I think we can all agree that our goal as Human Resources and Recruitment Specialists is that when it comes to hiring or filling a position for our teams or clients, the goal is to hire the best candidate for the job. How do we do this? We base our hiring decision on the candidate’s ability to do the job that they are interviewing for well. But sometimes, there are other conscious and subconscious factors that play in that make this a more difficult task than one may think.
Most professionals believe that their decision or rationale is the result of sensible, objective analysis; however, many people are not aware that their decisions are often biased in some way. If we can be aware of our biases, and work to eliminate them, then we can hire the best, most qualified, and diverse candidates for our organizations. As Dr. Tana M. Session, Organizational Development Strategist, Speaker and best-selling author says, “self awareness is the key to unlock the door of change.”
There are many forms of unconscious biases, and often if left unchecked, they can be what drives your decision making. Unconscious biases show up everywhere in the recruitment and selection process; from job descriptions to the recruiting and interviewing process. So how can we work on eliminating our own bias and make our recruiting process free from them?
1. Be aware of the common types of unconscious bias in the hiring process.
There are many types of bias that can occur during the hiring and recruitment process. Here are three of the most common and how to look out for them and avoid them:
- Confirmation Bias: A confirmation bias occurs when a recruiter, hiring manager or someone else involved in the recruitment process processes information in a way that confirms their own beliefs or assumptions about a candidate. For example, they may notice a school or company on a candidate’s resume that they may have a negative experience from. Maybe they did not get into that school and have hard feelings, or maybe that organization did not offer someone they knew good customer service. If this bias is acknowledged and a candidate is disqualified from the process because of it, they may be dismissing someone who is qualified before even giving them a chance.
- Halo Effect Bias: Sometimes, a positive effect of a person or place can cause bias. Have you ever interviewed a candidate and you find out in the interview that you both played the same sport in college or went to the same post secondary institution? Because of this knowledge, there is now a connection or bond, and you may spend more time with that candidate speaking about these things rather than the key requirements of the job. There is nothing wrong with building rapport and letting your personality shine during an interview, but conversation should be kept to the requirements of the role. Sometimes a halo effect can result in a mis-hire if not carefully watched.
- Expectation Bias: Have you ever seen a great resume come through and you and your hiring manager are excited to meet with the candidate and interview, but when you meet this person, they are not prepared for the interview, they clearly did not do their research on your organization, and they did not answer some of your questions well. Expectation bias can occur when we focus on characteristics we expected before the interview rather than those red flags during the interview. Typically, if you expect someone to be good or bad going in, they usually meet those expectations.
Confirmation Bias, Halo Effect Bias, and Expectation Bias are just a few of the many biases that can creep into an interview and selection process. When challenged with these or any other biases, it is important to conduct a self check, recognize your bias, and most importantly, keep an open mind when reviewing and interviewing candidates.
2. Review and rework your job descriptions.
Job postings and job descriptions play an important role in recruiting the best talent and often provide the first impression of a company’s culture. According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that “even subtle word choices can have a strong impact on the application pool”. It may not be something you think about, but there is some language can be perceived as more “masculine”, including adjectives like “competitive” and “determined,” while on the opposite side of the coin, studies, and research show that words like “collaborative” and “cooperative” tend to be perceived as more “feminine”. When crafting your job descriptions, be mindful of gendered words to help counteract this effect and replace them with something more neutral. Something else you can do is post different versions of your job descriptions, explore, and see how these subtle changes affect your candidate pool.
3. Go blind in your resume reviews.
Be sure you are focused on your candidate’s specific qualifications and talents, and not their surface demographic characteristics. Blind resume reviewing (removing any indications of race, nationality, gender and age from the resume, for example) has shown to be very effective and has started to be used by organizations like IBM. This moves the focus when reviewing candidates to their skills, talents, abilities and allows them to be evaluated as objectively and fairly as possible.
4. Standardize your interviews.
If your organization has unstructured interviews, this can lead to a huge problem when trying to reduce bias in your recruitment process. When interviews lack defined questions and just let a candidate’s experience and expertise organically unfold through an open conversation, this can be unreliable for predicting job success. By having the same set of defined questions across all candidates being considered for your role, this allows your organization to standardize the interview process and minimize bias because you are focusing on factors that have a direct impact and correlation to performance in the role.
There are many other ways to start thinking about reducing unconscious bias in your recruitment and interview process, but these four items are a good place to start. Unconscious bias are challenging but equipping your business with the right tools and processes can help reduce the impact on your recruitment process, reduce turnover, reduce legal troubles, and make your workforce more diverse. Offering diversity training, training on awareness and unconscious bias, and equipping your organization with the right tools and processes can help reduce blind spots and help hiring managers recognize their biases and make right, and informed decisions. And always, if your team needs assistance with recruitment, you can partner with Logic and know that the talent search will be handled by professionals.
Human Resources and Recruitment Specialist, Logic Executive Search