Talent Acquisition

How Can Recruiters Avoid Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias can affect the ways in which we recruit in many ways. We might overlook a talented prospect for candidates who share our own views and characteristics without even knowing it.

As recruiters there really is no place for bias, so how can we stop it from happening? Or at least mitigate it?

To kickstart our newest panel series with some of the most influential females in the industry, we ask them to dissect the issue of unconscious bias and what we can do to make sure we are hiring the most suitable talent for our workforces.

Amanda Bell

Rewrite your job descriptions. Here at Lever, we’ve revamped ours to create what we call “impact descriptions”. This has been a powerful exercise for both our hiring managers and interviewers, because to craft an impact description they have to consider what the person will accomplish on the job, rather than which background and experiences they prefer. This also leads to more consistent interviewing practices, in which interviewers have preset criteria – from the impact description – they’re evaluating for. It helps ensure that explanations like “gut feel” and “I can’t articulate it, but…” don’t show up in interview feedback. Unconscious bias is difficult to avoid altogether, but there are countless ways to reduce it. In Lever, you can create customized interview kits to ensure that your interviewers are asking varied, behavioural questions – rather than, once again, letting them cite how a candidate made them “feel”. We use them religiously to guide our interviewers towards being more consistent and objective in their evaluations.

Amanda Bell, Director of Recruiting at Lever.

Ruth Penfold

The same way as everyone else; by first working to become aware of their own. Conducting an internal audit and looking at the way we interact with the world truly is phase one. Once we have become aware and able to call out our own biases within ourselves, then we are in a place to start calling for other people to do the same. I’ve pulled together some unconscious bias training for the team at Shazam, but honestly, it’s something my team raises a lot in conversation with the business. Once people are calling out their own biases then they can turn to calling out the biases of the other people around them, though we need to make sure that challenge is met with love. It’s never a great feeling when you realise you aren’t behaving fairly, so to embrace that feeling and challenge yourself to rise a bit higher, really takes bravery, humility and maturity.

Ruth Penfold, Director of Talent Acquisition, Shazam.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore

Unconscious bias is bound to affect the recruitment process and you may miss the best candidates. The best approach is to use a standardised process for recording interviews, ensuring candidate details are noted in a fair way. It is suggested that AI would remove bias from the hiring process but, of course, that depends how the software is programmed. Ensure everyone involved in hiring is aware of the risk of discrimination and use training to reduce risk. The more you limit discrimination and minimise unconscious bias the more likely it is that your hiring process will be productive and effective.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore,  Director and Co-Founder 10Eighty.

Angela Bortolussi

It’s important to identify and understand what defines ‘unconscious bias’ with your team, and then begin to mitigate bias by educating your hiring managers and recruiters to understand what hiring prejudices are and how they operate. It’s important though to first be trained in this area, before teaching recruiters or others on your team, about unconscious bias, or talking about diversity efforts more broadly

Angela Bortolussi, Partner at Recruiting Social.

Lysha Holmes

Simply keep an open mind with each and every person you meet. There is a such a tendency in recruitment to make assumptions and form an opinion based on hearsay of ex-employees. Form your own opinion based on a) your own experiences of a person or company and b) do your own due diligence. And finally, trust your own instinct. Be prepared to reform a first impression too. Appearances can be deceptive both ways.

Lysha Holmes, Owner and Recruiter of Qui Recruitment R2R.


Caroline Stokes

To quote my conversation with Frida Polli, everyone has unconscious bias – that’s why systems are being created by organizations everywhere – like a gold rush – to create a screening platform that will look at the data rather than selecting through candidate bias. The good news, from recruiters being aware of their biases and learning, developing and pushing themselves forward, it’s always something that can be worked on.

Caroline Stokes, Founder of FORWARD and The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter.


Poonam Mawani

We should be working to thinking about ways to simplify and standardise the process. Interviews should have elements of consistency – be the same process for all candidates with the same questions asked.

Poonam Mawani, Director at Azuki Accounts.

Rebecca Fraser

Unconscious bias does exist and the way to avoid it is to remove the points that can create bias. This has resulted in strategies such as blind applications that remove personal information from the resume, e-recruitment tools that manage the candidate shortlisting via resume/application processing. Recruiters also work actively on becoming more consciously aware of their biases through training and development which can assist them to understand their own decision-making process more effectively.

Rebecca Fraser, National Executive Committee, Career Development Association of Australia.

Libby Herrmann

We need to continuously engage and educate our recruiters around the topic of unconscious bias. Specifically, building awareness and training recruitment team members around its inevitable presence in human nature. Repetition builds retention. Through creating awareness, recruiters will become more self-aware in ensuring they are objectively evaluating the talent pool. We have all been raised differently and brought up with varying value systems and cultural beliefs; a recruitment climate that cultivates equal opportunity for all candidates should be part of our personal mission and value, as well as our employment brands.

Libby Herrmann, Client Relationship Manager at WilsonHCG.





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