Image by Brooke Cagle
As we all know, the hiring process can be a stressful and uncertain time. From the candidates themselves to the HR professionals making the decisions, the stress is real. However, one thing that should prevail above all else is recognizing and addressing any unconscious bias that happens during a hiring event. As conversations surrounding diversity in the workplace continue, companies must reexamine their hiring process to eliminate any biases that influence decisions.
Whether we recognize it, unconscious biases do impact hiring decisions. By definition, unconscious bias is when a company makes a hiring decision based on unconscious thought processes. These processes cause one candidate to be preferred over another for irrelevant reasons, such as race, gender, sexuality, or simply “likeability.” Even in the beginning stages of the hiring process, bias can occur by judging a candidate’s picture, name, or hometown. Long story short, unconscious biases influence hiring decisions—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively—using criteria irrelevant to the job. This can cost companies time, money, and the opportunity to hire top talent.
Let’s discuss ways that HR professionals can be sure to keep unconscious biases front of mind and eliminate bias in the hiring process.
Utilize Hiring Technology to Increase Diversity
Many available tools help HR professionals be consistent in their hiring decisions. Software programs that blind the process are beneficial and go a long way in creating unbiased screening procedures. A blind, systematic approach for reviewing applications and resumes will help identify the most relevant candidates in the pool. Many platforms help uncover hidden gems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. By cutting out unnecessary information, such as names and backgrounds, technology can be incredibly helpful in making unbiased—and increasingly beneficial—hiring decisions.
Not only does hiring technology help cut out the unnecessary, but it opens roles to a broader range of candidates than ever before. Now, a candidate halfway across the country is often able to apply for a previously unachievable role. In turn, this allows companies to broaden their horizons and consider a wider range of applicants.
Consider Leveraging a Skills Test
One of the biggest challenges of the hiring process is how easy it is to fall into the “requirements” trap. Feeling college degree requirements created an unfair advantage, many companies have simply eliminated them from their job descriptions. Instead, companies now turn to skills-based hiring processes to help eliminate bias in the hiring process. Unlike degree and experience requirements, skills tests open the door for a more diverse set of candidates who might otherwise not have bothered applying.
Take, for example, a candidate who doesn’t have any formal education but instead carries years of experience in the field. This person might never have made it past the initial screening due to their lack of a degree. But with the implementation of skills-based testing, they have the opportunity to compete on an even playing field with other candidates.
Consider Using Blind Written Exercises
Instead of asking questions about background, consider implementing a written exercise for potential candidates to complete. This process removes any unnecessary information that could lead to bias: no name, demographic information, or experience. And be sure not to include any data fields—like first and last name, education level completed, or schools attended. That might create a bias around how the written answers are perceived.
This less intrusive—and nearly blind—process results in HR professionals recruiting people who HR and hiring managers may never have considered but who are more than qualified for the job.
Continuously Evaluate the Hiring Process for Improvement
No matter how aware a company is of its diversity, more is still to be done if the goal is to eliminate bias in the hiring process. This begins with understanding our own biases. Then we must actively work against them through continuous improvement and development. When evaluating your hiring process, consider these tips:
- Measure gender and race statistics by monitoring the percentages of female or non-white applicants who move through the hiring process.
- Regularly communicate with hiring teams and company leadership about what criteria the company uses to evaluate applicants and make hiring decisions. (Also, always look for red flags that have little to do with the actual position.)
- Be aware of modern hiring platforms that put solid practices into place with realistic goals for combating bias.
- Consider hiring tools, such as structured interviews or discussion forums, to cut out the unnecessary noise.
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when a process is not working—and quickly make adjustments.
Due to its often under-the-radar nature, bias in the hiring process can be tricky to address. However, with determination and a dedicated strategy, any HR professional can make strides toward combating this all-too-pervasive HR issue.