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Are You Guilty of Recruitment Bias?

June 24th, 2020 4 minute read
Tom Hacquoil
Tom Hacquoil
CEO
If you think that you don’t have any form of bias (conscious or not) in your recruitment processes, hats off to you, but I’m pretty sure you’re missing something.

We live in a time of fast paced change. It’s interesting. Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, global migration, and large-scale political changes all shed light on equal rights, racism, and socio-economic disparities. The workplace is far from being unaffected by all this. 

Now’s the time for you to make a change, to keep up and to really question your entire recruitment process to ensure both conscious and unconscious bias aren’t hindering you from hiring the right person for the job. 

What lots of businesses don’t understand is that getting this right has a really positive impact on their organization. Whether bias is conscious or not, I guarantee there are improvements that you can make.

If you look at the entire recruitment process – from recognising the need for a position, through to having someone sat at a desk – you have plenty of touchpoints for bias to sneak in. 

You need to start by looking at your job descriptions. They need to be inclusive: language matters. Use neutral descriptions and avoid gender-coded words.  Research has shown that women are less likely to apply for jobs that have a very long list of ‘desirable’ qualities, as they don’t want to waste the employer’s time if they’re not perfectly suited to the role. 

Another classic example of where you might be unconsciously discriminating is by saying “minimum 5 years’ experience” … what if the perfect person has 4 years’ experience, they most likely won’t apply … you’ve created an issue before you’ve even left the start line. 

Take a good look at your job descriptions and the people that have then filled those roles, do you think it was inclusive? Do you find you keep hiring the same type of person and then not knowing why they don’t work out? It might be that you’re attracting the wrong person through the way you are selling the role right from the start. 

What if you didn’t know certain information?

What if you couldn’t see the name, age or ethnicity on a candidate’s CV and application? Do you think you’d still select the same people to interview for a role? 

Are you sure?

You’d be surprised by how much unconscious bias is at large here; not taking someone through to interview because they are too young, too old or their name sounds foreign? It happens more commonly than you think. 

These days, it’s best practice to have blind hiring tools in place for complete avoidance of doubt. It is an easy tick box to your recruitment process to ensure you are meeting people you think are right for the job based on facts, not bias. 

If you think about it, by hiring someone completely based on their credentials and suitability for a role, you’re more likely to have a happy employee that really fulfils the needs of your organisation. So why wouldn’t you put these practices in place? 

Be consistent

It might sound like common sense, but it’s shocked me that there’s such lack of consistency in many organisations’ recruitment processes – especially during interviews. 

This is where unconscious bias takes hold of us most and it’s really important that you’re consistent with every candidate you interview. 

Ask the same questions to everyone, offer them exactly the same information, don’t ever be the only person in the room interviewing, and most importantly, don’t let yourself be swayed by looks, age, accent, sex, religion or anything else that might have an impact on your selection.

We recommend that hiring teams use interview scoresheets to help make the assessment process more objective and reduce the risk of both conscious and unconscious bias. 

Interviews are one of the most difficult areas in which to eradicate bias, but it’s not impossible: your employees need the right training, you need the right processes, and it’ll fall into place easier than you think. 

The competitive edge

In reality, our unconscious bias is inescapable, but equipping your business with the right tools and processes can massively reduce its impact on your recruitment process.

While new technologies provide key insights to help guide data-driven decision making, underpinning new tech with regular diversity training and reporting is key to helping hiring managers recognize and reduce their bias blind spots.

I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that implementing a recruitment process focused around D&I can have. It creates an incredibly focused and powerful workforce that feels valued, included – you and they both know they’re the right person for the job. How great is it that you can give yourself a competitive edge just by making small changes in your recruitment process? 

In reality, adapting your recruitment to be more diverse and inclusive is necessary – candidates and industry are taking it more and more seriously. If you leave it too much longer, it’ll be a hundred times harder to make the change. In my opinion, it’s easier to be ahead of the curve than behind it, so I’d advise looking at your approach to D&I now to make sure you’re not left behind. 

About the author
Tom Hacquoil
Tom Hacquoil
Tom is the CEO at Pinpoint and he's passionate about building world-class teams.

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