Taking the bias out of hiring

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I’m not sure anyone in 2020 wants to admit to bias, but we know as employers, as candidates and as recruiters that there is always the potential that bias will affect a hiring decision. This has the potential to make your organisation miss out on key hires because of unfounded biases or generalisations. 

Not only is this practice poor from a quality of hire point of view, from a candidate experience point of view, it is also illegal and unfair. Here in Australia it is illegal (according to the Fair Work Act) to discriminate against someone in the workplace due to:

  • race
  • colour 
  • sex 
  • sexual orientation
  • age 
  • physical or mental disability 
  • marital status 
  • family or carer’s responsibilities 
  • pregnancy 
  • religion 
  • political opinion 
  • national extraction or social origin 

Check out our previous blog on 9 types of bias that affects recruitment.

These things can however enter into someone’s subconscious when reading a resume and have a potential adverse effect on someone’s hiring decision. Assumptions can be made from someone’s:

  • Name (“I only want people who can speak!”), 
  • Age (maybe year they graduated – “we’re such a young agile team, can’t have an old geezer in here”), 
  • Gender (Ever had an employer say, I don’t want to hire her because she will go off soon and have kids? No, me either. Not) 
  • And even the football teams they barrack for (Yes I’ve seen that). 

There’s also the biases build by an opinion formed about a candidate based solely on first impressions, (think, someone’s tie or not, poor shoes, wrong deodorant or bad breath, this list could be enormous) so influencing your decision, positive or negative, using criteria which do not relate to the job someone is being hired to do. 


Taking The First Step

That begs the question. How can we then remove bias, conscious or otherwise from your process to ensure you get THE best person for your job? 

One of the hardest steps to take to rectify this issue is actually admitting the fact that you or your process may have inherent biases in it. Admitting this is not easy, and is quite confronting. But without this admittance and belief in the statement anything you do or change would be an action in pure tokenism. If you don’t believe it to be an issue, why would you change it? 

Once you do this, have a look at your whole process and have a good hard look as to where bias could creep in. 


Process Changes

Have you heard about Blind Resumes? The concept for this is that as an employer, you only receive documents (CV, cover letter, portfolio) from people with zero identifiers within it. No names, no gender, no location, no language or citizenship details. This ensures your decision making on the resume is purely on the experience and capabilities and not anything else. 

Hot Tip: When you next receive candidate’s through TalentVine, request the unbiased hiring feature and your chosen recruiters will provide candidates as Blind CVs until you are ready for the full details.


Standardise the interview process. There is often the expectation that senior people can interview and are “trusted” to run said interviews in an appropriate manner. Anyone who has ever sat in on interviews, knows the risk that imposes. The rogue “I’ve hired hundreds of people, I know what I’m doing!” manager is a high risk for any Recruitment process. Standardise the interview, the expectations and even how you debrief afterwards. You want every candidate to have a similar experience. Hopefully good.  Without standardisation the risk of individual bias is heightened. 


“Likability” Bias

One of the more difficult biases to remove is the old “Likability” bias. You get along with someone really well in the interview. They remind you of, well you. This person must be awesome. Right? Wrong.

By making a decision based on this are you really looking at the skills the person has to solve your problem or be successful in the role you’re hiring for? That’s tough to answer, because you haven’t really assessed on that. They’re a great person. You’re IN! Some places call this the beer or coffee test. Would you happily have a beer or coffee with this person? Panels or more than one interviewer can help reduce this bias risk. It is rare to get exactly the same opinion from more than one person.

Don’t believe me? Ever tried choosing a movie to watch with a group of people? It isn’t easy! I also like skills tests or tasks as an indicator or someone’s ability to do a role. 

My Dad, a huge influence on me and my life had a saying about assumptions. Don’t make them, you’ll make an “Ass out of u and me!”. This is true in Recruitment. Assumptions are the foundation stones of bias. Evidence is key. Who would have thought I’d still be listening to my Dad?


Positive Steps Forward

Recruitment and hiring is hard enough, why not give yourself the best opportunity to hire the best person for the role, but getting rid of positive and negative biases is something that your whole organisation has to be on board with. It is a team effort, but it is an effort well worth taking.

Hiring great people (and bragging about it to the naysayers) is why we’re in this business.

Ready to see this change in your organisation? Trust yourself, but start. You’ll be thankful for making the change in the long run.

talentvine-australasian-talent-conference-2020Desk of a TA Manager

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