Give the Poor Folk a Chance!

It's my personal belief that - in the majority of businesses - socioeconomic prejudices are rife when hiring.

Posted by Jessica Ferguson, Thursday November 14 2019

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I've lost count of the amount of times I've been told that a candidate must have an MBA or a Masters to even be considered for an interview and let me tell you, it's frustrating.

I appreciate that certain job roles require specific expertise, but where does that leave those who can't afford to further their education? Grants and bursaries are brilliant, but sadly they're few and far between.

Diverse businesses thrive (or so we're led to believe). So why is socioeconomic diversity so often ignored as a part of D&I planning? In my opinion, it's lazy hiring. When you receive a CV from someone with a First and a Masters from Oxford, they're an obvious choice. But what about the CV's of all those bright, passionate and hardworking people who decided to work after their A-levels, so that they didn't end up drowning in debt for the rest of their days? Not such an obvious choice.

You may be wondering why I'm so passionate about this. Well there's a few reasons - one being that my own background is fairly working class and I don't have a degree, which - at the beginning of my career - made me feel alienated, thus shaping my choices.

The other stems from my role within talent acquisition. I've witnessed many organisations cutting themselves off from an abundance of talent because of socioeconomic prejudices, which is creating headaches for their internal recruitment teams and ultimately stifling the business' success.

Lastly, I believe that by hiring all the same types of people, we're creating an entire workforce with mirrored mindsets, skill-sets and development areas. Scary, right?

Some of the very best people I've worked with are those who broke into their industry/job role against all odds. How? Firstly, by being great at their jobs and secondly, because they show pure grit, determination and dedication, which, if you ask me, stems from knowing that if they don't do it for themselves, nobody will do it for them.

My advice on how to boost the socioeconomic diversity within your teams: 

  1. Analyse the current socioeconomic balance within your business (factors include birthplace/hometown and education) so that you know what you're working with

  2. Set yourself some meaningful and realistic socioeconomic diversity goals - e.g by the end of 2020, 10% of the Leadership team are not from higher education

  3. Break down your job roles into key capabilities, not experience - e.g ability to pick up new technologies - and then build an interview process which uncovers those capabilities within your candidates

  4. Invest in developing the very best training you can possibly deliver to your new staff, which starts by extracting the expertise and wisdom within your current team. This, theoretically, will allow your budding talent to thrive

  5. Grow your own! Ensure that every upcoming intake of entry-level staff includes a balance of education levels and backgrounds

  6. Manage your expectations. You need to be honest with yourself about the fact that when two candidates have come from completely different backgrounds with varied opportunities growing up, their individual goals and targets may need to be a little more bespoke.

Final thought: at the very least, educate yourself around the socioeconomic diversity within your organisation. It could truly transform your business for the better!

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