Unconscious Bias in Hiring: What Is It and How to Remove It?

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The term implicit bias was first fabricated in 1995 by two psychologists: Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji. They studied the psychology behind social behavior and how it is affected by unconscious judgments. It refers to the mentality people possess but are not consciously aware of or in control of. For example, people give preference to a person or stereotype over another without our conscious awareness. It affects actions, understanding, and the power of decisions in daily life.

Implicit bias in recruitment

The hiring bias refers to the attitude, opinion, or feeling someone makes when searching for jobs/candidates. This opinion or feeling could depend upon everything from their clothes or accents to the neighborhood where they reside. This bias results from the brain taking shortcuts for making rapid choices.

How can hidden Biases affect hiring initiatives?

Businesses support diversity in their organizational structure and workforce. However, hidden bias leads towards:

  • Restricting choices in the candidate pool
  • Increase in legal dilemmas for the organization
  • Poor performance of the organization in the industry; an organizational workforce should have approximately 35% of ethnic diversity to perform well in the national industry medians.

Identification of hidden bias in recruitment:

Most recruiters might say they are not biased or non-discriminatory and are objective. However, they are under the influence of unconscious bias due to the direct experiences they had in the past. Therefore, it can lead to understated assumptions and negatively impact the corporate brand.

The hidden bias in recruitment can be identified by addressing a few questions about your team:

  • Is the job description/qualifications/eligibility true or exaggerated?
  • Are all submitted applications/resumes reviewed thoroughly or chosen based on discrimination?
  • Does the interviewing team know all the aspects of the role? What if the candidate has a charming personality and does not pass the qualification criteria?
  • Does the recruitment team follow a consistent approach to hiring? Do they follow up with the candidate’s feedback?
  • How frequently does the organization check performance and evaluation scores for bias that can unfairly disadvantage underrepresented groups and eventually upset promotion chances?

How to manage hiring biases?

If you are guilty of biases, you can always correct yourself before you miss the best candidate.

Systemize interview process:

Always take interviews in a structured way. It will decrease the shallow traits and ease the comparison between the candidates. Focus on the discussion and observe the candidate’s behavior in a given scenario.

Avoid hiring your mirror image:

Interviewers can find the characteristics of a candidate and favor them to fulfill a position. For example, common interests can be a magnet. Such behavior can be avoided by conducting an interview analytically and collecting data on a skill set that can help in hiring decisions.

Use job marketplace:

A job marketplace can help recruiters select applicants from varying backgrounds and skill sets. It is a non-biased and transparent platform as all applicants are encouraged to apply for jobs    

Clarify job descriptions:

The appropriate content for job descriptions is essential and should be refined. All aspects of diversity should be acknowledged and addressed. Avoid words that hint at gender bias, as it can prompt erroneous emotions. Use tools including Textio or Moz for writing job descriptions.

Avoid instinct-based decisions:

Keep things genuine and avoid sixth sense business decisions, as they can be biased and unjustifiable.

Training interviewers:

It can be ideal to involve multiple interviewers in hiring interviews, including recruiter, hiring managers, and HR representatives for diversity. Data integration by each individual can lead to accurate recruitment and strategic decision-making. In addition, they should be trained for behavioral interviews that can help predict a candidate’s future performance.