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Reducing unconscious bias in recruitment

3 months ago by Emily Amos
Unconscious Bias Blog   Blog

Following our successful webinar with Hayley Barnard of MIX Diversity on unconscious bias within the recruitment process, we thought it would be useful to share some of the wisdom we learned from the event with you.

Unconscious bias refers to ingrained beliefs, attitudes or perceptions, positive or negative, towards certain groups of people that exist outside of our conscious awareness. While we may be aware of some of our own biases, others are often acquired stereotypes we have unwittingly taken on throughout our lives. They provoke automatic responses that often don’t even reflect what we actually think or feel, even though they can influence our behaviour, body language and conversations. It is important that we identify our biases in order to challenge any potentially discriminatory beliefs and prevent biased outcomes from our subconscious decisions, including those we make when it comes to hiring.

Unchecked, unconscious bias in recruitment can result in an almost total lack of diversity within organisations, especially in more senior positions, when minority groups get discriminated against during the hiring process. Without diversity within teams and within the leadership of a company, businesses miss out on a rich range of ideas and perspectives from talented individuals who have been overlooked, which in turn affects innovation and ultimately growth.

During the hiring process, unconscious bias happens when you form an opinion about candidates based solely on first impressions or on criteria from a CV that is irrelevant to the position, such as their name, where they are from or a photo. Hiring managers will often use the phrase “gut feeling” about a candidate, and positive or negative, that feeling will inform the ultimate hiring decision if nothing is done about it. So, what can we do?

Aside from unconscious bias training and raising better awareness internally, and before we address actual recruiting process steps that can be improved, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of where our talent pipeline begins. Diversifying the whole hiring process will achieve better results than just concentrating on the final selection stages. Ensuring that we are considering and successfully reaching typically overlooked and untapped talent pools is crucial: endlessly fishing in the same pond delivers the same type of fish. Bias against education or background, or people who have taken extended career breaks or made radical career changes, hugely limits the candidate pool. Once we are offering an equal opportunity to everyone with the relevant skills sets, then there are plenty of other stages in the recruitment process that can be adjusted to ensure we don’t miss out on talent:

Job descriptions:

  • The language used in job ads needs close consideration. There are masculine-sounding adjectives that will subconsciously attract men and put off women. “Assertive”, “competitive”, even “build” instead of “create” have all been proven to result in fewer female candidates. There is software that can help write more gender-neutral descriptions.

CVs:

  • Redacting certain information from CVs, such as age, education and names, helps remove bias.
  • Comparing CVs – holding one up as the ideal that others need to meet – also increases bias.
  • Try to look past the halo effect (one impressive thing) or horns effect (one negative incident) on a CV and concentrate on skills and experience
  • AI, taking the human angle out of the process, can help remove identifiable candidate data from a CV and ensure that everyone who meets the criteria is considered

Interviews:

  • Ensure you have a diverse interview panel in terms of gender, age and ethnicity if possible
  • The gender pay gap is still very real, so don’t ask about salary history
  • Don’t ask questions related to company culture as this will sacrifice inclusivity when you subconsciously look for something that will fit

Please keep an eye out for more of our diversity and inclusion events in the coming months. If you would like more information on how to minimise bias in your recruitment process, contact us today.