When making hiring decisions, people are often affected by some degree of bias. Research shows that bias — prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another—is human nature, sometimes impacting our decisions without us even knowing.
This “unconscious bias” can negatively impact workplaces: thwarting efforts to recruit and retain diverse employees, leading to poor hiring decisions, hampering career advancement opportunities, contributing to salary inequities, and preventing equal opportunities for women and people of color. Therefore, it’s critical to recognize and disrupt unconscious bias during the recruitment and hiring process.
To do so:
- Educate your team. Learn about unconscious bias, leveraging articles, trainings, webinars, etc., to ensure that your team recognizes what it is and how to prevent it.
- Use structured, consistent processes. Develop clearly defined core competencies before beginning a search, outlining the skills candidates must offer, then compare all prospects against the same list. Have the same people interview all candidates, asking the same interview questions, to make your assessments fair and impartial.
- Consider “blind” techniques. Redacted resumes can help reduce bias. It’s been proven that when certain details (e.g., name, hometown, school, address) are excluded, reviewers tend to make fewer biased decisions about candidates, which may increase hiring diversity.
- Elevate your job descriptions. Job descriptions can tie into bias. Gendered language, for example, can send unintended signals that may keep women, men, or non-binary gendered people from applying. Pay attention to the adjectives you use, and consider using “they” as a pronoun to avoid gender bias and signal a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
- Expand your network. To recruit a more diverse pool of candidates—and, ultimately, build a more diverse workforce—go beyond the “usual” referral sources, like employee referrals. Have your recruiting team proactively reach out to a range of organizations and sources to expand candidate pipelines.
- Avoid the “halo and horn effect.” It’s common to associate certain factors (e.g., graduating from a prestigious university) with particular traits (e.g., extreme intelligence). If someone on your hiring committee decides she “prefers” a candidate because of where he went to school, however, it’s referred to as a “halo effect” where that one detail about a candidate can impact our opinion of them. His degree from a top school doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the ideal candidate for the job—consider a more holistic picture. Conversely, one negative association can create a “horn effect,” or an overwhelmingly negative perception of someone because of a single trait or factor.
- Set diversity goals. As an organization, set diversity goals and routinely measure progress against these benchmarks. Perhaps the goal is to interview a minimum of five people from underrepresented groups for every open position or increase the number of women or people of color on your organization’s Board. Falling short of these goals? Reassess how you’re recruiting and determine how to attract a more diverse pool of candidates.
Unconscious bias often causes highly qualified candidates to be overlooked, making it more challenging for companies to increase diversity. The best way to combat unconscious bias is to recognize it, then utilize hiring practices that promote equity, consistency, and fairness during every step of the process.
This article originally appeared in The Staffing Stream.