Recruiters mainly chose to proceed with Black female applicants in a fictitious employment situation in a study at Malmö University. The researchers believe that the Black Lives Matter movement has increased awareness, and also affected perceptions of diversity and inclusion.

The recruiters were fully aware that they were participating in a research study on discrimination in working life, something that may have influenced their choices.

To know why people chose the way they did, we need to do a deeper analysis of company culture and what associations and attitudes exist around different groups.

Sayaka Osanami Törngren

“The result is still positive because we know that there is ethnic discrimination in the Swedish labour market,” says Sayaka Osanami Törngren, associate professor in international migration and ethnic relations at Malmö University.

She carried out the study together with postdoctoral researcher Carolin Schütze. Forty recruiters at companies such as Deloitte and Ikea had to evaluate ten fictitious but equivalent CVs from people who applied for a position as an accountant. At the same time, their eye movements were recorded using eye-tracking technology. This was to see if there was a connection between what the recruiters looked at in the CV and which candidates were then called to interview. In order to give more support to the results, a survey was conducted in parallel with 200 recruiters.

"The starting point for eye tracking was to try to see when possible discrimination occurs," says Osanami Törngren.

However, no connection between how long the face or name was looked at and who was ultimately called for an interview could be demonstrated. “We thought that the recruiters would look more at applications they were interested in or that deviated from their expectations, but that was not the case. It surprised us,” she says.

In the scenario, the applicants for the job were all born and raised in Sweden, and the applications were provided with names and profile photos. Among the applicants were Black and White people, people of Asian origin and applicants with roots in the Middle East. To some extent, names and appearance were mixed so that, for example, non-White people were given Swedish names.

Each of the 40 recruiters selected three candidates to call for an interview. In the next step, the recruiters gathered in pairs to choose one individual. The result showed that B0lack people, especially women, with a non-Swedish name were the most preferred in the selection process. Nine of the 20 paired recruiters ended up choosing a resume from a Black person. The survey produced similar results. Surprisingly, according to the researchers, White people ranked lowest.

“It probably depends on a combination of factors; we know that the companies that participated are aware and work a lot on inclusion issues. The fact that there were young recruiters can also play a role,” says Schütze.

The researchers interpret it as positive that there was no difference in how much the recruiters looked at Black and White faces; the fact that they physically participated in a survey did not make them behave "more socially acceptable".

“We know that if it's a moral choice or a sensitive topic, that particular choice is looked at more closely. The fact that it was not done in the eye tracking study shows a greater awareness,” says Osanami Törngren.

That Black people were selected can, they say, be linked to an increased focus on racism after the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Diversity is associated a lot with Black people today, also internationally. If an equality perspective is also added, Black women are prioritised. That's good, but at the same time there are other groups that are discriminated against in the labour market,” says Osanami Törngren.

People of Asian origin were often selected among the three but not as the top candidate. Names from the Middle East were generally rated lower. “Regarding the Middle East, our results confirm previous research. People of Asian origin are a group that has not been researched at all in Sweden, so we contribute new knowledge there.”

In order to obtain general results about which attitudes play a role in the recruiters' choices, the researchers now want to delve more deeply into the large amount of material they have collected.

“To know why people chose the way they did, we need to do a deeper analysis of company culture and what associations and attitudes exist around different groups,” says Osanami Törngren.