7 Steps to Reduce Bias in Hiring
May 5, 2021
Unconscious bias is a set of assumptions that people subconsciously have towards other people based on aspects such as gender, age and race. Although these assumptions often are unintentional, it can have a negative effect on certain groups, especially minorities and women as they will be regarded in an inaccurate way.
Bias can lead to irrational hiring decisions and hence, the best suited candidates might not be chosen for a position due to subconscious assumptions about them. When the best talent is not chosen, it reduces the company’s chances of staying competitive in the market and experiencing growth. Also, when action towards reducing bias is not focused upon in the hiring process, it may lead to a homogeneous workforce instead of a diverse and inclusive work environment. Due to these reasons, it is important to alleviate the bias to the greatest extent possible for any company.
‘’Making sure that you have a diverse and inclusive job market is important in its own right, but in running a business you have to be specific on what this means to you and why it matters for your business. You as a hiring manager should ask yourself, how exactly does our organisation benefit from diversity? Why don’t we have more diversity? Where is diversity a challenge for us? And then emphasise on these points to get things moving…. ‘’ - Kristoffer Levinsen, HR Officer at Ankestyrelsen
There are numerous benefits of reducing bias as this brings more diversity and inclusion to the company/workforce. One advantage of increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an improvement in employee engagement. Millennials recognize that they feel more engaged in an organization that has an inclusive culture. Furthermore, companies that have a diverse workforce are often preferred workplaces by candidates and hence, the company’s talent pool during recruitment will increase. With an increased talent pool the company’s overall recruitment efforts will improve, as it will offer more diverse talent than in a smaller talent pool.
‘’Our culture at the moment is focussed on operations and routine tasks, and that’s all well and good for our organisation and our key deliveries - but we also need in some parts to make continuous improvements, and we need people who fundamentally challenge how we do things. This is where diversity gives you an edge - if not even being a necessity for real changes'’ - Kristoffer Levinsen, HR Officer at Ankestyrelsen
Another benefit of increased diversity and inclusion is the creativity that it brings. Studies have shown that leaders with diverse characteristics are more creative and innovative. Finally, companies with a diverse workforce have a better bottom line as they produce 19% higher revenue than companies whose workforce is homogeneous.
In order to gain advantage of the above-mentioned benefits, it is important to alleviate bias in recruitment. And even though unconscious bias is impossible to fully avoid in hiring processes, there are several ways to reduce it. Here are 7 steps to reducing bias during hiring processes:
In order to fix a problem, one has to acknowledge it and be aware of what it means. Therefore, it is crucial that one of the first steps to reducing bias is to educate the decision-makers on what unconscious bias is. Knowing what it is, makes it a lot easier for the recruiters or hiring managers to spot. Once the decision-makers know what to look for, they will be more aware about how to change their behaviour in order to reduce their own bias when making decisions about candidates.
Reducing bias in the hiring process already starts with the job description. By writing gender-neutral descriptions and avoiding words that are gender-coded, such as ‘superior’ and ‘champion’, the company appears more inclusive towards everyone and this widens the pool of candidates for a job position. Furthermore, neither the job title nor the description should include restrictive terms, such as gender or age, as this would prevent certain people from applying to the position and potentially exclude the best talent. Let the job description be as inclusive as possible!
By standardising the hiring process you will be giving every candidate equal opportunity to show their abilities. When every candidate goes through the same steps, the recruitment process will become less biased.
‘’It’s important for us as Hiring Managers to continuously make small steps of improvements in the process everyday - to get closer and closer to a more equal and diverse workplace’’ - Kristoffer Levinsen, HR Officer at Ankestyrelsen
Cases or tests are great ways to reduce unconscious bias as these provide objective data on every candidate in recruitment processes. There are several types of tests available for companies to apply with the most common being cognitive ability tests, personality assessments tests, and skills tests. These types of tests are not only great for reducing bias but they are also to an extent able to predict the candidates’ job performance.
Bringing a group of diverse people into the recruitment process as a hiring committee allows for diverse viewpoints during the assessment of a candidate. This can be beneficial because everyone is biased but when hiring by committee, people can alleviate each others’ bias. For some candidates having an interview conducted with a committee may seem intimidating but it reduces the bias that would be formed about the candidates in a one- or two-person interview. A collaborative recruitment process will make the people on the committee check their own biases, each others’ biases and consequently work towards resolving these.
When interviewing candidates for a job position it is crucial to stay objective and focused on the relevant aspects about a certain candidate, e.g. how the candidate will be performing in the position. By applying structured interviews the interviewer will be aided to follow a set of questions that was created to evaluate the candidate before meeting the candidate.
This might seem obvious, however it is important that the hiring decision will not be based on gut feeling or intuition as these are always based on biased assumptions.
“Diversity can come with many benefits - from better talent attraction to more innovation etc. - but brings its challenges as well. In my opinion, you must first ask yourself: “Where will diversity benefit our organisation the most? And where might it be less of a benefit? Are there certain parts or divisions of our organisation that can better utilize the diversity for innovation?” And then focus on the areas of most benefit first to get moving and gain momentum - Kristoffer Levinsen, HR Officer at Ankestyrelsen
Alleviating bias in the recruitment process is important in order to create a diverse and inclusive workforce and this as mentioned above brings numerous benefits to an organisation. It is important to understand that eliminating bias completely from a recruitment process is impossible, however it is possible to reduce it significantly. But by making some changes to the recruitment process, one is well on the way to have a more unbiased recruitment. And when everyone is assessed based on the same criteria, it gives them an opportunity to show their potential in the same way. This will result in a more fair hiring process for everyone as well as increase the chance of the new hires to perform better on the job.