How to Ensure Your HR Process Avoids Unconscious Bias

In order to eliminate unconscious biases, even recruiters with the best of intentions should learn to foster introversion.

In order to eliminate unconscious biases in the hiring process, even recruiters with the best of intentions should learn to foster introversion.

It should go without saying that, when applying for a job, workers want to be judged based on their skills, rather than their looks. And yet, discriminatory biases continue to pervade the recruitment process and stand in the way of objective evaluation.

As TribeHR explains, there are two primary kinds of biases involved: one is conscious bias, a deeply held belief that’s often regarded as objective fact, and one that a person is aware of and unwilling to change. The other kind, the unconscious bias, is tough to identify, and even tougher to remedy.

Biases Can Be Unconscious

You may pride yourself on a lack of conscious discrimination, but watch out – that may be because you’re unaware of your own biased tendencies. While many will predictably chafe at such an accusation, HR Officer Valeria Stokes explains on CIO that these biases are called “unconscious” for a reason.

No matter how progressive they consider themselves, all hiring managers are subject to internal typecasting that affects their decisions. Zoek describes this as “deep-seated stereotyping,” and it’s often built up over time. When these unconscious perceptions are left unaddressed, they can lead to discrimination based on gender, age, height, race, sexual orientation or any other defining characteristic.

In one notable example, according to the Australian Financial Review, a top law student couldn’t get an interview with a major law firm because his name was Mohammed. How did he know? Well, when he “changed” it to Michael and resubmitted his application, he promptly received a graduate offer, essentially proving that the interviewers had deprived him of a job solely because of their inborn prejudices against people of Middle Eastern descent.

Other unconscious biases may appear less severe – but they’re all equally problematic. For example, HR personnel at various technology startups have been known to hold a bias against over-dressed candidates – the assumption being that they wouldn’t easily fit in with the laid-back company culture. Though employers often stress that attire doesn’t matter, per se, differences in the way the employer and the hiree dress can result in an unconscious, yet incredibly limiting bias.

Avoid All Biases, Deliberate or Not

Here are some helpful steps you can take to eradicate as much bias as possible from the hiring process.

1. Blind Recruitment

According to the Australian Financial Review, removing the name and date of birth from every resume allows the employer to select candidates based solely on skill level, which helps avoid gender, age, and culture-based discrimination.

2. Reinforcing Positive Images

Try your best to encourage inclusivity by featuring images of diverse groups of people on your company’s website or social profiles.

3. Administer Bias Tests

Many online tests can help convince the cynics about the reality of unconscious biases. Once employees discover – and come to terms with – their hidden prejudices, you can start providing education through collaborative discussions, as well as diversity-based and critical thinking workshops.

But first, you have to break the silence. As Sharon Florentine writes in the same CIO article, “Addressing unconscious bias starts with acknowledging and accepting that every single person holds them, without shaming individuals.” By maintaining an open dialogue on such a sticky subject, you can help people admit to unconscious biases and begin working to correct them.

If this issue has cropped up in your hiring process, or if you want to enact a preventative solution, be sure to utilise LaunchPad Recruits’ pre-recorded video recruitment software. By prompting every candidate with the same, pre-recorded questions, you can eliminate immediate, conversational bias, ensure everyone gets fair treatment and, in turn, make your company a more diverse and inclusive place.