5-1: It’s Time to Clean Your Glasses: Eliminating Bias in the Hiring Process
Bias, diversity, and inequality. These are all extremely important topics in both a broad cultural sense as well as in business. Bias occurs in the hiring process every day, even if individuals involved in the process are unaware of this fact. Taking clear actions to identify biases when hiring will not only make recruiting new talent a more level playing field but also strengthen a company in more ways than one. The main benefit to a company to eliminating any biases is that it will become a place where individuals rich with knowledge of varied experiences will collaborate and create innovations at a level that a team composed of seemingly carbon copy members rarely could.
So what exactly is hiring bias? Hiring bias is any action by an interviewer or other member of the hiring team, whether conscious or unconscious, that prevents them from viewing a candidate from a truly objective perspective. Imagine putting on a pair of glasses covered in smudgees, dirt, and various other forms of grime. These dirty lenses prevent you from seeing the world clearly - blurring and distorting features from what they truly are. Those smudges are biases, which have significant negative impacts when it comes to hiring the best person for a position. They get in the way of seeing what truly matters: the individual’s professional qualifications.
There are several types of biases, including first impressions, affinity, stereotype, contrast, non-verbal behaviors, gender, race, and personal discomfort. Just like it sounds, first impressions bias occurs when snap judgements are made about an applicant when they meet the interviewer. Affinity bias occurs when an interviewer likes a candidate simply because they are easy to socialize with. When an interviewer places an applicant into a ‘box’ and makes assumptions about them based on the group they are part of, this is stereotype bias. Contrast bias occurs when an interviewer compares an applicant with other candidates for reasons other than technical skill, knowledge, or experience. Non-verbal bias involves an interviewer judging a candidate on actions, such as eye contact or the volume of their voice, which have no connection to how well the individual will be able to do the job. Gender and race biases, while perhaps the most obvious, are also very much at the forefront of the issue of hiring biases. Lastly, personal discomfort bias stems from the interviewer’s own discomfort with the candidate. This then influences their actions and perceptions during the interview and when assessing the candidate at a later time.
These biases of interviewers and other hiring professionals may be susceptible to truly hinder a company’s potential for success. A group of people that have a shared past of hometown, childhood experiences, professional history, and personality tendencies will all think very similarly. This group may generate some new ideas when collaborating, but the potential is nowhere near that of a diverse team. Now instead picture a team composed of people of a variety of races and cultural origins, genders, ages, and of differing abilities. This team has a much more complex dynamic and creates a dynamic where unique ideas stem from their varied experiences and perceptions of the world. Those differences are the secret sauce that can propel the company towards great success.
Now to address the elephant in the room: yes, this is clearly a problem, but what can be done? Perhaps the biggest hurdle to jump is the unconscious nature of so many of these biases. Most people would not identify themselves as being biased, yet their actions would contradict those statements. The key to eliminating bias in the hiring process is self-awareness and having clear goals and strategies to achieve them.
Holding training sessions on bias are beneficial for professionals to understand themselves better and what steps they can take in the future to counteract those unintentional biases. Prior to the interviewing process, anonymity in hiring is very beneficial. Redacting information such as a candidate’s name, age, and even their address removes the potential for bias to enter the decision making process. A SHRM article also suggests considering the ‘likeability’ factor, in that interviewers are more likely to hire a candidate they hit it off with, even if another candidate is more qualified. Likeability can be an important consideration for some positions, but if it is, then that determination should be standardized so all candidates can be evaluated equally. This concept is applicable to any characteristic or skill to be discussed in an interview.
As Mr. Brown, the diversity instructor in the “DIversity Day” episode of The Office stated, we cannot fight “ignorance with more ignorance… instead we need to celebrate our diversity.” Professionals involved in the hiring process need to do some self-reflection in order to determine any biases they may hold and work to counteract them. This opens the door to finding the best talent possible, regardless of what gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability that help make the candidate the uniquely gifted individual they are.
Priority Bridge LLC. Is dedicated to helping organizations of all types achieve greater success by using a proprietary analytical process that increases the cultural fit of employees to an organization. Eliminate Bad Hires. For Good. Hire right the first time, every time with the right cultural fit using Priority Bridge.
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