discriminate is irrelevant. The output of the selection process is the most important factor.

It is worth noting that a policy is not indirectly discriminatory if the action is objectively justified in the absence of a less disadvantageous method of producing the same measure.

Although Adverse Impact can be measured during each stage of a selection process, a general rule of thumb is that the hiring-rate of each minority group must be 80% of the hiring rate of the majority group within that company. For example, if males comprise the majority class within the organisation and 90 males are hired from a pool of 100 then the hiring rate from each other minority group must be at least 72%.

How can we mitigate Adverse Impact in our hiring process?

There are a few general ways in which Adverse Impact can be reduced during a selection process. For one, regular monitoring of pass rates at every stage of the selection process will allow apparently neutral policies to be statistically explored regularly and often. The result is a process within which any indirect discrimination can be detected and rectified before it causes Adverse Impact for any particular class of candidate.


Another method of reducing Adverse Impact in a selection process is by focusing specifically on job-relevant competencies. These might be identified as a result of rigorous job analysis based on the job description, or can be more generic competencies specified at the beginning of the hiring process. The result of a specific focus on job-relevant competencies is to judge every candidate on the exact same competencies, regardless of their personal characteristics, thus removing irrelevant stages.

Related to this is the use of standardised interview techniques. Rather than having a more free-flowing personal interview where the interviewer’s personality and individual interests may be a source of unconscious bias, the interview will contain set questions designed to measure aspects of the job-relevant competencies defined at the start of the hiring process. In addition, constant monitoring of any assessors used within the selection process will serve to identify any unconscious bias creeping into any decision making process before it becomes an Adverse Impact. It also informs the focus on ongoing assessor training.

A final way to help reduce Adverse Impact in a hiring process is to make use of a diverse panel of assessors. This serves a myriad of purposes, not least to help reduce any unconscious bias present within any individual assessor. Introducing a wider diversity of thought will also help reduce any naivety that might occur in establishing the selection process.

Request a demo to learn how Cognisess can address Adverse Impact in your hiring process. http://www.cognisess.com/request-demo

Contact Polly Hill to be kept up to date with Cognisess Insights. – polly@cognisess.com