Increase Your Talent by Decreasing Your Bias

Bias. It’s everywhere. Like it or not, there’s a good chance we’ve all experienced it or unknowingly let it guide our decision making. Especially during the job search process.

Maybe you were assumed to be less capable because of your gender or race. Or perhaps you made your own assumptions about who might be more capable based age, looks, or some other external factor. Even when we have the best intentions, bias has a way of working itself into the world of recruitment.

If you’re in the business of hiring and firing, bias is not your friend. Not only can it get you in serious trouble, it can also cause you to miss out on some great talent.

I’m not biased… am I?

Sorry. The cold, hard truth is that you probably are.

All too often, our stereotypes, perceptions, and preconceived notions are so deeply engrained that we don’t even realize we’re playing favorites. Even if we have the the best intentions, we may not be able to separate our bias from our processes. As a result, we rule out potentially great talent based on things that really shouldn’t matter.

Research shows that people tend to prefer candidates who remind them of themselves. This means we are choosing (or ruling out) applicants based on characteristics we personally identify with. This can be something as major as race or as minor as a sports team preference.

The bottom line here is that your talent search process probably isn’t as open and objective as you think it is.

Playing fair

Most of us agree that everyone deserves a fair shot. But many times this isn’t how things play out on paper, in boardrooms, during interviews, or with job offers.

Denying the problem exists doesn’t do anyone any good. We need to admit that this is happening, even to the best of people, then seek out tools to help.

There is no silver bullet for completely removing bias from your hiring process, but there are ways to mitigate the effects and, in doing so, prevent yourself from overlooking some stellar candidates.

Here are a few things you can start doing today to help build the fair and equitable hiring process your organization wants and needs.

1. Scrub your resumes

When you have a lot of applicants, it feels good to narrow down the pile. But you may be making choices based on the wrong criteria. Age. Race. Gender. These things can all be assumed based on information included in standard resume format.

If you’re serious about letting the cream rise to the top, your first evaluation of potential new hires shouldn’t be influenced by these factors. Have HR remove pertinent data from applications and resumes before passing them on to the hiring team. Things like names, graduation year, schools attended, and even hobbies or interests can conjure up ideas and images of where that person comes from and what they are like.

2. Just say no to visuals

A candidate’s appearance can instantly trigger all kinds of biases. Make sure you have a strict No Photo policy in place to avoid making performance assumptions based on how a particular candidate looks. Make the first contact something other than a face to face meeting. Instead, ask them to take a skills test or do a phone interview. And as hard as it may be, resist searching your candidates online, at least in the early stages.

If your HR team doesn’t have time to take this extra step, consider using a recruiting app or program like Blendoor to do it for you.

3. Write neutral job descriptions

How can a job description be biased or discriminatory? By using language or pronouns geared toward a particular gender, expressing preferences for “mature, seasoned professionals” or “energetic, digital natives” and many other ways.

You may not even be aware of subtle ways your job descriptions could be slanted toward or away from particular groups. But there are ways to find out.

Services like Textio and Gender Decoder will run your job descriptions through their systems, looking for words and phrases that are could signal red flags.

4. Expand your search

Do you go back to the same recruiting sources over and over again? Try mixing it up. Look for new sources of talent. Examine your ideal candidate profile and your position requirements. Are you limiting your hiring pool by where and how you recruit?

5. Diversify your hiring team, and your organization

If your hiring teams don’t contain any diversity, it will be much more difficult to inject it into your hiring processes. And if your company doesn’t contain any diversity, well… that says something right there.

If you’re not sold in the idea of diversity, maybe this will help. Research from McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33% more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

In fact, there is mounting evidence that companies with diverse teams perform better than companies with non-diverse teams. And research from Cloverpop shows that diverse teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time. In other words, expanding diversity is good for business.

Reduce your hiring bias and start building a more well-rounded effective team.


Photo by Vadim Zakharishchev

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