Unconscious bias in recruitment: How can you remove it?

Unconscious bias in recruitment: How can you remove it?

There’s a lot of talk around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Companies try to get rid of any form of discrimination from their hiring process. Some of them are actively looking to attract diverse candidates, e.g. by applying blind resume screening methods or by hosting female-only career days.

But what happens when the final hiring decision is distorted by unconscious bias? Could you be biased without even realizing it?

Science says yes. Our minds make decisions intuitively, before we’re aware of it. Research proves that, too; we’re not immune to implicit bias. We like to think that logical arguments drive our decision making, but in fact there’s unconscious activity going on inside our brains that affects our judgements and decisions. And this includes hiring decisions, too.

What unconscious bias means in recruitment

In the hiring process, unconscious bias happens when you form an opinion about candidates based solely on first impressions. Or, when you prefer one candidate over another simply because the first one seems like someone you’d easily hang out with outside of work. Even in the early hiring stages, a candidate’s resume picture, their name, or their hometown could influence your opinion more than you think. In short, unconscious bias influences your decision – whether positively or negatively – using criteria irrelevant to the job.

Is it really unconscious, though?

Matt Alder, HR thought leader and curator of the Recruiting Future podcast, observes that bias doesn’t always happen unconsciously: “I think there is probably some conscious bias going on when people are making decisions to employ people who think will fit in to their culture or adhere to the very similar people they’ve already got.“

Here’s a passage from the book ‘We Can’t Talk about That at Work!’ that describes a video being shown to a group of people:

A man and woman walk silently into the room, never speaking, and the woman walks in behind the man with her eyes looking slightly downward. The man is wearing shoes and the woman is barefoot. The man comes to a chair and sits down, and then the woman sits on the floor next to him. The man acts like he’s eating something from a bowl. He then passes the bowl to the woman, and she eats from the bowl. When she’s finished, the man puts his hand just above the woman’s bowed head – it looks as though he’s almost pushing her head up and down – though his hand never actually touches her head. Then, the man stands up and leaves first, and the woman leaves behind him.

Those who saw this video where then asked to describe it, and, more often than not, they used phrases such as ‘subservience’, ‘male dominance’ and ‘gender inequality’.
Do you want to know what really happens in this video, though?

In the scene you just saw, the woman and the Earth are actually the two most sacred and revered aspects of their specific culture, so much so, that only the woman is holy and good enough to sit on the ground and touch it with her feet. Men can only experience the Earth through the woman. The man is charged with testing the food before it is proven fit for the woman; in case it is poisoned, he would die first. He is also charged with walking in first to deflect any attacks, and thus, to safely lead the way for her to walk unharmed.

We tend to make assumptions based on what we – think we – know, based on our background, based on our personal preferences. And then, we act upon these assumptions. Matt offers a recruitment-related example: “Hiring managers choose candidates that they have a good feeling about but can’t explain why they want to hire that person.”

But is it necessarily a bad thing, though, to opt for people who’ll fit with your culture? Or, people you think you and your teams will get along with? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

(Un)conscious bias is costing you money and talent

Biased hiring decisions result in less diverse teams. And less diversity hinders your business productivity. “If you literally just put it into Google, you find article after article and research piece after research piece that says businesses perform better when they have greater ethnic and gender diversity,” Matt explains, “more diverse companies produce more revenue.”

But, he adds:

We don’t have to make the business case for diversity anymore.

You aren’t just trying to reduce unconscious bias in recruiting at the moment you select candidates; you must go further back and reduce that bias in where you find your talent in the first place, especially when talent shortage and skills gaps result in a less-than-optimum candidate pool for a job opening. So, you’re not just looking to diversify your team, but also diversify your hiring process: when you cast a wider net and explore new candidate sources, you reach out to people who already have the right skill set, yet didn’t make it into your hiring pipelines using your usual strategy. “People are finding it very difficult to find talent in the way that they’ve always done,” Matt says, “so they need to think more creatively and be more flexible about how they get the right skills in their business.”

And you can do that by removing the barriers and start looking at candidates with non-traditional backgrounds. In one episode of his podcast, Matt talked with Dominie Moss from The Return Hub about untapped talent, which takes us back to the concept of assumptions: we’re often biased against people who took a career break or want to make a career change and this could actually cost us great and candidates.

“I think that the companies that get that, are tending to be more successful and are tending to outthink their competition. Now, whether they are able to actually act on it and actually make a difference, that’s the key,“ Matt notes.

How to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process

First and foremost, we need to be aware of our biases. We might not able to get rid of them completely, Matt says, but it’s important to build awareness and help people think more consciously when making hiring decisions.

Bias could be everywhere

Unconscious bias in recruitment is common during the resume screening phase. This is when we move forward or reject applicants based on how close they are to our picture of the ‘perfect candidate’.

But that’s not the only step of the hiring process where we should be looking for unconscious biases. Even when we decide to move a candidate forward despite a lingering feeling that they’re not quite suitable for the role, that initial impression will follow – or haunt, really – us throughout the hiring process and it’s likely we’ll disqualify them at a later stage.

To identify potential biases, we need to look at every step of the entire recruiting cycle, from the recruitment marketing techniques we apply to the moment we bring people on board. Matt elaborates on this by sharing an example of one company that was struggling with hiring female employees. Their challenge was not that they didn’t attract female candidates; rather, they noticed, that men were far more willing to accept a job offer compared to women.

“When they did some research, they found out that there were various reviews about the company that suggested that people wouldn’t want to work there.” The HR team was completely unaware of these reviews, so they remained unaddressed. And job seekers often look at company reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed, or another job site before they make their final decision to accept or decline a job offer. “That was one of the things that was causing the problem in their process,” says Matt. “But, they would never had spotted that, had they not actually analyzed what was happening at each stage of the recruitment process and where the disconnects where.”

To really understand where your biases are, you need to monitor your recruitment process on an ongoing basis, gather data and pinpoint where the problems are, Matt explains. “Is it the type of applications you attract? Is it the fact that people get into your recruitment process but, then, leave? Where people are coming in and where do they drop out? Sometimes, the problems can be identified as coming down to specific individuals or specific teams within the organization.”

The role of technology in increasing diversity

“There’s a sense that actually, technology could fix this,” Matt says. There are tools that hide applicants’ pictures. Or, tools that automatically post your job ads in multiple places, broadening the outreach and reaching more candidates in the ‘unlikeliest of places’. One of the latest trends is also making parts of the hiring process anonymous.

In one episode of his podcast, Matt discussed with Penguin Random House about how they went through a whole recruitment campaign without looking at resumes at all. “They didn’t ask any questions about people’s backgrounds, or even their names, or their ages. They literally got them to complete a written exercise. Anyone could do that. And, they only met the shortlisted applicants at the very, very last stage. The final interview. They had no idea who was coming through. What happened was they ended up recruiting some people who would’ve never made it through their traditional recruiting process because, for example, they didn’t have a degree at the time. They found that it was very beneficial for their work.”

But, technology is not a panacea. Matt recently described how AI could help build a more objective hiring process, but how, at the same time, it’s also tied with the human factor. “Do technologies bake unconscious bias in recruitment in the way their algorithms work and in the way they match people? Do they actually make things worse? That’s a debate that we’re probably going to be having for many, many years.”

Fighting the root of unconscious bias in recruiting

Instead of relying only on the most advanced technologies, Matt recommends thinking about how we can improve ourselves, too. He mentions the example of a company that had a very specific problem: a lack of women in senior roles within the business. Being very committed to solve this problem, they realized that there were various unconscious biases in the way hiring managers were doing interviews and selecting people.

This was not an issue that technology could fix. “Instead, they ran a series of courses and workshops to bring it into focus and to make people aware of what their biases were and how that was playing out.”

Matt gives another perspective, too: removing unconscious bias is not independent from your overall business objectives. You need to consider what you want to accomplish and how you’ll get there.

“Companies really need to think about how they are assessing people through processes. ‘What are the skills, experience, competencies, that we actually need in this job?’ And, if we were all open-minded about where we could go and source those competencies, we might find we employ very different people, to the people that we’ve got.”

And that’s a good thing to do for one more reason: “it’s important that businesses reflect the societies in which they’re based.” Societies are diverse, so unconscious bias in recruitment could quietly sabotage the effort to build equally diverse workplaces. “I think that’s critical, particularly in our current state with so much uncertainty, the need for people with different viewpoints and different life experiences coming into businesses. Because there’s visible diversity, but [there’s] also diversity of thought,” Matt concludes.

Can we truly get rid of our biases?

There’ve been some great initiatives from companies that try to build more inclusive work environments globally. There’ve also been various organizations and communities that actively support minorities in the workplace. There have even been people who are dedicated to increase diversity within their company (for example, through the role of a D&I Manager.)

But all of these efforts don’t guarantee that we’ll become completely unbiased. Unconscious bias exists even if we’re genuinely pursuing more diversity in our hiring process. We can always start, though, by trying to understand where biases are coming from and how they affect our hiring decisions; we may not be able to completely discard our unconscious bias, but, ultimately, we’ll be more conscious of it when it does happen.


Credits: Published on Workable by Christina Pavlou

Are You Too Picky? Damages To Recruiting and Business Results

Are You Too Picky? Damages To Recruiting and Business Results

Are You Too Picky? How Lofty Recruiting Standards Can Actually Work Against You

With the availability of top talents so limited being too picky can actually hurt your recruitment efforts and cause delays in filling key positions. Adopting highly selective standards can be a bad idea for the following reasons.

You’ll Lose Qualified Candidates

No matter what kind of business your company is in, dragging out the hiring process while you search for the ideal candidate can mean that you lose top candidates. When you wait too long to make a decision, some candidates will accept other positions.

You’ll Eventually Be Forced to Accept Less Qualified Candidates

When the top candidates accept other positions, you’re left with a pool of candidates who don’t have as much experience or as many skills. Eventually, you may be forced to choose from these applicants because the job must be filled. Although your intention is to find the perfect candidate, now you have to settle for a “good enough” applicant.

Recruitment Costs Will Increase

When looking for the perfect candidate, it makes sense to use every available medium to advertise. If you don’t find the ideal person, you may continue to place more ads and spend even more money. Those costs add up, but they aren’t the only costs involved.

Peter Cappelli, management professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania discussed the issue of costs in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton. He believes that internal accounting systems in most organizations are very poor. As a result, companies don’t understand the true costs of keeping a position vacant and mistakenly believe that they can save money if a position remains unfilled for a long period of time.

Job Seekers Will No Longer View Your Company as Desirable

Job seekers pay attention when companies post the same ad month after month, and start to wonder why your company is having such a hard time filling the position. Do you have impossible expectations? Is the inability to find a candidate symptomatic of your company’s inability to make decisions quickly? People will notice when your pickiness results in inaction, which may affect their impression of your company.

What to Do?

If you wait long enough, the ideal candidate may eventually appear, or you may realize that you missed opportunities to hire people who had many of the skills you need. If insisting on perfection has cost you qualified job candidates, there’s a few things you can do.

➡️ Identify the skills that are absolutely necessary to perform the joband those that would be helpful. Be happy if a candidate possesses skills in both categories, but don’t reject an applicant because he or she is missing skills that are merely helpful.

➡️ Make training a priority. Don’t overlook candidates who could be top performers with a little coaching or training. Cappelli notes that many businesses don’t know how much it costs to train employees versus hiring employees already doing the same kind of work for a competitor. Comparing those costs may make hiring an employee with less experience a more attractive option, particularly if you follow his suggestion and initially offer a lower salary while new employees receive the training they need.

➡️ Change your image. If you’ve gotten a reputation as a company that only hires superheroes, it’s time to make changes to your brand messaging. Shorten the hiring process and emphasize your desire to find employees willing to grow with the company on your HR website and social media sites.

Every business wants perfect employees, but few people can attain perfection without a little help. If you use realistic standards when hiring and are willing to train employees, you just might discover that it’s easier to find quality employees who can help your company grow.

This post was penned by Don Charlton, Founder and Chief Product Officer at Jazz and originally published HERE

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Talent Sourcing Mistakes To Avoid

Talent Sourcing Mistakes To Avoid

Hiring for a job can be as tricky as acing an interview for a job. Let’s face it, getting the perfect talent – boasting of the required education, with minimum work experience and possessing the appropriate skills for the job – is easier said than done. In hindsight, when you’re a recruiter the stakes are much higher when it comes to getting the right person for the job. At the end of the day it’s your decision, based on one or two meetings, which could either boost the company’s growth or lead to losses.

In this age, when the traditional interviewing process is being replaced with personality tests and other measures to gauge talent – here are some common mistakes made in the talent sourcing process along with pointers on how to avoid making them:

1. Resumes can’t be your only criteria

While resumes are probably the first and vital piece of information for a recruiter, it can’t be the only reference point. Over-analyzing resumes can cloud your judgment when it comes to hiring the right candidate. A good recruiter also makes it a point to call the candidates’ listed references and social media presence to make sure he or she is a good fit for the job profile.

2. Keep an open mind while vetting resumes

Many recruiters will tell you they tend to remove candidates from the list for being either over or under-qualified. But keeping an open mind can only benefit you. There are several cases across the world where the perfect candidate turned out to be someone who was either over-qualified or new in the industry.

3. Don’t write a vague job description

As a recruiter it’s your job to make sure you have a proper descriptor explaining the particular job. A vague job description will only confuse the candidate and also attract random applicants not fit for the profile.

4. Don’t overlook candidates currently unemployed

The job market is still recovering and several applications you may receive will be from candidates who are unemployed at the moment. But that shouldn’t hinder you from checking out their profile. After all, a resume won’t tell you the reason why this candidate is currently not employed. He/she could turn out to be extremely talented and unemployed because of various reasons not pertaining to his skills or caliber.

9. Don’t let experience/achievement trump cultural fit

Often recruiters jump to hire someone in a hurry to fill a post. While doing so they only tick the experience and achievement boxes. Nobody is denying the fact that experience and achievement are the two most important criteria for choosing an applicant. But knowing whether the candidate will fit into your organization’s culture is equally important.

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Preparing for Interviews? Read this

Preparing for Interviews? Read this

Acing a job interview has as much to do with the way you prepare as it does your poise and confidence in the interview chair. Preparing for an interview might seem intimidating, but there are several steps you can take to prepare yourself for a successful interview.

You should spend the time leading up to your interview learning as much as you can about the company you’re applying to, from the company’s culture to the interview questions that are likely to be asked. If your research is thorough, you will be in a great position to ace your job interview and get the job you’ve been dreaming of.

Prepartions start early on, even before you apply to jobs. Preparing for an interview primarily means taking time to thoughtfully consider your goals and qualifications relative to the position and employer. To accomplish this, you should perform research on the company and carefully review the job description to understand why you would be a good fit. Let’s look at the steps to preparing for an interview.

To summarize:

  • Familiarizing yourself with the company
  • Preparing for your interview and preparing questions to ask during the interview
  • Knowing how to evaluate the company to decide if it’s a good fit for you
  • Managing your expectations with research to know exactly what it’s like to work for this company

1. Carefully examine the job description

During your prep work you should use the employer’s posted job description as a guide. The job description is a list of the qualifications, qualities and background the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. The more you can align yourself with these details, the more the employer will be able to see that you are qualified. The job description may also give you ideas about questions the employer may ask throughout the interview.

2. Consider why you are interviewing and your qualifications

Before your interview, you should have a good understanding of why you want the job and why you’re qualified. You should be prepared to explain your interest in the opportunity and why you’re the best person for the role.

3. Perform research on the company and role

Researching the company you’re applying to is an important part of preparing for an interview. Not only will it help provide context for your interview conversations, it will also help you when preparing thoughtful questions for your interviewers.

Researching the company and role as much as possible will give you an edge over the competition.

If you have questions about the workplace environment, culture, personality or values, be sure to ask during the interview.

4. Consider your answers to common interview questions

While you won’t be able to predict every question you’ll be asked in an interview, there are a few common questions you can plan answers for. You might also consider developing an elevator pitch that quickly describes who you are, what you do and what you want.

5. Prepare several thoughtful questions for the interviewer(s)

Many employers feel confident about candidates who ask thoughtful questions about the company and the position. You should take time before the interview to prepare several questions for your interviewer(s) that show you’ve researched the company and are well-versed about the position.

6. Sell yourself

One of the biggest challenges in an interview is selling yourself. Most people are uncomfortable with this idea, but presenting yourself accurately and positively doesn’t have to feel like a sale. The truth is that you do have professional skills and experiences that may set you apart from other applicants, so it’s acceptable and expected for you to acknowledge them to your potential employer.

When you prepare for a job interview, make note of your skills that relate to the role and think of how your experiences and abilities can contribute to the overall goals of the department and company. Your answers will be somewhat short, so you want to choose the most positive and relevant information to share during the interview.

If you have metrics or stats to show your accomplishments or growth during your previous roles, they’re a great help in selling yourself during the interview. For example, you may have increased sales by a certain percentage or increased social media engagement in your last position.

7. Present your unique value proposition

Your past work experience should have molded you into an employee with a unique set of skills and capabilities that set you apart from other candidates. Now, it’s up to you to bundle all of these valuable traits together and present them as your sales pitch on why you should be hired.

Preparing well is the cornerstone of knocking your interview out of the park. Give yourself the best possible chance of success by doing your research, preparing your responses, practicing aloud, and thinking thoughtfully about your values, goals, and skill set.

Happy Careers

How to create a kickass work culture

How to create a kickass work culture

Every organization has its own distinct culture, shaped by its values, priorities, the people who work there, and much, much more. What’s considered a healthy work culture? It’s one where employees feel valued, safe, comfortable, and flush with opportunity for growth.

No matter the industry or profession, in today’s fast-paced business age, you undoubtedly spend the majority of your waking weekday hours at work. The benefits of a positive work environment are well-documented: Creativity, productivity and happiness go up while–like a counterweight–stress levels sink significantly.

If you are not focused on making sure that your employees are happy in their jobs and with your overall company, then my dear employer you are doomed

There is no one size fix all nor a formula which you can blindly implement to make this successfull. However there are a few fundamental steps if executed in a phased manner can yield wonderful results thus resulting in happy employees

1) Hiring. This is the single most important factor. Everything that your company is now and will be depend on your hiring strategy and processes. You either onboard classy talents or miss those top class talents to your competitors depending on how awesome your recruitment process is.

A few things to consider here: Respect candidataes who apply for jobs. Treat them equal & fair. Never ever take them for granted. Your interview panel should consist of people with not just subject knowledge but through and through. Have 1 bad apple in your interview panel, & your recruitment process goes haywire and you will end up lossing on top talents

Google is the market leader here. They are fantastic at broadcasting their culture of innovation, and have 3 million applications each year to show for it!

2) Employee Engagement. Now that you have onboarded top talents, it’s even more challenging to retain them (for a long term). Having employees who are “emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace”—is crucial to creating positive employee relationships and a successful bottom line. A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of the American workforce feels engaged at work. They also found that highly engaged employees are 17% more productive and have a 41% lower rate of absenteeism.

In order to increase employee engagement, you can:

  • Hire and develop great managers. A healthy work culture starts at the top.
  • Provide managers with the resources they need. With the proper resources for hiring the right people, your managers can in turn build effective teams that are motivated and engaged.
  • Set clear, achievable goals—together. Employees need to be clear on the goals set for them as individuals, for their team, and for your company. In order to be meaningful, these goals need to relate to their daily experiences and be ones that they believe are actually attainable. When employees are involved in goal setting, it makes them almost four times more likely to feel engaged at work.

3) Create a safe environment. There is nothing more damaging than toxicity in a professional environment. It stifles new ideas and inhibits collaboration. Creating a safe work environment means eliminating negative personalities and respecting every idea–whether it’s from an intern or a tenured senior team member. Lead with honesty, integrity and vulnerability to help your employees feel safe.

4) Perks & Benefits. There are so many new trends in company culture: flex hours, team building, open workspaces, unlimited paid time off, bringing pets to work–and the list goes on. It’s easy to be tempted by what may seem like worthwhile workplace perks or try to replicate what competitors are offering. However, the same tactics don’t work for every company. Don’t get carried away and distracted by the latest professional culture craze. Analyse what works for you. Check constantly what your employees need and act accoridngly.

5) Foster Continuous Improvement. This is a fundamental strength for a cultural transformation. Through such impactful programs, employees feel connected to your mission, and to your success, because they are empowered to make decisions that affect positive change. Employees feel belonged, they care for your company & customers. Equip all your employees with tools & resources that’s esstential for them to keep a pulse on your company’s vision and mission.

6) Focusing on the negative. As a leader you have a large part in setting the tone of the company. Be watchful of your mood and what type of energy you are spreading to your team. If you believe there are negative elements to the current culture, walking around moaning about them won’t help solve this.

If you want to be known as a friendly person or colleague who brings positive energy to the office, start with proactive suggestions on fixing the problems, rather than complaining or spreading negativity.

Work to banish negativity in your company before it starts spreading.

7) Improve communication with employees. While once-yearly performance reviews used to be the standard, the one-sided design of these interactions is giving way to more progressive forms of employee communication. What today’s workers want is ongoing feedback, clearly communicated goals, and a collaborative work environment which they feel is fair, relevant, and encouraging.

8) Employer Brand. A strong employer brand attracts and retains workers. It turns them into advocates for your company and it differentiates you from the competition. Companies like Glassdoor offer company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, interview reviews and questions, benefits reviews, and more. This gives anyone the ability to see how former and current employees rate your organization, meaning job candidates are literally able to shop around for the jobs and companies that they like believe will meet their needs and make them happiest. Employees have become the consumers of the workplace.

Finally, creating an awesome culture is not a one time process but an ongoing process. A positive company culture needs constant tending, and direction. You should make it a regular occurrence to review how things are going, and what areas you should focus on for the next quarter, six months or year


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