There are a lot of judgment calls to make during the hiring process. Whose qualifications are best for what role? Who’s the right fit for the role? These are questions recruiters tackle every day. However, these critical decisions are often clouded with hiring bias.
Hiring biases occur when recruiters allow preconceived opinions, conscious or unconscious, to affect their hiring decisions. These biases can derive from anything from a candidate’s accent to the clothes they’re wearing. And that severely hinders any DEI efforts.
To create a fair and equitable workplace, recruiting teams must stay aware of potential biases affecting their decisions and take steps to mitigate bias when possible.
Implicit bias and unconscious bias refer to the same concept. When we discuss implicit bias in the workplace, we’re talking about the unconscious stereotypes, generalizations, and prejudices affecting the lives of employees. Implicit bias specifically refers to unfounded generalizations and beliefs based on any number of factors, such as age, body type, gender, race, religion, and so on.
Although these biases are not always negative, they can be especially harmful to recruiters trying to make an objective decision. So much so that it can be difficult to determine whether a hiring decision was made purely based on merit rather than one of these unconscious beliefs.
To illustrate what we’re talking about here, let’s take a look at a couple of implicit bias examples.
Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian journalist who often focuses on the implications of sociology and psychology, noted in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking that adult men over 6 foot 2 inches only represent 3.9% of the general population, but roughly 33.3% of CEOs. According to Gladwell, this may well be the product of an implicit bias that height correlates to success.
A more general example is recruiters that unconsciously favor younger candidates for tech jobs. Here see an assumption based on ageism.
Height and ageism are only two types of bias. There are many more, one for every human variable from our tone of voice to eye color to the color of our skin. All of which hold the potential to cause unconscious bias in hiring.
Here are some of the major types of bias to watch for:
This list is by no means exhaustive. Unconscious bias in interviewing comes in many more forms, but is primarily based on visible, physical attributes. As such, eliminating the visuals from the interview process is ideal when combating bias. A nonvisual interview process allows recruiters to focus on what really matters, the candidate’s qualifications.
To help prevent hiring bias, start by removing biased language in your job postings. A job posting acts as a candidate’s very first impression of not just the hiring process but your organization as a potential employer. If your job description is rife with exclusive or off-putting language, more candidates are likely to pass it over for the next posting.
Every word we use carries a connotation, a meaning outside and around the literal meeting. As such, we need to take particular care of the language we choose for a job posting. Using gendered or ageist language, for example, favors specific groups while excluding everyone else. Biased languages consequently severely limit your applicant pool.
Let’s take gender-specific pronouns as an example. Using “he” or “she” in your job description immediately favors one over the other. What’s more, it excludes more than 1 million nonbinary adults in the US. If you stick to the gender-neutral “they/them” when referring to your applicant in the job description, you include everyone across the gender spectrum.
Similarly, avoid gendered job titles. Waitress, salesman, and stewardess all imply both profession and gender. These titles will have you once again favoring one group over the other when you want a healthy diversity of applicants.
The same can be said for language surrounding socio-economic status. Using phrases such as “similar background” or “cultural fit” may exclude those both of different cultural backgrounds and social standing. Once again, we see connotations come into play. “Similar background” in particular can read as “like us” which will only discourage diverse talent from applying.
With all this in mind, no doubt you’re wondering how you can make a bias-free hiring process. Well, the short answer is you can’t. There is no perfect system that will completely eliminate bias from the hiring process. Not yet, anyway.
However, there are steps you can take to mitigate bias where you can. Beyond considering the language you use in your job postings, virtual phone interviews can help address bias in the interview process.
In a virtual phone interview, a recruiter records a single interview. The interview is delivered to every selected candidate at the click of a button. The candidates then each receive the exact same interview to answer and therefore receive the same opportunity to show why they’re the right candidate for a role. Once returned to the recruiter, the responses remain in an audio-based format – removing the visual aspect entirely.
Here are the primary components of a fair and equitable interview process:
To experience how virtual phone interviews can help address bias for yourself, schedule a demo with Qualifi today.