7 Tips on How to Reduce Bias Hiring

Companies want more diverse candidate pools, and diverse companies have plenty of advantages. The World Economic Forum reports up to a 20% increase in innovation and 19% in innovation revenue from greater diversity efforts. Other benefits include greater employee engagement, strong decision-making ability, and heightened profitability. 

However, the unconscious hampers the recruitment process. Until we recognize how to solve for this, diversity will remain elusive. 

In this article, I’ll cover the definition and causes of bias, how to reduce bias hiring, and the benefits of doing so.

What Is Bias Hiring?

Bias hiring decisions often go undetected. This means candidates of certain backgrounds receive preferential treatment during the recruitment process. This can result in a homogenized workplace. Hiring bias can thrive in hiring teams with an existing lack of diversity.

This cycle is destructive to a company's diversity goals. However, it's impossible to know how to reduce bias hiring without first examining the types of bias.

Here are common types of hiring bias:

Gender Bias

This is a preference for candidates based on gender or perceived gender strengths. Examples include hiring a male for a technical role due to the gender bias that men are better at math or believing female candidates are better suited to nurturing assistant-type roles.

Race and Ethnicity Bias

This bias is hiring or not hiring a candidate based on their skin color, language, or heritage. These factors have little to do with work performance or suitability for a role. Again, this bias can often be unconscious and exist more frequently in homogenized workplaces.

Name Bias

Name bias is screening a candidate name because it's difficult to pronounce, read, or appears ethnic. This is a common form of hiring bias and can relate to class, race, and ethnicity biases.

Generational Bias

Generational bias presumes candidates can or cannot perform tasks based on their age. An example would be if a tech company only hires millennials because they believe they’re better at using technology.

Religious Bias

Religion has nothing to do with a candidate's ability to perform a role. However, biased hiring decisions may prevent giving time off for holidays or prayer.

Sexual Orientation Bias

Some people may carry unconscious bias related to sexual orientation. They may make decisions based on a candidate that matches their own. There may be prejudice about an assumed or actual sexual orientation. There are so many spectrums with this often personal identity. Any assumed sexual orientation of a job candidate is a form of bias.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when a hiring manager or interviewer finds a rationale for their preconceived notion of the candidate. For example, a recruiter believes the candidate to be the best fit for the open role, marks them as the top three, and then finds reasons to support that preference.

The Halo Effect

This is when a hiring manager prioritizes a candidate's positive qualities that are not job-related. The focus on these qualities becomes so strong that it halos out any red flags or skill gaps. Examples can be a candidate’s choice of university or affiliation with a well-known person.

The Horn Effect

The horn effect is the flip side of the halo effect. It's when a recruiter or hiring manager can become consumed with a negative trait that isn't related to the ability to perform. An example can be perceiving a candidate with tattoos as a rebel or troublemaker when tattoos have nothing to do with job performance.

Similar-to-Me Effect

​​​​This is the most common hiring bias, and it can pair with the above biases. Any time we lean towards job candidates who look or behave like us or are otherwise similar to ourselves, it's called the similar-to-me effect, or an affinity bias. It's human nature to feel comfortable around people who resemble our own thinking. Passing over more qualified candidates in favor of people you just feel comfortable with is a form of bias.

Three Benefits of Reducing Bias

how to reduce bias hiring: employees discussing in the office

The benefits of reducing unconscious bias in your talent selection process are astounding. 

Here are just a few of them:

1. A More Diverse Talent Pool

Creating a recruitment process that attracts a wider pool of candidates supports diversity goals and provides access to diverse candidates. This also makes recruiting easier since candidates increasingly seek diverse workplaces. A 2020 Monster survey reports, "83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer."

2. Stronger Talent Retention

Diverse companies work smarter, as reported by HBR. Research shows diverse teams make faster, more informed decisions that rely on facts. This leads to more meaningful innovation that enriches the company culture. For these reasons, diversity creates environments where team members want to stay.

3. Better Performance

The 2015 McKinsey study of 366 companies confirms that "those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above the national industry median."

With access to more perspectives, diverse teams offer more unique decision-making power. This leads to more innovative solutions that result in revenue growth, which makes talent feel purposeful. Purpose almost always drives performance, no matter your business.

7 Ideas for How to Reduce Bias Hiring

As we've covered the causes of bias and the benefits of diversity, it's now time to talk about how to reduce biased hiring practices.

1. Try a Blind Hiring Process

A blind hiring process involves scrubbing applications of non-essential candidate information. It can be information like schools, names, ages, etc. 

This prevents unconscious bias from creeping into the callback process. Many software options can assist with a blind hiring process.

2. Implement Skills Tests

Workplace diversity can benefit from pre-employment skills assessments. Note that the testing itself will have to undergo a bias check as well. Even technology can hold an unconscious bias that needs to be revised to align with diversity goals.

3. Spread Awareness With Educational Sessions

Talk within the company about efforts on how to reduce bias hiring. Invite guest speakers and hold events around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Investing time and money shows a clear initiative.

4. Move to a Structured Interview Process

A structured interview process means you ask candidates the same questions in the same order during interviews. 

This mitigates unconscious bias that can creep in when interviews go off-script into rapport building. Reduce the affinity bias by being more methodical and uniform in your interview style.

5. Check Your Bias

Study and understand any unconscious bias that you or your hiring team may have. This awareness can help prevent bias in hiring decisions. Project Implicit provides testing created by Harvard psychologists that helps measure your implicit bias through a standardized test. Reflect on the results to eliminate hiring bias red flags. This may point to common unconscious hiring decisions.

6. Start With a Diverse Hiring Team

Your hiring team must be diverse and cover a spectrum of perspectives on hiring decisions in order to evaluate all candidates. If it's a struggle to put together a diverse panel, that alone can indicate a need for more diversity in your workplace.

7. Conduct Referencing With Searchlight

Use Searchlight to access standardized data points. The data sources qualify key behaviors, team fit, and coachable areas as they relate to job performance (not preference). Eighty percent of Searchlight partners have increased the number of underrepresented minority (URM) hires within the first 90 days.

Reduce Bias and Grow

how to reduce bias hiring: team of employees smiling

A more diverse team provides the company with a distinct advantage. Diversity nurtures innovative thinking and business opportunity. The benefits include greater employee engagement, better decision-making ability, and a boosted bottom line.

Challenging your bias also means personal growth and development too. Read this post on workplace diversity to get more context on the impact of workplace diversity. By unlearning our biases, we lead the way to stronger, more diverse teams and more meaningful impact.

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