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How to Hire Without Bias

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How to Hire Without Bias

Are you guilty of hiring with bias?

Human beings find it incredibly easy to judge one another. We do it everyday. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes unconsciously.

If you’ve ever watched the film Pretty woman, you’ll know exactly what I mean. In the movie, a sales assistant looks at Julia Roberts’ character, Vivienne, and instantly assumes she can’t afford to shop in the store. Needless to say, the store assistant was wrong.

Recruitment can mirror this analogy time and time again across different situations within the hiring process. But, it’s up to you, the interviewer, to fight this natural reaction of subconscious judgement and view the situation impartially.

The 5 Types of Bias

There are 5 different types of bias that normally take place in recruitment:

  • Attribution bias - when you make an assumption about a person's intentions based on a previous interaction you have had with them

  • Affinity bias - Probably the most common type is when we prefer to hire somebody because they have similar interests or attributes to ourselves

  • Confirmation bias - When you make assumptions about someone based on your beliefs or previous experiences. For example, assuming someone has no taste in clothes just because they shop somewhere you wouldn’t

  • Halo and horns bias - similar to attribution bias, you continuously favour somebody because you share similarities. Or, you may find them unfavourable to you, as you don’t share similarities with a candidate that another candidate may have.

  • Contrast effect - we see this a lot in recruitment, this is where one, mostly the first, candidate blows you out of the water and therefore sets an unrealistic benchmark for every candidate that follows. This can jade your judgement on other candidates even if they are equally suited to the role.

Making the right decision

I’m pretty sure all recruiters can hold our hands up and say we are guilty of doing this at one point or another. But it’s how we move on and learn from this that’s important.

It’s also important to remember that these changes can’t be achieved overnight. You can't suddenly un-learn the ability to judge people, that’s something that has been ingrained in us since birth.

But you can take these steps in order to slowly get there and sustain your new unbiased way of thinking.

Focus on the Cultural Requirements

Focus on the job’s behavioural needs instead of skills and success. And, no, that doesn’t mean putting someone underqualified for the job forward.

Don’t discount someone from the process because they didn’t go to university or have only ever worked in a particular sector previously etc. Unless it's a necessity to the job and can be backed up with a valid reason, it’s actually considered a form of unconscious bias and in some cases can infringe the equality act. 

Remember, skills can be taught, personality traits can’t!

Tweaking Your Hiring Process

Analyse and challenge the process at each stage. If you need to reject somebody you need to be able to give them valid feedback.

So don’t just accept, “they weren’t a team fit”. Why is it they weren’t a team fit?

Was it because they won’t be able to join in with the sports chat in the office or they don’t drink so they wouldn't come out for a pint on a Friday? If so this is attribution bias and you’re only hiring people who are carbon copies of the pre-existing team.

Structuring Your Hiring Process

Use a structured interview/hiring process. Yes this may make the process seem a bit longer but this guarantees a fair experience for all involved.

If you’re marking a candidate on a scoring system, this will help you compare true talent rather than remedial attributes that may make a certain candidate more appealing. I.e they support your football team or like your favourite restaurant.

Encouraging Diversity in the Workplace

Encourage diversity in management. Fun fact: if every person is represented at a high managerial level, that means that the people below will naturally start to become more diverse.

Check Yourself

Ask yourself, “Am I being biased?” Nothing is better than challenging your own way of thinking. If you can’t think of a reason why someone isn’t right for a role, it’s more than likely that you’re not sure because of a deep down bias you have.

I’d recommend trying to do this in your non-work life too. The next time you go to judge someone, take a moment to step back and think, “Why am I thinking this? Is this actually a problem or is it just my opinions and thoughts? Am I being fair?” 

If the answer is that your perspective is unjust or unfair, then it’s likely unconscious bias. I challenge you to challenge your bias. Because, the more open minded you are, the better opportunities will find you and the easier your job will be.

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