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New contextual recruitment tool launched to improve social mobility

Baker & McKenzie and Hogan Lovells the first law firms to sign up

22 May 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

A new contextual recruitment tool which aims to improve social mobility in London, UK, is being adopted by two international law firms.

Baker & McKenzie and Hogan Lovells plan to fully integrate the system into their own application systems in time for the 2015/16 graduate recruitment season.

"Using contextual data we will now have greater understanding of the challenges some candidates have faced and overcome," said Tom Astle, Hogan Lovells' graduate recruitment partner.

"This will give candidates the confidence that they have been selected on their merits by organisations that recognise their achievements in context and are keen to give them every opportunity to demonstrate their potential."

The system was inspired by big data processes and the selection techniques used by the UK's leading universities, which make differential offers to students based on 'contextual data'.

The tool will work by hardwiring social mobility metrics into each firm's existing graduate recruitment applicant tracking systems, enabling them to take the economic background and personal circumstances of a candidate into account for the first time.

For example, each firm will be able to assess a candidate's academic performance against the overall performance of their school, providing the context as to how that set of grades was achieved - something which conventional assessment systems are reportedly unable to do at present.

By contextualising the performance of individual applicants, the tool aims to enable employers to identify such 'stand-out' candidates, regardless of their background.

"The way people present their talents superficially in print or on paper is only part of the answer to the question of how you measure how good they are," commented Raph Mokades, managing director at Rare, which produced the tool.

"For instance, someone who gets AAA at A Level from a very high performing school may be underperforming relative to the average attainment at that institution, whereas someone who gets AAA at A Level from a school where the average is DDE, whose parents may not have attended university, and who lives in a deprived postcode, is outstanding - even if he or she does not have glistening work experience and extra curricular activities."

Rare said the algorithms and data analysis behind its contextual recruitment system were informed by contributions from an expert geodemographer at Cambridge University and an expert in data science from Oxford University.

It uses information drawn from two new databases built by Rare: the first contains the exam results of 3,500 secondary schools and sixth form colleges in England; the second contains 2.5 million UK postcodes.

The system uses this information, together with the candidates' responses to questions asked, as part of the application process, to produce real-time contextual information on all of the candidates.

"By integrating contextual recruitment into our own graduate application processes we will be setting a new benchmark for social mobility," said "Sarah Gregory, diversity and inclusion partner at Baker & McKenzie.

"This underpins our vision to be a truly inclusive organisation and is testament to our determination to improve access to the legal profession; one of our key commitments as a Social Mobility Business Compact Champion."

In 2011, Baker & McKenzie was one of the first law firms to sign up to the Social Mobility Business Compact. The compact commits employers to: supporting communities and schools to raise aspirations; improving skills and creating jobs by providing opportunities for all young people; and improving quality of life and wellbeing by recruiting openly and fairly, ensuring non-discrimination.




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