Increasing equality of opportunity for applicants by structuring and objectifying the selection process

Structuring the selection methods for job applications promotes equality of opportunity. This is stated by work and organizational psychologists Janice Odijk, Annemarie Hiemstra and Marise Born, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in the study into equality of opportunity in selection and assessment that was carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

(in Dutch).

Popular selection methods such as the traditional resume and unstructured interviews are susceptible to the influence of personal biases in evaluating applicants. This promotes inequality of opportunity. It was investigated whether a more objective letter selection and structured interviewing can lead to greater equality of opportunity for ethnic-culturally diverse applicants. More objective and structured selection methods include job requirements and questions that are relevant to the position, determined in advance based on a job analysis. More than two hundred HR professionals from different sectors and regions participated in the research.

The researchers conclude that objectifying and structuring selection methods helps to increase equality of opportunity for all’applicants, regardless of their migration background. This is caused by reducing random noise. For example, noise can arise if an assessor is distracted by something that reduces agreement between all the assessors. Objectification and structuring also reduces systematic differences between assessors in their assessments. Reducing noise and bias improves selection decisions.

Previous scientific meta-studies show that structuring the job interview also improves the prediction of work performance. Structuring therefore not only promotes equality of opportunity but also the predictive power of the interview.

Design of the intervention studies

Two intervention studies were conducted. In the first intervention study, 127 job seekers responded to a fictitious vacancy, sending their CV and completing a structured form (the intervention). 112 HR professionals assessed the job seekers on their job suitability. They also answered a number of questions about their personal views and beliefs about diversity and about their similarity to the applicants. The use of a standardized form instead of the traditional CV appeared to reduce the influence of coincidental assessment differences (noise) and of differences between individual HR professionals in the perceived equality with applicants (bias), because the assessors had to work in a more structured way.

165 HR professionals participated in the second intervention study, including the 112 professionals mentioned before. Using fictitious job interviews - that is, videos with fictitious applicants who were equally suitable for the job but differed in their ethno-cultural profile - the results showed that the influence of random assessment differences (noise) and of differences between individual HR professionals’ motivations to be unbiased (bias) disappeared when structuring the interview.

About the report

Kansengelijkheid in Selectie en Assessment - Een labstudie naar de effectiviteit van structurering om kansengelijkheid voor etnisch-cultureel diverse sollicitanten te bevorderen
Researchers: Janice M. Odijk, MSc., dr. Annemarie M.F. Hiemstra en Marise Ph. Born 

Client: Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, Directie Samenleving en Integratie
Edition: Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, februari 2024

Interview Studio Erasmus - November 2023 
Janice Odijk about discrimination and exclusion during application procedures.
Watch the interview

  • Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Marjolein Kooistra, communication ESSB, 0683676038,