The hidden recruitment barriers obstructing young Black men

Post author image. Kate Carr
Kate Carr, Campaign Manager for Employment and Skills at Business in the Community (BITC) discusses the recruitment barriers faced by young Black men.

The Moving on Up (MoU) initiative is a collaboration between the Black Training and Enterprise Group, City Bridge Trust and Trust for London which aims to increase employment rates for young Black men in the capital. Towards the end of 2020, Business in the Community (BITC) was commissioned by Brent Council, one of the MoU partners, to help mobilise employers to adopt a more focused approach to getting young Black men into work.

Though many diversity and Inclusion initiatives will have some benefit for young Black men, the evidence shows that targeted interventions are still necessary: pre-COVID, young Black men were two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than young White men in the UK1, even when they had the same level of qualifications2. The pandemic made the disparity even greater: by the end of 2020, young Black men were nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their White peers3. Employers are in a unique position to tackle this inequality.

The recruitment process is just one small part of the employment journey. But as our work on the MoU initiative revealed, there are many hidden barriers in employers’ hiring processes that are inadvertently discouraging young Black men from applying for roles.

There are many hidden barriers in employers’ hiring processes which are inadvertently discouraging young Black men from applying for roles.

Kate Carr, Campaign Manager for Employment and Skills at Business in the Community

To help us identify the barriers, and suggest solutions, we held a Mystery Shopper workshop in summer 2021, during which young Black men were asked to review the recruitment pages and one entry-level job description of 12 participating employers from across a range of sectors. They found a number of problems that were common to most employer websites.

The barriers

  • A lack of images of young Black men. Though most websites include images of people from different ethnic backgrounds, with good representation of White and Asian people, many do not specifically include young Black men. Where employee profiles of young Black men are included, it is often only at junior levels, with minimal Black representation in more senior roles.
  • Job descriptions that don’t include the key information that a jobseeker would need to decide whether to apply for a role, namely salary, location and working hours. Many job descriptions, particularly in relation to graduate roles, do not provide clear salary information. The workshop participants were unanimous in wanting to know at least a salary band before deciding to apply.
  • Job descriptions that don’t give details about training opportunities or career progression. Participants pointed out that these are some of the most important aspects of a role for them (second only to salary).
  • Application processes which require you to create an account before you can see what the different application stages and associated timescales are. There was a level of mistrust around handing over your contact details before you had decided to apply.
  • Unclear navigation from the main company website to the recruitment pages.

Best practice

  • The use of photographs and videos showcasing young Black men at the business, particularly where they are real-life employees (as opposed to stock images).
  • The use of engaging videos to explain job roles and processes rather than lengthy text.
  • Job descriptions which provide information on a role’s salary, hours, contract type and location.
  • Upfront information about the different stages of an application process and associated timescales.
  • Clear information about a company’s approach to corporate social responsibility.

Young Black men face multiple barriers to good work; though tackling the issues identified herein isolation won’t level the playing field, it will represent a much-needed step forward in the right direction.

Getting started

MAKE RACE EQUALITY A PRIORITY

References:

1  The Guardian (2021) Black youth unemployment rate of 40% similar to time of Brixton riots, data shows, 11 April 2021

2 TUC (2016) Black, Qualified and Unemployed

3 The Guardian (2021) Black youth unemployment rate of 40% similar to time of Brixton riots, data shows, 11 April 2021