Employer Branding

4 Tips to Avoiding Unconscious Bias in the Hiring Process

Have you ever met someone and thought, “there’s just something I don’t like about him,” even though you had no good reason to make such a judgement? We have all been there and many of us discovered that guy turned out to be a great person.

The point is bias inevitably influences our judgement whether we like it or not, sometimes without us even realizing it. It’s something that takes a concerted effort to control and, in necessary cases, it must be avoided. This is especially important for hiring teams to grasp, which is why it is becoming more and more popular for companies to dedicate resources to overcoming bias during the hiring process. Though it’s their job to “judge” candidates, it’s their responsibility to do so on the basis of careful thought and evidence.

Tip 1: Recognize your bias

If hiring managers want to hire the best candidates, they first should be aware of the types of biases they may unconsciously be inflicting. These are some of the most common:

  • Confirmation Bias – looking for ways to make an initial judgement come true
  • Effective Heuristic – judgement based on superficial factors like a person’s weight
  • Expectation Anchor – adjusting expectations based off of an initial (and favored) candidate (the anchor)
  • Gender Bias –  judging a person’s capabilities on their gender
  • Intuition – “gut” feeling

Companies have even resorted to omitting names on resumes and applications to avoid any bias attached to a person’s name, gender, or other identifying factors in the earliest recruiting stages. Before a hiring manager meets a candidate, they should be aware of these biases so they can work to keep an objective mindset during the interview.

Tip 2: Sleep on it

You only get once chance to make a first impression. Yes, that’s the pesky and redundant phrase we’ve all heard throughout our entire lives that people place so much emphasis on, but is it THAT important? In a sales position or client relations it would be relevant. What’s more important, however,is the ability to make an educated decision based on facts, especially in a situation where a worthy candidate may have had a less-than-perfect introduction. Hiring managers should make a conscious effort to wait until the end of the interview to assess first impressions. Taking 30 minutes to sit, mull over the facts, and put careful thought into the final hiring decision can help avoid any first impression bias.

Tip 3: Strength in numbers

If a department has had problems with hiring decisions in the past, it could benefit them to have multiple people assigned to interview a candidate. It’s helpful to get other opinions, but hiring teams should collaborate only after they have taken the time to form their own opinion based off of the facts. The point is to add information to the discussion so it’s important not to allow other opinions influence what someone has already made up their mind about. After healthy discussion, the team should vote on which candidate they feel best fits the job.

Tip 4: Standardize the process

It’s difficult to get meaningful results if the process is constantly changing. Hiring managers can avoid bias by creating a standardized rubric that is used during each interview.They can customize the rubric to assess a combination of attributes (skills, experience, teamwork, cultural fit) that help determine whether a candidate is the appropriate fit for the company.

If you’re having trouble finding a good fit for your company, examine the interview process and investigate to see if there is any bias affecting decision-making. Chances are, managers aren’t even aware that it’s happening and good candidates aren’t making the cut because of it.

By Maren Hogan

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, a consultancy offering marketing strategy and content development.