Eliminating bias from your recruiting practice

Eliminating bias from your recruiting practice

Liberate your hiring from the bias menace to assure diversity and meritocracy

It is part of human nature to have conscious and unconscious preferences towards certain people and bias towards others. Being prejudiced, however, is highly unproductive in all contexts – in particular, in business and HR. Alas, bias is still sometimes present in recruitment, bringing utmost corrosive effects on company strategy, talent selection, culture, inner resources potential, and, finally, bottom line.

Unconscious (or implicit) biases have a strong effect on our judgement. In the workplace, this may eventually choke off diversity, talent-based recruiting, promotion, and retention efforts. Freeing your recruitment process from any hiring prejudice (based on race, gender, educational or cultural background) is a key to protecting your HR decisions from any partiality and founding them solely on merit-based metrics.

As proved by various studies, including the one from McKinsey&Company, a diverse workplace is more efficient, as the staff performs better. Diversity brings pluralism of points of view, creativity,and innovations. Diversity also supports recruitment, as most of the candidates want to work amongst a heterogeneous workforce – thus, diversifying without prejudice broadens your potential talent pool. Finally, diversity contributes to the business bottom line: as said in Forbes, “companies with a more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits, showing a significant correlation between diversity and performance.”

While the modern technology-based solutions (artificial intelligence, advanced talent acquisition, like those offered by Jobrapido) can be highly helpful in avoiding bias-rooted recruiting decisions at the candidates’ pre-selection stage, the hiring managers, however, step in (objectively or less so) at the interviewing stage. And sometimes the decision about the candidate is subconsciously taken within just a few seconds of meeting him/her. How does this rapid evaluation works? Here are just a few of the implicit bias patterns that may affect recruitment at the one-to-one level:

  • Horn Effect

The horn effect is when you judge a person and attribute negative qualities to them based on one known quality”. Any unfavourable characteristic creates an unconscious bias that overshadows all other skills and abilities. For instance, if the applicant has a rather quiet voice, an implicit prejudice may lead to a wrong perception of the person lacking initiative or leadership skills.

  • Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs”. For instance, if an HR has a hypothesis about an applicant, they may subconsciously search for ways to prove it. This leads to an error of ignoring any evidence that contradicts with their opinion. It would be enough to imagine a recruiter who believes that his/her alma mater is the best, thus candidates coming from other rival universities are automatically less valid.

  • Gender and racial bias

Many research articles have shown that, sadly, women, older people, and people that represent diversity are still less likely to be taken on board. For example, a study published by Harvard Business School found that statistical discrimination, which is “rooted in beliefs about average gender differences in abilities or skills,” works against women in the hiring process. The same applies to the racial stereotypes.

It is very difficult to fully eliminate unconscious bias from recruiting. But it is possible to become much more mindful and aware of the intricate prejudice traps we all face at some point. As an HR professional, you should strive to design your interview process in a way to reduce the biases as much as possible.

Here are some essential anti-bias strategies you can easily implement:

1 – Start with an inclusive job description

Remember: language always matters. Insert gender-neutral descriptive words, stay away from gender-coded phrases.  Remove age and other restrictive terms from the vacancy advert, instead, shape it towards inclusivity. To avoid male/female bias, try name and gender “blind” CVs reviewing – it might turn out to be surprisingly effective.

2 – Focus the interview on the skill set evaluation

In many cases, job interviews revolve around cultural suitability, personality, educational background, and latest work experience. Shifting the focus of the interview towards the actual skill set assessment will allow you to have more information and clear insights about the candidate’s professionalism. Judgement based on skills evaluation is important for setting a truly meritocratic hiring approach.

3 – Use a diverse interview panel

Organizing panel-based interviews is a handy anti-bias recruiting method. Involving several people in decision-making process is a guarantee of pluralism, awareness of diverse opinions, and impartiality. If you gather a panel, invite a right proportion of men and women, safeguard a certain level of cultural diversity and panelists’ wide age range.

4 – Assess yourself before assessing others

To free yourself from any hiring bias, you first need to admit you might have it. Build awareness around it, be honest with yourself, acknowledge when your decision-making is grounded on a wrong basis. Try passing special tests like the one developed in Harvard, the IAT. It helps to uncover unconscious partiality that you may be unwilling to reveal. The IAT measures the strength of associations between a concept (e.g., older people) and connected evaluations/stereotypes. As a recruiter, you can use this information to become more self-aware and proactively control your biases.

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