Securing diversity through the ‘one final candidate principle’

Kjell Rune Tveita, Head of IT and Noora Hyvätti, Head of HR Business Partners

How can recruiters avoid unconscious bias in hiring and ensure they select the best candidates for the job? How about evaluating candidates’ deliveries without knowing who they are?

If is committed to ensuring diversity in senior leadership roles and has established a final candidate principle to ensure that If has leaders who have a broad understanding of other employees and of our customers. To manage this, If has implemented the ‘one final candidate principle‘, which emphasises diversity in the leadership recruitment process to reinforce If’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  

This principle is applied to appointments at the Management Group level and positions reporting directly to management members. This principle aims to ensure that the pipeline of candidates for senior roles includes at least one finalist who represents diversity in terms of gender identity, ethnicity or LGBTQ+ representation.  

The goal is to create an inclusive workplace that harnesses the strengths and perspectives of a diverse team by deliberately seeking candidates with different cultural backgrounds, motivations, and experiences.  

How do we ensure a fair assessment of a diverse candidate pool in IT?

Last year, If’s IT did a reorganisation and Kjell Rune Tveita, If’s Head of IT, and Noora Hyvätti, who is Head of HR Business Partners in Finland, led the recruitments that were connected to the reorganisation. The role of HR was to ensure that the recruitment processes were unbiased in terms of applicants’ age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics that did not relate to their talent, competence or job performance. To ensure compliance with the one final candidate principle, there had to be at least one finalist who, in addition to having the required skills, would also bring diversity to the team.  

To reduce bias in recruitment processes, If’s HR experts use specific tools to increase awareness and objectivity. Noora explains how the process works:  

– Final candidates are asked to complete anonymous cases to ensure that no-one is overlooked. The results are then evaluated for the interview stage by senior management team members, rather than by the hiring manager. We use this anonymous hiring process to reduce the impact of unconscious bias.  

In the process, If also ensures that job advertisements do not unintentionally discourage candidates from underrepresented groups from applying. Ensuring gender-neutral texts has been eyeopening for many recruiters, including Hyvätti.  

– I have learnt that the use of certain words and expressions can lead certain candidates to withdraw or can deter them from applying. So, it’s important that job adverts don’t carry any restrictive or gendercentric terms, she explains. 

it’s important that job adverts don’t carry any restrictive or gender-centric terms

Noora Hyvätti, Head of HR Business Partners

The diversity principle works

– By adding the anonymous test to the recruitment process, we were able to not only gain an unbiased view of the candidates but also identify relevant topics for the interview itself, says Kjell Rune Tveita, who is Head of IT at If.  

Interviewing still has its pitfalls, but to improve the process, interviewers and hiring managers receive training in diversity and unconscious bias to help mitigate these pitfalls and further humanise the process.  

– We recognise that diversity is a vital asset in understanding the needs of our customers and driving the overall success of the business. Recent recruitments of senior managers from diverse backgrounds are strong evidences of our commitment to diversity in recruitment. We are pleased to have people with various backgrounds on board, says Kjell Rune. 

Tips for recruiters 

  1. Make your job descriptions gender-neutral to ensure you attract diverse candidates. 
  2. Train interviewers and hiring managers to recognise and mitigate unconscious bias. 
  3. Make sure that your culture and employer brand image are attracting diverse talent.