Two colleagues ensuring they reduce hiring bias

How to reduce hiring bias when virtually recruiting

In many companies, unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism contribute to who is hired in the team. This is known as hiring bias.

In many companies, unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism contribute to who is hired in the team. This is known as hiring bias. Hiring bias is the biggest barrier to diverse workplaces—even though HBR claims diverse teams are smarter!

So, what can we do about it? Here are the facts about unconscious prejudices and how to reduce hiring bias when virtually recruiting.

What causes hiring bias?

When people make decisions, two systems influence their rationale. One is logical and based on evidence. It often takes longer to make decisions when using this faculty.

The other is based on emotion, ‘intuition’ or personal experience. While you will make decisions quicker when relying on this impulse, you will also make mistakes. This second system is responsible for the existence of hiring bias and is often unconscious.

A woman learns about how to reduce hiring bias

Where in the recruitment process does hiring bias occur?

Hiring biases commonly occur when a manager misjudges a candidate during an interview or while reviewing their resume based on their own personal experience. Typically, decisions will be in support of a group of people, to the detriment of others.

Common examples of hiring bias include:

  • You determine a candidate is right for the position as they share your likes and interests. Your decision is based on ‘culture-fit’.
  • A candidate is late for an interview. Without asking why you assume the candidate is unsuitable for the position.
  • A candidate comes from an esteemed company. You hire the candidate based on this merit alone.
  • A candidate has worked at a company you do not like. You dismiss this candidate as an eligible applicant based on this fact.
  • You hire a man because you think the job is best suited to a male. This is gender bias.
  • You dismiss hiring an older applicant because you think they will not like standing in the sun all day.

But hiring bias can even begin before you’ve written the job ad. If you decide that your ideal candidate must have completed a specific university degree, you’re already eliminating qualified students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Hiring biases are rampant throughout the recruitment process. Awareness of the existence of the bias is the most important step to counter it. The next step is to create processes that will help to reduce hiring bias.

Ways to reduce hiring bias when virtually recruiting

Diversify your workforce with these bias reduction strategies:

  1. Implement panel interviews

Gathering additional perspectives is always beneficial to combat opinion. Ensure another team member or manager is available to participate in each interview with a candidate. If you think panel interviews may be too intimidating for candidates, consider having another team member (with permission from the candidate) listen in on the interview. The silent team member can offer their perspective following the end of the interview.

  1. Ask defined questions

Bias aside, unstructured interviews are not the best format to ensure you uncover a candidate’s experience or skill set. The drawback to this interview style is that you are relying on a candidate being able to pitch themselves, or, for important information to come up naturally in conversation.

Instead, set interview questions that will help you best predict job success. Roll these questions out uniformly when interviewing all candidates. Their responses will give you a baseline to compare your candidates. It also means the data you have gathered is free of bias.

  1. Set a work test

Not only will the test be helpful to determine how successful a candidate may be at their future job, but it also helps to reduce hiring bias. By adding a test, you are creating an unbiased measure to compare candidates. This will mean you can better compare like for like, and you’re not drawing comparisons based on experience or a poor interview.

  1. Assign a numerical score to likeability

It’s impossible to eliminate all emotion from decision-making. This is, of course, a gauge used by people to determine if the candidate might get along with their colleagues.

First, ask yourself whether it’s important for this candidate to be someone you like on a personal level. If it is, convert this ‘likability’ into a numerical score. It’s a good way to control your personal feelings so this number can then become just another measure to compare like for like between applicants.

A team consult on how to reduce hiring bias

What are the benefits of reducing hiring bias?

Hiring bias is the biggest hurdle to diversity in the workplace. Fostering a culture that is welcoming and inclusive of people with varying gender, ages, culture, ethnicity, ability, education, sexual orientation, and language creates more connectedness between your employees. In short, it makes your workplace a more pleasant and positive place to be.

Such a workplace then benefits from:

  • Variety of perspectives
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Stronger company reputation
  • Better collaboration between teams
  • Increased productivity (HBR even claims diverse teams are smarter)
  • Increased opportunities to innovate
  • Better decision-making.

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