How to address bias in recruitment

We can’t afford to be biased when hiring new candidates. Unfortunately, attempting to evaluate each of our applicants logically would mean giving up our lightning-fast TTH goals. 

Heck, we wouldn’t even make it home for dinner!

That’s why our brains take mental shortcuts, called heuristics, to speed through the estimated 35,000 decisions we make in a day. These shortcuts can, unfortunately, lead to biases, which may skew our thinking and lead us to poor candidate choices. So, as recruiters, it’s in our best interest to avoid biases in recruitment and find suitable candidates fairly.

The Dangers of Biases in Recruitment

Research from Gallup states that replacing a single employee could cost more than double their annual salary.

We’ll let them do the math. According to their data, “A 100-person organisation that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million a year.” 

Biases convince us that we’re thinking for ourselves when we’re clearly being influenced. Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino says biases “cause us to make decisions in favour of one person or group to the detriment of others.” 

(Even if that group doesn’t match our best interests.) 

So, what can you do about recruitment biases? What are some biases stopping you from choosing the right candidates? And how can you prevent them from getting in the way of optimal hiring decisions?

Common Biases that Could Manipulate Your Hiring Choices

We can’t list 180+ biases, but there are a few common culprits in recruitment:

Confirmation Bias

This bias tends to happen when we favour what clicks with our existing beliefs and have a hard time accepting challenging points of view.

Let’s say a hiring manager or a recruiter believes that the ideal candidate must be a supporter of the “hustle culture.” 

While screening applicants, she finds that one of her top-choice candidates believes employees should have enough free time to recharge. This doesn’t click with her existing beliefs, so she may look at other subpar candidates who share her principles. 

Affect Heuristic

This one happens when we rely on current emotions rather than concrete information to make quick decisions. 

The same hiring manager may be stressed out while trying to fill a role quickly, without any success. This stress, followed by impatience, could cause her to dismiss candidates that would be a great fit. 

Halo Effect

One study shows that the first 10 seconds of an interview could impact its outcome. This is a classic case of the Halo Effect in action: when first impressions influence our decisions in other areas

That’s because we humans lean toward liking or how much “chemistry” we have with someone else. If we click with a person immediately, they must be reliable, right? Still, sharing common interests with a candidate has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do their job well.

Appearance Bias

A study found that employers are less likely to hire women who wear headscarves, which is absurd. The fact that a person’s culture and appearance are often regarded to the detriment of their skills is outrageous. We should be mindful of this pervasive bias and do our best to avoid it.

How to Avoid Biases When Hiring

Remove Any Bias From Your Resume Reviews

Names. Credentials. Headshots. The resume style and formatting. All of these seemingly essential details can impact your final decision. 

The truth is, they could be distracting you from what you’re really after: skills and experience. 

The key is to disregard that information when reviewing applications. This will ensure you’re honing in on proven qualifications rather than surface-level information. 

You can do that by reformatting your resumes to de-bias the process. Solutions like Allsorter let you choose to add in or remove candidate contact details that could potentially lead to bias.

Be Wary of Your Wording

Even a slight change in wording can trigger biases. You should keep that in mind when working on your job descriptions. 

You might feel tempted to alternate between “he” and “she” pronouns instead of using the second person (“you”) or “they.” This could make candidates unconsciously turn away from a position. 

For example, it’s advised to avoid certain words like “dominant” and “authoritative,” as they’re primarily male-focused. Not to mention, there are far better adjectives you could use.  

When writing job descriptions, gender-neutral language is a must. It can be as easy as changing the nouns “saleswoman” or “salesman” to “sales representative.”

Also, change any discriminatory terms to objective titles, such as copywriter, designer, and project manager. 

Keep Your Decisions Data-Driven

Ensure your decisions are data-driven by trusting unbiased data insights. To make that happen, rely on your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to offer hunch-free information about your candidates. 

When favouring facts over guesswork, you’ll safely pinpoint which stages need to move faster and get better. You’ll then be able to identify those blockages and correct them – saving time, cutting costs, and improving your screening. 

Data-driven decisions aren’t perfect; we’ll give you that. But they’ll get you closer to the most educated guesses you can possibly make. 

Keep Your Focus Primarily on Skills

Without testing your candidates’ skills, it’s impossible to know whether they’re being honest in their resumes. Simply looking at proof of their qualifications or a cool design can spark up biases, causing you to favour candidates whose resumes look better. 

By implementing skill tests early in the hiring process, you can offer an objective assessment of your applicants. A skills assessment estimates an applicant’s strength when performing job-related tasks. You can do that by asking questions they would be capable of answering while on the job. 

That’s another data-driven option to pair with your existing screening techniques

Prevent Biases From Overlooking Your Top Candidates

The fact that we yield to biases in recruiting doesn’t mean we’re irrational, brainwashed professionals. It simply means we’re human, as biases are deep-rooted in our unconscious. 

However, there’s one decision we have complete control over: the decision to select and hire candidates based exclusively on what they bring to the table.

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some more recruitment topics you might be interested in: