It’s easy to assume that getting a university job offer is – in itself – the reward for a candidates’ application efforts. In doing so, we’re ignoring the applicant’s actual experience of the recruitment process, from initial application to the final interview. This is unsurprising; from an applicant’s point of view, the information that an organisation used to come to a decision is hidden from them, and the selection process is almost always opaque. But this imbalance of information does not need to be the default.

Some organisations are releasing psychometric test data

The imbalance is very slowly starting to be addressed by employers, with some realising the added value of providing candidates with data on their applications, whether or not they receive an offer. For example, the professional services firm PwC and the Civil Service graduate programme now release psychometric test data back to candidates. Unlike other employers, when candidates receive an acceptance or a rejection from these organisations, they have an insight into why that decision was made, and how they can improve their chances with similar employers in the future.

Contextual data is rarely released

However, when it comes to contextual data – for example a view of a candidate’s socio-economic background – we know of only one employer who releases any of it to their candidates. Things are somewhat more open in Higher Education; The University of Manchester for example has a portal where prospective students can enter personal information to determine their eligibility for a ‘Widening Participation Flag’. This degree of openness however is not the norm in Higher Education.

A lack of openness advantages the most-polished

This lack of openness from almost all employers and many universities most affects high-performing candidates from less-privileged backgrounds, who may struggle to otherwise distinguish themselves from their more-polished peers.

Releasing contextual data would help candidates

The contextual data organisations generate on their candidates is arguably far more detailed and comprehensive than any self-assessment or skills audit applicants could perform themselves. By organisations providing this contextual data as part of their application process, they would allow candidates to understand how their achievements and background is measured against similar applicants across the county. This is especially useful for candidates who have skills gaps, and need to tailor their applications more closely to the requirements of employers.

Should they wish, candidates would be able to add their contextual data to their CVs and subsequent applications. Providing this additional data to recruiters would enable them to come to more informed and meritocratic recruitment decisions. Indeed, for those candidates whose strong academic record is often obscured by socio-economic factors, their contextual data would allow them to understand their grades in context. This would likely lead to higher confidence at interview, more considered applications, and a greater sense of their own worth when applying to opportunities.

Releasing contextual data is in organisations’ interests

For the organisations releasing the data, doing so would be more than just an exercise in social responsibility. Releasing contextual data responds to Millennials and Generation Z’s desire to feel they are understood as complex individuals, rather than merely as a CV and covering letter. As a result, applicants have a more positive view of the forward-thinking employer or university. More generally, openness around contextual data produces applicants more aware of their unique strengths, making them more confident and productive.

PiC’s CRS has an ‘open option’

This visibility and democratisation of contextual data is built into PiC’s Contextual Recruitment System (CRS). Our two unique contextual measures, SEB rank and REP Rank, can be made available to candidates through the rep.uk platform, should the organisation in question enable the feature.