Decrease bias in recruitment.

Bias has been a DEI buzzword for many years, and rightfully so. It significantly impacts how we interact with colleagues and leaders and influences the fairness of organizational processes and practices.

Let’s explore bias and how you can hack bias in the recruitment process.

Action 1: Understanding bias.

The first action is learning about bias yourself. Understand where it comes from, the impact, and how you can recognize bias in your and other people’s behavior.

We will get you started with some highlights.  

Bias is a prejudice in favor or against a thing, a person, or a group compared with another.

Biases are thinking errors. Our brain needs much information to assess and react to situations but cannot process the necessary information fast enough.

The result?

  • It takes shortcuts to categorize and streamline information and speed-up reaction time.
  • It fills in the blanks of information with stereotypes and past experiences to accurately assess a situation.

Besides limitations in information processing, biases also stem from our personal experiences, upbringing, education, history, etc. They are embedded in our thinking and society and often become part of the norm. That is how they sneak into organizational structures like recruitment processes.

Bias can have a positive or negative impact on the recruitment of candidates. However, no matter the effect on the individual candidate, it invariably endangers fair and equitable recruitment practices and is a “must” when working on DEI.

To decrease recruitment bias, you must explore ways to impact 1) people and 2) processes.

Action 2: Hacking individual bias.

Unconscious biases lead to wrongful assumptions and incorrect assessments of candidates, either positively or negatively. For example, recruiters and hiring managers label candidates instead of accurately assessing their character, experiences, and skills.  

Time to HACK your bias in four steps:

  1. Halt.
  2. Acknowledge.
  3. Challenge & change.
  4. Keep on doing it.
  • Step 1: Halt and be willing to examine your biases.

The first step is taking time to think before you act.

Bias sneaks into our thoughts when we assess candidates quickly, without conscious thought or reflection.

Multiple biases can influence candidate screening and selection. Some common biases are:

  • Confirmation bias: you notice, focus on and accept only the information about a candidate that is in line with your existing beliefs and ignore contradictory information.
  • Affinity bias: the similar-to-me effect, a preference for candidates who look or behave like you and share your ethnicity/background/education/gender/age.
  • Halo effect: a tendency to prioritize a candidate based on a positive first impression or not job-related qualities you perceive about that person.
  • Horn effect: a tendency to dismiss a candidate based on a negative first impression or information unrelated to their performance ability.
  • Gender bias: a preference for or a negative attitude against candidates of a particular gender based on stereotypes of perceived gender strengths.
  • Ethnicity bias: a preference for or a negative attitude against a candidate based on their racial or national background, cultural heritage, religious belief, language, custom, or traditions.

We tend to judge candidates based on things unrelated to their ability to perform well on a job. Biases can stem from personal beliefs and therefore be different for everyone—for example, candidates’ names, age, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.

  • Step 2: Acknowledge what you are thinking & feeling.

Once you manage to halt and realize your assessment could be biased, try to become aware of your assumptions, beliefs, and opinions.

Have the courage to recognize and acknowledge your biases towards a candidate and explore where your biased thoughts are rooted.

Remember that multiple biases can influence a situation at the same time.

  • Step 3: Challenge and change your perspective.

Challenge what you believe to be true about a candidate. Can you back up your opinions with checked facts, or are they not more than (stereotypical) assumptions?

Take time and effort to unlearn automatic go-to’s and actively reframe your opinions and beliefs.

  • Step 4: Keep on doing it.

To change your behavior, keep repeating the HACK to make the new behaviors your own.

Action 3: Hacking bias in interviews.

Bias occurs in different stages of the recruitment and selection process.

Recruitment interviews are the perfect scene for bias to sneak up: an individual recruiter with a basic set of questions, free to lead the interview as they like without guaranteeing consistency across candidates.  

When interviewers improvise, not all candidates have the same opportunity to showcase their fit for a role. That endangers equality and fairness in the recruitment process. The n°1 best practice to hack bias in interviews is standardizing the interview process.

Use this mini-toolkit created by Hanover Research to self-evaluate how inclusive your interview questions and practices are.

Action 4: Hacking bias in hiring decisions.

In most organizations, only a few people are involved in the final hiring decision. Unfortunately, that leaves room for biased decision-making.

Why? Individuals do not like to think of themselves as biased and therefore have little awareness of their preconceptions, assumptions, and blind spots.

To decrease bias in hiring decisions:

  • Make reviewers aware of biases.

A small group of decision-makers can be homogenous and sensitive to affinity bias.

When hierarchy is involved, the chance of conformity bias, where someone changes their opinion of a candidate depending on the response of others, increases.

  • Reduce the influence of peer opinions.

Ensure interviewers do not have access to comments of previous interviewers to remain uninfluenced by someone else’s view.

  • Challenge interviewers’ assumptions.

Ask the interviewer if they checked the statement or assumption with the candidate whenever you hear stereotypical statements or assumptions.

  • Compose a diverse hiring panel.

Even with a standardized interviewing process, it is paramount to compose a diverse hiring panel to counter bias and have different points of view to help decide. Ask each panel member to report their opinion independently of that of others.

Become a DEI expert.