How to reduce bias in the hiring process (with tips to try)

February 6, 2024

Tips to reduce bias in the hiring process

Unconscious bias in hiring and training is a significant issue throughout the workforce. When employers exclude candidates during the hiring process for reasons other than their qualifications for the role, it may result in hiring the wrong person or ignoring diversity in the workplace. In this article, we explain what hiring bias is and provide useful tips to help you prevent it. 

What is hiring bias?

Hiring bias refers to preconceived notions held by hiring managers or human resources professionals that impact the selection of candidates during a company's hiring process. This can arise in several ways, including biases formed by their own experiences, institutional norms, and unconscious prejudices that stem from their personal preferences or emotions. Hiring bias can negatively impact an organization by preventing it from hiring the best candidates for a specific job, reducing the number of qualified candidates in a talent pool, and creating a toxic work environment.

Types of hiring biases

Here are some of the most common types of hiring biases to watch for in your organization:

  • Confirmation bias: This involves making a quick decision about a candidate and only asking questions that aim to prove the initial prejudice.
  • Similarity attraction bias: When someone only hires candidates who are similar to them and with whom they have easy conversations, this is similarity attraction bias.
  • Expectation anchor: Expectation anchor bias occurs when someone uses one single fact to make decisions, such as a candidate's similarity to their predecessor.
  • Halo effect: Similar to expectation anchor, the halo effect involves focusing on one positive trait and hiring the candidate on that basis while ignoring the rest of their expertise and personality.
  • Horn effect: The opposite of the halo effect, this bias occurs when someone refrains from hiring someone based on a single trait they perceive as negative, rather than looking at the candidate's entire background.
  • Overconfidence bias: This type of bias involves being so confident in your ability to choose the best candidate that you ignore warning signs in a candidate you like that could signal they may not be the right fit.
  • Affect heuristics: When a hiring manager judges someone's ability to perform a job based on superficial characteristics, like tattoos or weight, this is a form of affect heuristics.

"Hiring bias can negatively impact an organization by preventing it from hiring the best candidates for a specific job, reducing the number of qualified candidates in a talent pool, and creating a toxic work environment."

How to reduce bias in the hiring process

Here are ways to reduce biased hiring in your organization:

Do your research

Learning about bias in the hiring process is one of the best ways to reduce it in the workplace. This means researching different types of bias, seeking expert advice on how to prevent it, and examining your company's processes to identify components that allow or encourage unconscious bias. For example, it's often beneficial to have hiring teams and HR departments complete unconscious bias training, which involves learning how to identify and break biases that arise during hiring, interviewing, and training recruits. 

Review resumes blindly

Doing a blind review of resumes is another good way to prevent bias during the hiring stage. This allows you to filter out demographic characteristics like age, gender, and ethnicity. You'll then be able to focus solely on each candidate's listed experiences, skills, and qualifications, making it easier to identify the most qualified candidate for the role. Companies commonly use software programs, such as applicant tracking systems, to complete this task.

Provide a work sample test

An effective way to discover how a candidate will perform in a role is by setting a work sample test before inviting them for an interview. This provides you with an example of their work to review and allows candidates to prove themselves without the constraints of an in-person interview. While you may find it challenging to create a work sample test for some roles, there are many ways to do so, such as asking for a writing sample, responding to hypothetical scenarios, or organizing a data set.

Revise your job descriptions

Job descriptions are fundamental to the hiring process, as they inform candidates about open positions and outline what the job involves. It's common, however, for job descriptions to include language that results in unconscious bias and discourages qualified candidates. For example, using gendered words can communicate to candidates that you'll only consider people of a certain gender, even if that's not the case. To ensure your job descriptions don't promote hiring bias, use neutral language that focuses on the role's key functions and skills. 

Set goals for diversity

Setting clear diversity goals can reduce bias during your hiring process. This might involve employing people from a certain demographic to encourage balance in the workplace, such as hiring more females in a male-dominated space. 

In addition to reducing unconscious bias toward candidates from minority groups, setting diversity goals can also prevent diversity fatigue. Setting clear goals regarding diversity that everyone in a company is aware of can help keep the workforce informed about initiatives aimed to increase it, leaving no room for surprises or misunderstandings that may cause frustration.

Create a standard process for interviews

While you should actively reduce bias during talent acquisition, it's equally important to avoid bias during interviews. Unconscious bias in an interview can result in hiring the wrong candidate and turning away suitable applicants due to superficial reasons, such as their appearance, gender, or personality. 

To help mitigate this, establish a clear standard process for your interviews in which you ask the same questions of every candidate. Using scorecards during interviews to rate candidates in different areas, such as skills and professional experience, helps to eliminate an interviewer's personal preferences or opinions from the hiring decision.

Quantify likability

Another way to avoid recruitment bias is by quantifying likability when conducting interviews. Many hiring managers are quick to hire someone they like immediately, but this can result in favoring certain candidates over others inconsistently. 

Instead of hiring someone because you like them, create a scoring system that lets you rate candidates on their likability, as you would while rating their other qualities, such as experience and skills. This can also help you avoid affinity bias, which involves hiring someone based on how they remind you of someone you respect or admire. 

When you take the time to learn how to reduce bias in the hiring process, you'll ensure your company makes the right hires. This can benefit your organization as a whole by opening it to candidates you would've otherwise overlooked with biases in place. Try one or more of these methods to improve your company's hiring processes and avoid making biased hiring decisions in the future.

More tips for successful recruiting and hiring:

If you're looking to revamp your current hiring process to make it easier for candidates to navigate, read through seven tips to create a simple hiring process.

For tips about how to find great new candidates, explore three of the best ways to find job candidates.

To delve deeper into the importance of skills in recruiting, read about four ways recruiters can address the skills gap.

For ideas about where to look for your next candidates, explore why you should be recruiting and retaining untapped talent.

To learn about a new technological trend in recruiting, read about what a recruiting chatbot is and what its benefits are.

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