When you’re trying to build a diverse and inclusive work culture, it’s natural to look to the hiring process as a way to make a measurable impact. After all, successfully hiring for diversity can help you change the whole makeup of your workforce. However, bias in the hiring process can be the one thing that stands in your way. When hiring managers and interviewers form opinions about candidates based on unconscious bias, it becomes harder to bring women and underrepresented minorities into your organization.
Though bias in the hiring process remains an ongoing challenge for many organizations, there are ways you can combat it. Take the following actions to reduce bias and build a more diverse workforce:
Avoid biased language in job postings
Your organization may already have removed explicitly biased language from job descriptions and postings, for example, “chairman” or “salesman.” But you may be less aware of other terms in your job postings that imply a bias or preference for candidates with specific gender, ethnic, or cultural traits.
Research has found that certain terms in job postings can appeal to men more than women and vice-versa. For example, terms such as “ninja” and “aggressive” may suggest a male-oriented work environment and imply a bias for male hires. To remove gender and other biases, you’ll need to replace those terms. For example, instead of “rockstar” and “s/he,” use more neutral job-specific terms. When in doubt, you can use platforms such as Textio and Ongig to help you remove the bias from your job descriptions, postings, and other career content.
Try blind résumé review
Bias in the hiring process may be more common than you think, and it can occur before a candidate even reaches the interview stage. One study found that résumés with “white-sounding” names were up to 50 percent more likely to get an interview request than identical résumés with “Asian-sounding” or “black-sounding” names. Other details, such as graduation date, home address, or extracurricular activities, can also cause candidates to be ruled out for an interview.
To combat unconscious bias at the candidate screening stage, blind hiring practices have grown in popularity. The idea is that by anonymizing résumés and removing information about candidates’ gender, age, ethnicity, and other traits, you can avoid letting unconscious bias creep into your hiring process. To build consistency and fairness, you can consider using blind recruitment software, which often integrates with whatever applicant tracking system (ATS) you use, to conceal candidate names and demographic information until later in the interview process.
Assemble a diverse hiring team
Unconscious bias exists in many forms and can vary from person to person. By sticking with the same team of interviewers, you can easily develop a pattern of subjecting candidates to the same biases every time you hire. A great way to limit bias at the selection stage is to broaden your interview team to include diverse individuals who can bring new viewpoints to the process and challenge each others’ biases. In addition to the hiring manager, interviewers can include departmental and cross-functional peers or other internal stakeholders who bring a fresh perspective to the candidate selection process.
Get educated about unconscious bias
Unlike overt or intentional discrimination, bias in hiring can happen without realizing you’re doing it. And, there are many different kinds of bias: affinity bias (having a preference for candidates you believe are similar to you), nonverbal bias (prejudging a candidate’s abilities based on nonverbal cues such as a facial expression during an interview), and the halo effect (assuming someone who is friendly can do the job), to name a few. By understanding the many forms of unconscious bias and training employees to recognize their own, you can make more progress in eliminating it from the hiring process.
Practice equitable hiring
Bias can exist in other areas of the hiring process besides the candidate screening and interviewing stages. For example, anchoring bias, where there is an overreliance on one aspect of a candidate’s background, such as current or previous compensation, can lead to making a job offer that perpetuates a lower salary. Using a candidate’s current salary to make an offer contributes to the gender pay gap, where women are paid less than men for the same or similar roles. It’s why nearly 30 U.S. states and territories have passed salary history bans, prohibiting employers from relying on candidates’ current or previous salary to set pay. To prevent anchoring and other biases, it’s critical to be deliberate in making equitable job offers and comply with salary history laws where you hire.
Reducing bias in the hiring process is an attainable goal, especially when you make an effort to understand existing biases, train employees to avoid them, and implement hiring practices to make candidate selection more objective and equitable. By incorporating these steps into your hiring process, you can move closer to achieving your organization’s diversity and inclusion goals.