The hiring process is biased, unfair, and exceedingly subjective.
Regardless of how virtuous a human being you are, there is a high likelihood that your hiring process is influenced by some form of “ism”, whether it be race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or something else entirely.
We all want the very best candidates, and most of us are keen to take any steps necessary to avoid preconceived notions, underlying prejudices, or overcompensation to avoid them, affecting the way in which we filter candidates and ultimately make our final decision.
The good news is, it’s not merely a matter of “trying harder”. There are concrete steps you can take to reduce bias in your hiring process and start getting the best possible candidates to sign on the dotted line.
Step 1. Understand.
The first step is understanding hiring bias and how it works. By increasing your awareness of the problem, and being actively alert to it creeping into your hiring process, you can nip it in the bud.
If you’re the hiring manager at your organisation, or have some influence over the person who is, open a discussion about the existence of unconscious prejudices, and how they can be avoided.
Step 2. Rewrite the Job Description.
The job description is often the first insight candidates have into your organisation’s culture. Be as neutral as possible, and be aware of the message that certain language sends.
Overtly masculine words, such as “competitive”, “cut-throat”, “dominant” and “superior” send a very clear message to would-be candidates – this is a workplace that prefers male candidates.
On the other hand, some word choices are far more appealing to women than men. “Community”, “relationships” and “collaboration” are all words that vastly favour leadership styles in which women are stronger than males.
You don’t have to write a completely bland job description devoid of any adjectives. However, if you seek to strike a balance, you may see changes in your pool of candidates.
Step 3. The Blind Resume.
Names, pictures and even post codes can influence the hiring decision. Ideally, candidates are judged on their qualifications and skills, not geography or the characteristics of their particular demographic.
If there is someone between you and the candidates (such as a recruiter), request that all resumes have personally identifiable details removed. If there isn’t such a buffer, and you’re reviewing candidates directly, there are some software programs you can employ to scrub personal details from resumes.
A blind resume review helps you eliminate a number of unconscious biases from your process, while also helping you avoid overcompensating for the same biases. You may be surprised at the candidates you ultimately decide to interview when using a blind resume process.
Step 4. A Basic Test.
We just wrote about the fact that interviews aren’t supposed to be exams. However, this test comes before the interview stage.
Ask your candidates to complete a basic test that contains elements from the role they’re interviewing for. This can be a great indicator of how they’ll perform if they’re ultimately successful in getting the job, and can go a long way towards alleviating bias.
Put an everyday problem to your candidates, and assess whether their solution aligns with your organisation’s values or ways of getting things done. This keeps everything professional, and avoids a number of common biases, such as age, gender, personality or appearance.
Step 5. Standardise the Interview Process.
There is plenty of research to indicate that unstructured, “organic” interviews are great if you want to have a conversation with a candidate, but very poor if you want to get a firm idea of how they’ll perform in a role.
An unstructured interview is a great way to allow bias to rapidly creep into the questions you’re asking and the way you and the candidate interact. By having a standardised process, both you and the candidate can focus on factors that will directly impact their performance in the role.
Of course, all of the above comes to naught if it gets to the interview stage and you fail to “click” with the candidate. There’s no point hiring someone who isn’t culturally compatible with your organisation and other team members. A strong argument could be made that this is the most important factor in hiring decisions.
However, in order to get to the interview stage, you need to have an open mind and take steps to ensure you’re not putting off great candidates.