Reducing Bias in Your Hiring Process

It’s an uncomfortable topic for some, but an important one for all of us. Unconscious (or conscious) bias creeps into our hiring processes every day and can have alarmingly negative impacts. Bias is a natural phenomenon common to all people and how we make decisions. Biases come from our experiences and how we see and make sense of the world.  It is how we form opinions and belief systems.  It’s not all about racism, ageism, and sexism either.  With so much information to process we use bias to help us process information quickly enough to get through the day-both consciously and unconsciously. 
Greater awareness of bias is powerful in giving people and organizations more choices.  Without consideration, everything from culture to performance can take a hit. We’ve identified five tangible steps to reduce bias from your hiring process. These are NOT incremental modifications, but they WILL help you initiate genuine change.

Offer awareness training.
You are biased, and your team is biased. Building awareness around our biases is the very first step in overcoming this fact, especially when they are unconscious biases. Educate your hiring managers and team leads on what to look for, what to listen for – and how to react when they identify a bias. There may be some discomfort around this step since many of us don’t want to admit to our prejudices, but this is not about shame or embarrassment. It’s about acknowledging and recognizing this exists in all of us – and how to change it.

Institute blind resume review.
Simply removing a candidate’s name from a resume can greatly reduce bias. You’ll solely focus on candidates’ experience, skills, and contributions without also considering their gender or ethnicity. Consider requesting your recruiting firm remove names from resumes before submitting to you to review.  This same process can also be used for other parts of a resume that could result in bias, such as schools attended, candidate’s address, and hobbies.

Build a structured, standardized hiring process.
There are a variety of ways to do this, so we’ll break down a few for you.

  • Require candidates to complete personality and/or aptitude tests. Clearly define responses or scores you’re looking for in each role before you see any results (maybe look at the results from your current team as a guide).
  • Ask candidates to submit work samples (remove their names from these samples as well).
  • Create an interview rubric, using standard questions and a reliable rating system.
  • Involve a diverse interview panel so you benefit from multiple viewpoints.
  • Employ an outside recruiting firm with a proven track record of diverse hires.

Review and rework your job descriptions.
Gender-bias language appears in tens of thousands of job advertisements. Shocking, isn’t it?  The words themselves may surprise you as well. Words like “collaborative” and “cooperative” generally skew more female than words like “guru” or “determined”, which researchers say are more masculine. They may seem innocent to you, and impossible to remove from a job description, don’t focus on removing them as much as balancing them throughout.

Set diversity goals.
Like any company transformation or change you want to make; goal setting is an important part of the process. It’s a surefire way to ensure progress is made, data is tracked, and success is celebrated. Define what you want to achieve and communicate it clearly.

As we said before, these are not small changes to make – they will require passionate commitment to bring them to life. It is proven that diverse companies are more likely to outperform those that are not.

While we know change doesn’t happen overnight, these steps will absolutely drive diversity in your hiring – and inviting more distinct and varied voices to join your team will also drive your bottom line.

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