How to reduce bias in your hiring process

The goal of every recruiter is to select the best possible candidates for the position. As objective as you try to be in your hiring, research shows that recruitment decisions can be influenced by unconscious biases. According to Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, unconscious biases have a critical and “problematic” effect on our judgment. These biases are difficult to acknowledge and they may result in imbalances in the hiring process. Being human may mean that we may be inclined to make decisions in favor of one person or group to the detriment of others. However, there are conscious decisions you can take to identify and reduce these biases and promote a more diverse working environment.

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1. Rethink your job description  Job descriptions are key in recruiting talent, they are generally the first impression any person would have of a company’s culture. The choice of language in a job description will have a strong impact on the applicant pool you will receive. Studies have shown that language used in job descriptions may have the effect of putting people off for a job. By including gendered terms in your job description, you might unwittingly marginalise a huge pool of potential applications. For a start, assigning gender to the ideal candidate in the job description may deter applications. Using masculine language such as “competitive” and determined may lead women to think that they are not cut out for the job while using words such as “collaborative” or “cooperative” may draw more women than men. Don’t make the job title so prescriptive that only a few individuals are able to apply and make your job description as inclusive as possible. Ultimately, you can always teach people technical skills but you can’t teach someone how to be a team player.   2. Watch out for likeability  We like to surround ourselves with people whom we are most comfortable with and we tend to gravitate towards people that we can connect with. However, this bias towards natural chemistry or common interests is one to watch out for. Our affinity with people may impact our assessment of the candidate as likeability is not a fair indicator of how one will perform in a given role. To reduce the likelihood of hiring based on a likeability basis, you should include structured interviews and a diverse hiring panel in the mix. To further reduce the possibility of likeability basis, pair the interview with a skills test and a real-life problem-solving challenge to give each candidate the best possibility of demonstrating their capabilities. This will allow the hiring process to be focused on the performance of the candidate and not on how well you’ve ‘clicked’ with them.   3. Create a standardised interview process  When it comes to hiring biases, hiring managers have to think of ways to simplify and standardise the hiring process in order to reduce any prejudices they might have. Don’t rely on reading the room and asking questions as you deem fit. You will have your own unconscious biases. Standardise the interview questions and the post-interview debrief so that all interviewers ascribe to the same framework when assessing candidates. While interviewing candidates, it is dangerous to base your hiring decisions on an interview alone as we may be prone to confirmation bias. We have the tendency to seek out information that supports our preconceived notion about people. Acknowledge that the possibility of confirmation bias may exist and make your assessment of the candidate more nuanced by including a skills test to make sure they can walk the walk not just talk the talk. At the end of the day, eliminating hiring biases is common sense for any company that wants to streamline their hiring costs. Being aware of unconscious biases will help you achieve a more equitable hiring process and reduce the failure rate for hiring. Based on a report by McKinsey,  gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform those who aren’t gender-diverse, and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform those who aren’t ethnically diverse. Before you hire your next candidate, be aware of your own judgment and the unconscious biases you might carry. Being aware will go a long way for your business’ hiring decisions.  

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