‘Skills-based’ hiring drives a 70% increase in the number of women hired for senior roles

woman shaking hands, job interview, strengths

The number of women hired into senior roles increases by almost 70 per cent when a ‘skills-based’ hiring process is used, according to new research.

The research, led by de-biased recruitment experts Applied, tracked the gender split of 2,260 candidates hired into senior-level roles by 102 international companies (with at least 10 employees) between 2017 and 2021. Seniority was defined by job titles which included the term ‘senior’, ‘head’, ‘lead’, ‘director’ or ‘chief’.

Instead of using CVs or cover letters, all participants secured their roles following an anonymised recruitment process that focused on identifying and testing the specific skills they needed for the job.

Candidates answered questions designed to find out how they would fare in role-specific scenarios. Answers were then anonymised, randomised and scored by hiring managers – with candidates scoring highest making it through to the next round. Next, candidates undertook cognitive ability tests and structured interviews. Questions which focused on ‘culture fit’ or personal interests were not permitted.

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Of the 2,260 candidates hired into senior roles following a skills-based interview, 52 per cent were women.

This is a 68 per cent increase on the global average, where women account for just 31 per cent of senior positions. 

Men accounted for 36 per cent of successful senior hires in the study, whilst one per cent identified as non-binary, and 11 per cent declined to disclose their gender. 

In the study, female candidates had a particularly high success rate in the publishing industry, where they accounted for an overwhelming 81 per cent of senior hires. Women also dominated in education (gaining 67 per cent of top roles), health (65 per cent) and the third sector (61 per cent).

81% in publishing

67% in education

65% in health

61% in third sector

Speaking about the findings, Khyati Sundaram, de-biased recruitment expert and CEO of Applied, said, “We’ve seen progress towards increased representation of women across the workforce at large.”

“But women are still scarce in senior roles. Not only is this doing a disservice to women with a wealth of talent and expertise to offer, but it’s actively holding companies back. Organisations with women in senior roles outperform companies run by men by almost 40 per cent. Women’s absence from senior teams is also driving the gender pay gap, which sees women earn two-thirds less than men.”

“The solution is simple. In honour of International Women’s Day, we dug into the data to find out how skills-based hiring impacts the gender balance of senior hires. It didn’t surprise me to discover that when hiring is anonymised and women are tested for skills alone they come out on top, successfully landing over half of the senior roles we studied.” 

“Women have so much to offer and so much to gain from sitting on senior teams. We need women in these positions to act as role models and advocates for other women rising through the ranks. It’s time we empowered female leaders to seize the positions they deserve by making hiring fairer and more objective.”

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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