Having preconceived opinions of others is innately human, but it's important not to allow those ideas to influence judgment, especially when conducting interviews. Not only can ignoring unconscious bias lead to missing out on an exceptional new hire, but it crosses an ethical -- and potentially even a legal -- line.
Reducing hiring bias during the interview process takes careful preparation and a willingness to acknowledge common missteps. Read on to learn about seven ways you can reduce hiring bias from the recruitment process.
1. Build Awareness Around Unconscious Bias
Evaluators can't reduce bias if they're not aware of what it is and when it occurs. Prepare interviewers by providing them with education or training on the matter. Awareness training can be a great way to initiate a dialogue around common hidden biases we hold, help employees understand the larger systems in place that hinder equality, and help them identify their own prejudice.
But, it shouldn't stop there. It takes action to create a more equitable and fair recruitment process, like the additional steps below. Building awareness and seeking to understand is only the first step toward successfully mitigating hiring bias.
2. Diversify Your Interview Panels
Creating a varied team of interviewers is a strong second step toward reducing bias in the hiring process. Diverse backgrounds and experiences bring forth new perspectives. In a mixed panel, each interviewer may draw out and identify different traits in the candidate. Build a panel that consists of employees of varying experience levels, backgrounds, and identities.
If is one of your organization's goals, diversifying your interview panel is a must. An interview gives candidates a preliminary glimpse into the culture of the organization. You're more likely to attract diverse applicants if they can see themselves represented in your organization, especially during the hiring process.
3. Remove Biased Language from Job Descriptions
There are a few quick and simple, yet powerful ways to remove bias from the recruitment process, starting with the job description. The job rec is typically the first impression a candidate has of an organization.
To encourage diverse candidates to apply for the role, use neutral language. A common mistake is to recycle past job descriptions, which may be outdated. Update all descriptions and edit from a place of objectivity and inclusivity.
4. Blind Screening
Blind screening is a technique that anonymizes information about a candidate that may lead to bias. This could include removing the candidate's name or address from their resume -- information that could influence your ideas about them. Characteristics like location or gender don't correlate to skills or job performance, so they aren't relevant to the hiring process. Have an employee parse resumes and remove personal information before evaluations begin.
5. Structured interview process
Unstructured interviews can lead to unfair and inaccurate comparisons of candidates. The easiest way to objectively evaluate a candidate is to create and follow a standardized interview process. Building an unbiased process takes a little upfront work but leads to fairer outcomes.
Review each stage of the recruitment timeline, from the to the final interview. Prepare questions for your candidates in advance, and during the interview, be sure each applicant is asked the same questions and is offered the same amount of time to answer them.
Train interviewers to diligently document candidate responses. Preparing a score sheet template with categories and even specific questions can help the evaluator remain focused and impartial. Referring back to notes takes the unreliability – and bias -- of memory out of the equation.
Data doesn't lie. Consider implementing a skills assessment during the interview process to validate your applicant's knowledge and experience. Evaluations will likely vary depending on the role, but keep the process structured and unbiased by administering the same assessment to each applicant applying for the position.
The "halo effect" occurs when evaluators are influenced by their previous positive judgments of personality or performance. An interviewer may see a well-dressed or good-looking individual and assume they are a good person overall. Or, if a candidate answers a question with a response favorable to the interviewer, they may look past other shortcomings.
The inverse is true too, and it's known as the "horn effect." A negative first impression can influence one's perception of an individual for the worse.
This cognitive bias based on a single trait can drastically influence the way you view a candidate. If these biases are not in check, they can lead to the dismissal or advancement of a candidate along the recruitment process for the wrong reasons. To avoid the halo or horn effect from influencing decisions, consider creating a weighted system for evaluating candidates. Set and attribute scores for each component of the interview, from attire and presentation to skill assessment and experience.
Understanding and addressing unconscious bias takes time and continuous effort. Get your team involved and follow the steps above to reduce hiring bias throughout your recruitment process. Making a purposeful and conscious effort to eliminate partiality can help you find the most ideal and best-fit candidates for your organization.