How to reduce bias in your hiring process

Recruitment and employment concept with businessman

Every decision we make is a battle between logic and intuition – what we think and what we feel. In many facets of our lives the decisions we make will have both clear and unclear impacts on other facets and this is no different in our professional careers.

Hiring bias is a term used to describe unconscious prejudice during the process of hiring a new employee. These unconscious prejudices can lead us to make favourable or unfavourable decisions about a person or group without us being fully aware of it taking place.

The major concerns attached to hiring bias is both the impact on potential candidates but also the missed opportunity for businesses. That is, how many perfect candidates are being overlooked unconsciously.

Reducing hiring bias can be a huge cost and time saver for many businesses, the following four steps can be taken to help mitigate unconscious prejudices and ensure you are hiring the best people for the job.

1. Create awareness

In this instance, we’re talking about unconscious bias, therefore a great way to start in helping to reduce said bias is to educate yourself and colleagues on what hiring bias is and how it can impact businesses.

This can be done through talking about bias within your business and looking at the various strategies that can be implemented to reduce it.

2. Eliminate biased language

Language is a powerful tool. When hiring, job listings are crucial and in most cases provide the first impression of a company and its culture. Many words have nuances and interpretations which can impact the types of people who apply for the position.

It goes without saying, there are some very obvious words and language choices that should be avoided in order to maintain an open and equal workplace, however biased language can also be more subtle than this.

Employsure recently put our job advertisements for a particular role through a gender decoder to modify the language used, and we saw a 30% increase in female applicants and a 75% increase in the number of female hires in that particular team in the three months after the change. 

3. Standardise interviews

Have a plan for your interviews before advertising, what experience are you looking for or what questions need to be answered. Having an unstructured interview process can sometimes feel more comfortable and free-flowing but the risk of unconscious bias creeping into the process can be higher. On the other hand, having a plan and structured process for your candidates means each are being treated and interviewed in the same standard manner allowing for less instances of hiring bias as well as having a more objective and transparent way of evaluating the candidates.

Ask the same questions to each candidate and have a set idea of the information you are seeking. What specific requirements and answers are you after to ensure the right person is hired?

4. Practice blind hiring

Information specific to a candidate’s identity can subconsciously influence hiring practices – blind hiring ensures you’re focused on the candidate’s specific talents and qualifications rather than surface demographic characteristics.

A survey found that candidates with ethnic-sounding names had a 28% minimal chance to be called back than Anglo-named candidates. This is despite having the same country of origin, similar work histories, and educational backgrounds.

Taking steps like obscuring personal details when reviewing resumes can help to reduce potential bias.

The majority of businesses strive to hire the best candidate available for the advertised position, however, making some minor changes to the advertising and interview process can ensure greater certainty that this is the case. This creates a better outcome for both employee and employer.

Michael Morris, Talent Director, Employsure