Unconscious bias plays a large role in the hiring process, but with the HR tech revolution in full swing, recruiters are finally armed with the tools they need to one day eliminate bias from the process.
But what about the biases we aren’t as aware of? How can we become more cognizant of them, and what can we do to send those biases to the exit door? To get some answers, we turned to Angela Hood, founder and CEO of HR tech firm ThisWay Global.
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Unconscious Biases Against Candidates
We typically think of bias in terms of gender and race. But Hood says there’s a lot more to the issue than those two categories. “There’s so many more biases,” she says.
The first one we discussed is disability. Hood says companies need to actively work to eliminate this bias, because it means missing out on amazing candidates. “Oftentimes a person’s perceived disability really means they have a superhero skill set in some other category,” she says. “If you leverage that, you can do amazing things for your company.”
A second, less-discussed bias hurts those with gaps in their resume. Say someone has taken time off to care for a family member or even just to take a sabbatical. “For most recruiters, that’s a no-go,” Hood says. That’s a mistake, she says.
Candidates don’t lose their skills or intelligence when they leave the workforce; they simply had a greater priority at the time. Often these experiences give them a maturity and perspective that they can bring to an organization. Hood recommends recruiters ask candidates directly about what was learned during their time away from the workforce.
Candidates Can Have Biases Too
Organizations aren’t the only ones bringing bias into the hiring process, because candidates have biases as well. “We did not know that this existed until we were doing our research,” Hood says. “We kept seeing certain jobs would have huge numbers of applicants; certain other jobs, not so many.”
Hood cites an example of two companies — both with incredibly recognizable brands — that were offering similar jobs. One was a delivery company and the other was a rental car agency. Despite the rental car company offering a higher salary and better benefits, it had far fewer applicants than the delivery company.
Hood and her team called applicants to discover why. It turned out that the delivery company’s brand simply resonated better with a younger age group. Candidates were self-selecting based on the brand. Hood and her team also discovered that the job descriptions themselves factored into the candidates’ self-selection. “All the female applicants applied to the rental car company,” Hood says.
Tech Isn’t the Only Solution
AI and other technologies can go a long way toward taking a bite out of bias. And while these tools are effective in helping sift through the best candidates, the decisions ultimately fall to the human recruiter — and their biases.
Hood says recruiters have to remember that it’s their job to be aware of their own preconceptions. When speaking with candidates, recruiters need to ask themselves whether they’re interviewing with an open mind, and whether they’re doing what they can to have an objective viewpoint. “They need to be aware that the bias needs to be stripped out of their own processes,” she says.