Staff watching a presentation on How to avoid bias in the recruitment process

How to avoid bias in the recruitment process

Diversity matters. But companies around the world continue to falter in recruiting a diverse workforce.

Diversity matters. We know this from a social, ethical and innate point of view. There’s even new research to suggest that companies with diverse workforces perform better financially. But, even knowing this, companies around the world continue to falter in their efforts to recruit a diverse workforce.

Before we look at how we can avoid bias in the recruitment process, let’s look at how it presents itself.

Types of bias in the recruitment process

Bias exists on a spectrum. On one end there is blatant discrimination. On the other, it can be something superficial like a candidate sharing your favourite football team.

There are four main types of bias that can present during the recruitment process:

  • Confirmation bias: looking for information that confirms your existing beliefs.
  • Anchoring bias: forming an opinion from your first impression.
  • Attentional bias: not paying attention to all pieces of information equally.
  • Halo and horn effect: letting a good or bad trait overshadow everything else.

It's essential to be conscious of bias in the recruitment process

Three ways to avoid bias in the recruitment process

  1. Use gender-neutral terms

A paper, aptly titled ‘Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality’, that the use of masculine or feminine words will skew a job advert to that gender. This can enforce gender bias. A higher presence of masculine words, for instance, suggested to the reader that there were more men in the occupation and reduced the feeling of “belongingness” or assumed sense of workplace inclusion.

‘Lead’ and ‘determine’ are defined as masculine. ‘Understand’ and ‘support’ are categorised as feminine. When writing your job ad, make a point to use gender-neutral (or gender-inclusive) terms. There are a number of terms to use: assemble, initiate, plan, design, define or construct.

Team learning about bias in the recruitment process

  1. Create a sense of belonging

The addition of an inclusion statement on your job advert can go a long way in letting applicants know that they will be welcomed into the organisation. It also signals the culture of the workplace, letting the applicant know that diversity is an important commitment for the business.

This is something like, “Verve Partners supports their employees and the wider community by building an inclusive, culturally capable and diverse workforce. We welcome applications from people that identify with a disability, LGBTIQ+, refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or those that come from culturally diverse backgrounds.

  1. Evaluate every CV in the same way

A 2003 study in Boston and Chicago put blind hiring to the test. Researchers responded to job adverts with multiples of one CV, changing only the applicant’s name with one being white-leaning and one foreign-sounding. “Clearly white” names received 50 per cent more call-backs.

While we think we have moved well away from this 2003 mindset, this bias is still concerning and something to be aware of. When reviewing any CV, focus only on the important facts like skills or experience; gender or ethnicity does not have any impact on a candidate’s capacity to complete a job. SEEK now even provide a feature that allows recruiters to remove an applicant’s name from any CVs collected.


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