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7 Ways to Avoid Bias in Hiring Decisions (and Develop a More Diverse Company)


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Despite all we’ve done to reduce bias in the hiring process, studies show that managers still factor in unconscious sexism, ageism, and racism before making a decision. It’s essential that we recognize these biases if we want to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

How to Minimize and Remove Unconscious Bias When Hiring

It’s important to stress that unconscious bias affects us all, but this topic is difficult to talk about as it implies this bias is malicious. Recognizing this bias doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

1. Recognize Your Unconscious Bias

Many of us have subconscious attitudes towards certain groups of people that we’ve held since childhood. Even though women make up the majority of college graduates, men are 1.5 times more likely to be hired over women. This inherent bias stems from antiquated gender roles.

There are thousands of examples of unconscious biases that enter our thoughts without our awareness. It’s understandable that these biases would affect how we choose candidates. Once we recognize unconscious bias, it’s easier for us to question them and help others do the same.

2. Seek to Understand Your Biases

Hiring myths are common, but it’s hard for us to change our minds when new evidence is presented. That’s because we fall back on information that supports our prior beliefs or values. We may not even be aware we’re doing this, but we do it because being wrong is seen as bad.

If you won’t hire someone over the age of 50 because they’re less dependable due to increased health risk, look at studies that disrupt this bias. Not only are most older workers more reliable than their younger counterparts, but they’re also more experienced and eager to participate.

3. Adjust Your Job Descriptions

As stated, unconscious biases are within us all. Your candidates will interpret job descriptions through their own filters. For example, words like “determined” and “competitive” are seen as masculine by female applicants, which makes them think they wouldn’t fit in your environment.

Besides running your job descriptions through a gendered word checker, employers can try to use neutral language instead. Or, try alternating between gendered verbs and descriptors.

4. Review New Resumes Blindly

In the United States, you’re not supposed to add your picture to your resume. This is a very good thing because it eliminates dozens of biases that deal directly with appearance. However, social media still makes it possible to discriminate based on looks and social demographics.

To avoid these biases, go blind for the resume review. Try not to look at the person’s name or graduation date. Instead, pay attention to their hard/soft skills, experience, and accreditations.

5. Standardize the Interview Process

Some recruiters will make an interview harder or easier depending on how they feel about the candidate. Or, some will ask whatever question they think up at the time. There’s plenty of evidence that unstructured interviews are unreliable at predicting job and/or career success.

However, a standardized interview process can help you focus on factors that impact their performance. It also makes it less likely that you’ll make a decision based on personality.

6. Give Out a Work Sample Test

Employers can eliminate interview biases further by conducting phone or video interviews without the camera turned on. But an at-home work sample test can truly determine a person’s potential, as they’re designed to judge how a candidate will perform on the job when hired.

If your candidate needs to be in the office to perform certain tasks, ask someone you trust to administer the test. Once finished, ask for the results of each test without names or markers that could tie them back to the test taker. Now, you’ll only judge candidates based on their results.

7. Set Diversity Goals for Your Company

Diversity hiring practices are often taboo in business because they require judging a candidate based on attributes they can’t control. However, acknowledging that someone is a person of color isn’t racist. What we consciously do with that information is what makes a person racist.

If we consciously realize that our workplace lacks diversity and our society consciously or unconsciously acknowledges certain people are given preferential treatment, opening the door to the disadvantaged is a positive thing as long as we still judge people based on their merits.

Diversity results in significant business and social advantages. However, you’ll need to keep diversity in the front of your mind at all times if you wish to dismantle unconscious biases.

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