Biases are human nature. Since we make so many snap judgments sub-consciously, they're also unavoidable. But the last thing you want to do is succumb to bias — especially when it comes to recruiting, evaluating, and interviewing talent.
To learn more about how to first recognize, then reduce bias in hiring, we put out a call to industry professionals and got more than 100 responses from CEOs, hiring managers, recruiters, and more. The prevailing opinion was that while bias poses a huge threat, teams can minimize it with the proper guardrails in place.
We'll spotlight the best advice for how to reduce hiring bias right here. Then, we'll mention a powerful interviewing tool that makes a lot of this advice instantly actionable.
Why is removing bias in hiring important?
If the decks are stacked in favor of certain personality traits, backgrounds, and irrelevant preferences, recruiters and hiring managers run the huge risk of overlooking the subtle strengths of stellar candidates and unspoken weaknesses of the not-so-great ones.
Bias-laden hiring decisions — where subjective feelings trump objective performance criteria — are unfair. You also run a huge risk of making a bad hire (which costs you nearly a third of said bad employee's first-year earnings).
"Accepting preconceived notions of your candidates limits your ability to hire great people. It negatively impacts you and your teams' ability to evaluate individuals' based on objectives, results, and skills that ultimately lead to business success. This means missing out on high potential candidates or even letting low-performing candidates slip in (I've seen this many times). Preconceived notions may force you to disqualify otherwise highly qualified candidates, therefore shrinking your total addressable market of candidates. This slows down hiring, dramatically." — Anthony Louis, recruitment lead at Beacon Talent.
"Biased hiring decisions result in a less diverse team. And a lack of diversity hurts your company's productivity. If you just type it into Google, you'll discover research piece after research piece claiming that firms perform better when ethnic and gender diversity is present, and that more diverse enterprises generate more income." — Abe Breuer., CEO of VIP To Go.
How hiring professionals reduce bias while sourcing candidates
Bias is prevalent throughout every stage of the candidate journey, meaning it can ruin hiring processes early on in the recruitment funnel, when you're still marketing the job to prospective job seekers. Here's what the pros have to say about navigating bias early on in the hiring process.
"To begin, you must grasp what hiring prejudices are and how they function. I urge that managers investigate the possibility of giving personnel education and training on the subject. The first step in uncovering unconscious bias is awareness training, which teaches employees to understand that everyone has them and to identify their own. The goal is to start an organizational discourse regarding biases and generate ideas for activities the organization as a whole may take to reduce them." — Adam Wood, co-founder of RevenueGeeks.
"Set business goals, in my opinion, so that everyone understands that eradicating unconscious bias and increasing diversity is critical to the bottom line. Then, describe what diversity entails in your organization. What ethnicities, age groups, genders, and sexual orientations are underrepresented? Set goals for each stage of your candidate pipelines, such as applicant funnels, interview conversion rates, and acceptances." — Rameez Usmani, CMO of Web Hosting Advices.
"Define the job, not the individual. A proper job description is a list of activities that people must perform rather than a list of items that they must possess… By describing work as performance objectives, you can attract a broader range of talent while also decreasing prejudice by evaluating a person's historical performance on similar work rather than their presentation skills and first impression." — Geoff Cudd, owner of Find the Best Car Price.
"One of the most important ways to reduce bias in hiring decisions is to have a diverse pool of candidates from which to choose. This can be done by actively seeking out candidates from under-represented groups, or through using blind hiring processes. Additionally, hiring managers and recruiters should be aware of their own biases and try to avoid making assumptions about someone’s qualifications based on their race, gender, or other personal characteristics." — Matt Woodley, founder of Mover Focus.
How hiring professionals reduce bias while screening candidates
Once you've sourced candidates who've submitted applications, you have to evaluate them. And those judgments need to be fair.
According to many hiring professionals who responded to our query, this screening stage, when your talent pool is still large, is massively susceptible to biased decision-making. Many experts think the best way to mitigate that is by blinding hirers from certain candidate information. Here's what some of them have to say.
"A great way to train yourself to recognize bias in the hiring process is
to ask yourself these questions:
What are my assumptions about the candidate?
What is the evidence that supports or contradicts these assumptions?
How might my own personal biases be affecting my judgment of the
— Viktoriya Maya, CEO of CustomersFirst Academy.
"Remove names of applicants from applications before reviewing them. Name bias is one of the most pervasive forms of unconscious bias in hiring, but is also very easy to limit. Many project and candidate management programs have an option to “blind” applications to prevent hiring staff from making assumptions about candidates based on their name." Jon Hill, CEO of The Energists.
"Consider using a blind recruiting process. Scrubbing applications of non-essential candidate information is part of a blind recruiting procedure. It could be information such as schools, names, ages, and so on. This eliminates the possibility of unconscious bias sneaking into the callback process. A blind hiring process can be aided by a variety of software tools." — Bram Jansen, chief editor of vpnAlert.
"Ensure anonymity of resumes: It is unarguable that candidate bio-data can trigger bias in a hiring process. Creating a system that anonymizes resumes by removing the bio-data information of candidates can help eliminate personal information biases during a hiring process." Maria McDowell, founder of EasySearchPeople.
"Work sample assessments that simulate the types of tasks that the candidate will be performing on the job are the best predictors of future work performance. Evaluating work sample tests from numerous applicants also helps to calibrate your judgment so that you can evaluate how Candidate A compares to Candidate B. Insights are gained by asking candidates to solve work-related issues or take a competency test. A skill test forces employers to evaluate the quality of a candidate's work rather than judging them automatically based on looks, gender, age, and even personality." — Tyler Martin, founder of ThinkTyler.
Actionable tips to reduce interview bias, straight from the pros
We talked about the bias-free game plan for finding talent. Then about strategies to reduce bias while screening resumes and other parts of candidates' applications. But the holy grail of the hiring process is also the most dangerous arena for preconceived notions to run rampant: the interview.
Hiring experts who responded to our call commonly cited unstructured interviews as the easiest way for bias to creep into hiring. The solution? Establish consistent criteria, record all your data, and never deviate from the kinds of questions you ask different candidates interviewing for the same role.
"Far and away the most effective and actionable way to reduce bias in interviews is to open up the interview process to a panel of diverse assessors. When you are interviewing someone in a one-on-one capacity, there is always the risk that either conscious or subconscious biases could corrupt the process and rob the candidate of having a fair chance to land a job that they might genuinely deserve. When you open up your interview to a committee or panel with multiple interviewers who are from a range of backgrounds and each have their own perspectives, you can greatly reduce the risk of a candidate being penalized due to one manager's personal biases." — Linn Atiyeh, CEO of Bemana.
"Multiple individuals should be involved in the interview process, in my opinion, to guarantee that fair and unbiased assessments are made about each candidate. Consider assembling an interview panel composed of members of your team who are varied in terms of age, gender, background, seniority, and position at your company. This works because a diverse interview panel is significantly less likely than a single person or a group of like-minded people to be biased. Only compare your interview panel's ratings of the applicants after everyone has had a chance to meet them." — Paul Thornton, marketing manager of Go Rentals."
"Unconscious bias in interviews can be reduced by using interview scorecards with explicit grading standards. When scoring applicants on interview scorecards, do so as soon as possible while your recollections are still fresh. If you have numerous interviewers, make sure they all know how to correctly use the interview scorecards so you can get the most out of them. To prevent difficulties with conformity bias, make sure that everyone assesses a candidate before seeing other people's judgments." — Andreas Velling, CMO of Fractory.
"Think about your likeability (if it matters to you). It's normal to be drawn to folks with whom you instantly connect. According to one study, the first 10 seconds of an interview can have a considerable impact on the outcome.
"The hiring process's most difficult question may be likability. Is it important whether you like the individual you hire? And how significant is it to you? If you are concerned about it, I propose assessing applicants during the interview in the same way you would rate other talents. By assigning a score to likability, you make it more manageable." — Samuel DeCroes, president of Stock Trend Alerts.
"During interviews, a structured interview method entails asking candidates the same questions in the same order. This prevents unconscious bias from creeping in when interviews deviate from the script and become more about creating rapport. Reduce affinity bias by interviewing in a more thorough and consistent manner. Another practical strategy for employers to remove bias in recruiting is to ensure that any technological platforms and tools used in the recruitment process were created with a diverse, inclusive, and equitable perspective in mind." — Taylor Murchison, SEO growth director of On the Map.
"Because unconscious biases might affect the types of questions asked in an interview, consider asking all interviewees the same questions, worded the same way. This will ensure that the interview process is as uniform as possible, with the content of the interview remaining focused on the essential skills and credentials required for the position. Remember to double-check the interview questions and tests for any biased language or phrasing before using them in your procedure." — Travis Lindemoen, managing director of Nexus IT group.
"One of the significant ways I use to reduce bias in my hiring decisions is to avoid evaluating candidates on the basis of personality. Personality testing can be an effective screening device, but it has a tendency to produce results that will help weed out the people you might not like as much, rather than those who are better qualified for the position." — Kimberly Silva, CEO of FindPeopleFirst.
"To prevent recency bias and your memory from skewing the accurate picture, document every step of the process. We often made the mistake of thinking, 'oh, I will remember this,' only to have it slip away after a few days. This can even lead to remembering things the wrong way. A good interview may start to seem bad in your memory after a while, or vice versa." — Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker.
"When interviewing potential applicants, it's critical to take notes or, if feasible, record the interviews. When comparing candidates, having proper records of some form can help you remember the answers better so you don't have to rely on your memory." — Michael Hess, e-commerce strategy lead at Code Signing Store.
Dismantling interview bias with powerful AI
As mentioned, unstructured interviews can be hotbeds for bias. If you're asking each candidate different sets of questions based on where they're from, what they look like, or how much you like them… you won't get the most accurate read on who makes the best employee.
The solution, as many of the experts just fleshed out, is to standardize the interview, which ensures you're evaluating candidates according to consistent criteria. Of course, to do that effectively, it helps to have transcripts of every conversation.
We have a tool that does just that. And tons more.
Meet Hume, a talent intelligence platform that records, transcribes, and summarizes interviews with job seekers.
Our tool uses artificial intelligence to generate transcripts of conversations that keep you focused on candidates instead of your notepad. What's more, interviewers can easily tag these transcripts with insights that speak to a candidate's communication preferences, perceived strengths, past experiences, and more.
Since inconsistent interviews exacerbate bias, Hume extracts all questions asked from the transcripts of your conversations with job seekers. This way, interviewers can ensure they're judging candidates fairly, comparing answers to the same questions. And since you can only truly grapple with bias as a team, Hume lets you create a highlight reel of snippets of conversations that can be easily shared across your hiring panel.
It's all designed to give you the best of both worlds — a fair, bias-free interview process that also lets you hire faster (to ensure you never lose out on top talent).
On an individual level, some degree of bias is inevitable. But Hume is the perfect interview companion to make sure faulty judgments get first recognized, then dealt with. Hiring will be fairer. And you'll send that offer letter out to the most deserving candidate because of it.
Sign up for Hume's waitlist for early access to the tool up to the mighty task of dismantling interview bias. And follow Hume on LinkedIn for more tips, tricks, and best practices on how to address bias throughout the hiring process.
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