Companies that have a high gender, racial, and ethnic diversity have been linked to an overall increase in company productivity and revenue. Diverse backgrounds lead to more creative problem solving and increased efficiency in getting the job done. So how do we improve the hiring process to increase the diverse talent pool? The first step is to remove bias from the hiring process, more specifically unconscious bias.
Unconscious biases, also known as implicit biases, are the social stereotypes that people hold towards particular groups that unconsciously affect their judgements in favor of or against those around them. If you’re hiring on a “gut feeling,” you’re probably hiring with an unconscious bias. Unconscious bias can hinder your ability to hire diverse talent and block you from bringing varied competencies into your organization.
In order to remove bias from your hiring process, the first step is to acknowledge that there are unconscious biases in your hiring process. Then, work towards identifying possible biases that may be at play so that you can resolve them. Some of the most common unconscious biases that occur during the hiring process are:
Confirmation biases are drawn conclusions about a situation or a person based on personal desires, beliefs and prejudices rather than unbiased merit. After making a snap judgment about a candidate, we then spend the rest of our time searching for “clues” that prove our bias. We may ask the candidate irrelevant questions to conjure answers that support our bias. To avoid this bias, have standardized questions for all applicants and ask questions that are competency-based for the job at hand.
Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Identity Biases are extremely common during the hiring process. It is the preference for one gender identity, racial identity, or ethnic identity over another. For example, hiring managers often overlook candidates due to their names not meeting anglo-conformity. Candidates with “ethnic” sounding names on their resume are 50% less likely to get an interview as someone with a “white sounding” name. They may have unconscious bias regarding the types of work that certain applicants can perform based on their gender; think, female kindergarten teachers and male engineers. A few methods to resolve this are to conduct blind screenings, set measurable diversity hiring goals, and compare candidates based on their skills and merits rather than their traits.
The halo effect is when your impression of a candidate considerably improves after learning something impressive about them. For example, you may have learned that they attended a highly reputable school. This biases you to focus only on the positive aspects of a candidate and potentially ignoring red flags or even overlooking more diverse talent that meets the same competency-based qualifications. To combat this bias, consider candidates less on stand-out traits and more so on how their experience, talents and personalities compare to candidates who may not have had the same opportunities.
It is extremely difficult to completely remove unconscious bias in the hiring process, however, there are means to pursue it in efforts to increase diversity in the workplace. The first means for combating bias is acknowledging it and implementing steps towards diminishing it. Determine where unconscious bias may appear and work on its resolution. Set diversity goals. Determine which groups in the organization are underrepresented, then set metrics to help achieve an increase in the diversity of your candidate pipeline.
Analyze your current hiring process step by step and determine ways to standardize it, such as having standardized interview questions that focus on details that impact job performance. Create competency measures that focus on talents and ability so that the candidate can be measured more objectively. Make hiring decisions based on evidence and competency rather than subjective assumptions. Focus on the job’s role and determine the needs vs. nice-to-haves that can be trained for. Utilize tools like Claira to create an objective picture of what you need and have in your workforce.
Unconscious bias hinders your ability to remove bias from the hiring process. Invest in technology to replace certain steps in the hiring process that would otherwise lead to unconscious bias from human decision-making. Use software programs that blinds certain information that would have otherwise been visible on a resume, resulting in unconscious bias. Blind hiring tools can conceal biases related to ethnicity, gender, age, education and screening instead for profiles based on abilities and competencies.
Businesses should be a reflection of the society that they operate in. Low diversity in the workplace can lead to high turnover rates and a decrease in productivity. Removing bias in the hiring process has the potential to diversify your candidate pool with non-traditional backgrounds that may have otherwise been overlooked due to unconscious bias. The key to preventing hiring bias is to focus less on candidates traits and more on the abilities, experience, and competencies that are needed for the job.