Don’t let bias ruin your hiring: 4 forms of bias and 5 ways to fight it.

Bias! It’s a big word, and one that we’ve all heard about. If you’re in recruiting you should be aware that it can influence your decision-making.

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Bias! It’s a big word, and one that we’ve all heard about. If you’re in recruiting you should be aware that it can influence your decision-making. Still, bias remains one of the hardest things to eliminate when hiring and attracting talent. This is because as humans, we each have our own personality that’s based on experience and behavior, and that comes with certain baked-in predispositions. Even when you think you’re being 100% neutral, you’re still viewing the world through your own personal lens. 

This lens mostly affects the decisions you make intuitively, in a split second. You know that moment when “your gut” tells you something, but you can’t immediately put your finger on where that feeling is coming from? That’s the moment when you’re making snap decisions and might also be the moment that you’re making biased decisions. This form of decision-making is very common: research shows that 59.9% of recruiters decide whether to hire someone in the first 15 minutes after meeting them for the first time.

Being aware of what is happening is only the first step. To truly eliminate bias, you’ll have to actively find ways to get around your feelings and make decisions based on hard facts. Let’s have a look at the most common forms of bias and how to avoid them. 

4 common hiring biases to watch out for

1. Confirmation bias 

If an interviewer thinks they’ve found the ideal candidate before the interview even starts, that will color their decision-making. This also works the other way: if the information points toward the candidate being unfit, they’ll try to prove their negative gut feeling is right. Confirmation bias might also be a factor when the interviewer sees they have things in common with the candidate. Maybe they’ve attended the same school or share a lot of the same interests. These small things may lead to the interviewer favoring this candidate over others. 

2. Affect heuristic

This is when we decide a candidate is not fit for the job based on their appearance or other superficial factors. If someone has tattoos for instance and the interviewer doesn’t like tattoos. Or if their name is Jamie and the interviewer had an ex who was also called Jamie. These small things seem innocuous, but they subconsciously influence decision-making and can actually lead to a candidate not being hired. You can erase this form of bias with a structured interview process that puts data over emotion. We’ll get back to that later, actually. 

3. Similarity attraction bias

We’re inclined to hire people we get along with: after all, we’ll have to spend all day working with this person. A side effect of that is that we’ll often hire people who think and look the same as we do. This leads to a less diverse workplace and a less inclusive environment. It’ll also affect decision-making, as everyone inside the company thinks the same. This creates even more blind spots, which can be dangerous both in business and in further hiring. 

4. Expectation anchoring

This is when the interviewer already has a “perfect candidate” in mind. This perfect candidate can be based on a previous candidate, or on a star employee who needs to be replaced. All new candidates are measured to this standard, and usually few or none actually measure up. This can lead to the role remaining open for a long time, or even worse: people might get hired for their similarity to the ideal, and not their skills. 

These 4 forms of bias are actually just the tip of the iceberg: there are countless ways in which bias influences decision-making. Here are just a few others.

Here are 5 simple things you can do to eliminate bias

Now that we know that bias is everywhere and having gone over some common forms of bias, let’s have a look at a few concrete tips you can use today to eliminate your own bias.

1. Set up a structured, standardized interview process

This is by far the most important tip we can give you. Implementing a structured and standardized interview process in which everyone is judged by the same standard will remove emotion from the equation. A simple example is candidates getting different questions based on their age, gender, or experience. These changing questions don’t give candidates an equal chance to prove their worth. 

Bottom line: implementing a fixed set of questions allows you to judge candidates on their skills and gives you a way to compare candidates objectively.  

2. Have a critical look at your job descriptions

Something else you may not have given much thought to: the language of your job descriptions can mean different things to different people. Masculine language can deter women: words like “competitive” or “determined” for instance can give them the idea that they won’t belong in the work environment. Words like cooperative and collaborative can have the exact opposite effect and create the image of a welcoming workplace. 

If you’re unsure of how a word’s perceived, just try to alternate your language as much as possible instead of using the same words multiple times. This way you can speak to everyone! And if you want to go one step further, these days there are computer programs that can signal gendered words.

3. Do a blind review of the CV’s

Many, many studies have come to the conclusion that applying for jobs under a perceived “foreign name” gives you a much lower chance of getting an interview. That’s a shameful difference that can easily be remedied when you’re the recruiter: simply remove names and pictures from CV’s, or ask someone to do it for you. Even when you think you’re not biased, just assume you are and prevent it from being a factor. Here again, software can help

4. Have candidates do a work sample test

One tried and tested way of assessing a candidate’s skill is to have them do a work sample. Give them an assignment that fits the job and see how they do. If you want complete control over your bias and emotions it’s a good idea to have the assignment assessed by a colleague as well. This way you get a clear and factual image of what a candidate can do, rather than having to depend on their CV or on an interview.  

5. Collaborate on hiring

When one person runs the entire hiring process, this person’s bias has free reign whether they’re conscious of it or not. Hiring managers should work together to assess candidates independently and compare results. And if the hiring managers come from different backgrounds then that’s an extra plus! Share information with each other and compare notes to get an accurate image of the candidate and whether they’re a fit. 

How can Talent Attraction Technology help you eliminate bias? 

Wonderkind’s social media recruitment technology doesn’t differentiate on superficial factors: our profiling matches people’s skill sets and interests with your job opening. The technology is inherently devoid of bias and will strive to find the best fit based on scientific factors. In the past, we’ve seen this attract a very diverse collection of candidates for an even bigger diversity of positions. 

Are you ready to start attracting the diverse applications you’ve been hoping for, and become a more inclusive company in the process? Then don’t hesitate to call us and we can take you through the options. After that, all you need to do is stay mindful of this guide, and start hiring! 

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