9 Types Of Bias That Affects Recruitment

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Unfortunately, it is true that hiring processes are often biased and unfair. As a recruiter or hiring manager, managing your biases can be tough, because first impressions and gut feelings count for so much during interviews. However, we have to be aware that our unconscious bias can result in unfair judgements, overlooked talent, and ultimately, discrimination.

9 Types Of Unconscious Biases

The following list addresses 9 unconscious biases that commonly affect the recruitment process. By understanding each type, you’ll build your own level of self-awareness so that you can make fairer, more informed decisions at candidate selection in the future.  


1. Gender Bias

Gender bias typically stems from our beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes, which are often rooted in our cultures. For instance, nursing tends to be seen as a female job while construction as male. When interviewing,  you may unconsciously try to find a candidate who matches those gender roles. You may also have a preference for candidates of the same gender since they tend to share more similar interests and life experiences.  


2. Affinity Bias


Unfortunately, affinity bias is very common in recruitment, often resulting in unconscious racism and ageism. When we find something common we feel a natural affinity towards candidates. The affinity biases can cause too much weight on trivial things that are often irrelevant to the hiring decision. When screening a candidate’s suitability for a job, why does it matter which school they went to or who your favourite football team is?



3. Fundamental Attribution Bias

This bias is particularly relevant to recruitment as it affects how we assess other people. When we do something well, we tend to believe it’s because of our skills and personality. When we do something bad, we tend to blame the surroundings such as other people or the working environment. However, when it comes to assessing the achievements of other people, the reverse happens. If they do something well, they’re just lucky. If they do something bad, we assume it’s due to their personality or bad behaviour. 


4. Beauty Bias

Although it makes no sense and inherently unfair, we can’t help ourselves from associating other people’s appearance with their personality. Unfortunately, we tend to find that more physically attractive people will be more successful. You may unconsciously dislike certain physical features in a person –  they’re too short, have poor posture, or don’t have a “friendly” face. Likewise, you may favour candidates who dress sharply and tidies their hair, but that doesn’t mean they are organised in all other areas of their lives.


5. Confirmation Bias

We generally don’t accept the fact that our judgements are often wrong. That’s when our confirmation bias comes in. Rather than remaining open to new evidence which contradicts our opinion, we tend to begin looking for the evidence to back up our opinion. Confirmation bias often serves to strengthen our other biases. 


6. Halo Effect

The halo effect is our tendency to selectively focusing our attention on one great area of a person. That one area can positively influence everything else we think about them.  Many recruiters and hiring managers have fallen victim to the halo effect. They hire someone exceptionally skilled in one area, but once the halo glow wears off, they find out they’re not actually a great fit for the role. 


7. Horns Effect

The horns effect does the opposite of the halo effect. One bad thing about a  person can cloud the whole judgement of them. One “bad” thing takes all our attention. This can happen when we dislike the way they speak or the gestures they make. Recruiters and hiring managers always need to see candidates in a bigger picture. 


8. Contrast Effect

We compare, we contrast. Contrast effect makes us compare two or more similar things and compare at the same times, rather than judging each on their own merits. You look at CV after CV, frustrated that none of them lives up to the standard of the one “perfect” on you found. The role of a recruiter is not to find those with flawless CVs, but to find people who can adapt to a given role. 


9. Conformity Bias

Conformity bias tends to influence interview panels. When a majority view a certain way about a candidate, you may feel pressured to agree with them even though you actually have a different opinion. But it’s important to speak up as you might have spotted something the others didn’t.


So What Can You Do To Reduce Bias In Your Hiring Process?

Not only is the above all unfair to candidates but if this is creeping into your processes, you will potentially be missing out on some great talent that is available in the market. 

Overcoming this unconscious bias always starts with accepting the fact that as humans, it affects us all. Taking your time with making decisions, avoiding rushed judgements, and committing to see each candidate as a unique individual are all big steps in the right direction. By minimising the influence of bias in your recruitment process, your organisation will gain all the benefits that come from having a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. 

We have seen employers requesting that all their candidates are sent to their hiring managers ‘blind’ with no names or countries listed on the CVs. Including online assessments as a part of the process can also help to make decisions based on the candidate’s ability instead of our preconceived beliefs in their ability.

This article initially appeared on JobAdder

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