Many companies discuss diversity and inclusion as being key tenets of their values; however, they often don’t know where to begin.  We suggest starting with the idea that an organization’s inclusion initiatives must be the focus first as when people can see themselves within the employee base, they will consider joining your organization, which then allows for diversity.

In theory focusing on inclusion and diversity seems straight forward.  Most employers know that there are a variety of positive outcomes from having a fairer hiring process.  One is a more diverse workforce.  Diversity offers more innovation, a variety of experiences and therefore opinions, and a stronger employer brand.  

A challenge is successfully creating and putting into practice, workflows where diverse candidates are hired.  To enhance diversity, your organization must understand and address the unconscious bias that exists in their hiring practices. 

Let us start with understanding bias.  The formal definition of bias is a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned. 

So why can’t we simply make choices that support our inclusive and diverse goals?  Consider the issue that bias is often unconscious.  This unconscious bias exists in all of us and can impact decisions we make, even in the hiring process. 

Let us consider the variety of biases that exist –

Affinity bias – also known as similarity bias, is the unconscious tendency to get along with people who are like ourselves. We tend to rate people with similar backgrounds to ourselves higher during subjective assessments and interviews. This can occur when an interviewer asks a candidate questions about their personal lives or interests.

Affect heuristics – is rushing to conclusions about someone before you have all the information to make a fully informed decision.  This often happens when we are tired or bored.

Beauty bias – is when we assume someone we find attractive or appealing will perform in their role with the same level of expertise as we deem their attractiveness to be. 

Confirmation bias – is the tendency to subconsciously seek evidence to confirm our initial impression of someone was correct.  This can occur when we hire via ‘instincts’ and miss evidence or demonstrated proof of what someone has done. 

Conformity bias – is caused by pressures – often from group interviews when assessors let their decisions be influenced by other views and opinions.

Contrast bias – This is caused by judging performance against the person(s) that came before them and not the hiring criteria.

First impression bias – is making up your mind in the first few moments of meeting someone, even making judgement based on someone’s resume or cover letter.  

Expectation anchor – is when an interviewer has a myopic view thus limiting their assessment to a few attributes rather than accessing the candidate as a whole person with many experiences and skills.

Halo effect – is having a positive impression of a person based on one skill or talent; and therefore, assuming they are a fit in all other areas as well. 

Horn effect – is where one perceived bad quality (even a minor issue) distorts your whole impression of someone.

Illusory correlation – is where the interviewer observes one aspect of the candidates and believes that it directly correlates to another, possibly an unrelated factor, then and uses it to assess job performance.  For example, assuming someone with years of experience managing teams will lead the existing team through inspiration.

Intuition – is the “gut feeling” you get when meeting people. It is common for recruiters and interviewers to use this intuition as evidence of their hiring ability and avoid facts. Intuition is often influenced by some of the biases listed here.

Negative emphasis – is judging someone negatively based on personal, irrelevant preferences, such as height, weight, or hairstyle.

Non-verbal – is misreading body language can lead us to the wrong

Overconfidence bias – is where a recruiter or interviewers is overconfident about their own ability to select great candidates because they believe they have “solid instincts”.

These are 15 of the most common biases.  It is critical to practice conscious and intentional interviews and targeted assessments that lead to effective hiring practices.

Below are suggestions for mitigating unconscious bias in the interview process.

Avoid A.I.

Artificial Intelligence can be helpful; though it often relies on past data to make predictions.  If your existing workforce is not diverse and your hiring practices contain bias, you may not break the cycle.

Avoid unstructured interview questions.

Questions should elicit answers that are qualitative, allowing you to draw conclusions-based facts.

Invite Diverse Team Members to interview

Diversity in your recruitment team is a surefire way to get diversity in your workforce. Each interviewer will have their own mental model – our deeply held beliefs about how the world works – so will approach the interview from a different perspective. This will help prevent bias blind spots.

Leverage Pre-Hire Assessments

Realistic and job-relevant pre-hire assessments are proven to help companies screen candidates more effectively and fairly than any CV or resume based approach.

Share Blind Resumes

Remove details that could lead to bias, including names, town/city, pictures, hobbies, and interests.  

If you are interested in learning more or seek help uncovering and implementing fair hire practices; contact us at Transformative Visions.