How to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting candidates

Over the past couple of years, many seismic changes have taken place that have not only changed how we work, but also the way in which we think about the people we hire. Diversifying your workforce has been important for a long time, and yet now it is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. If you look around your business and see people who all seem similar, are you really getting the best variety of ideas, life experiences, and input? Is unconscious bias at work during your recruitment process? Here, we take a look at what unconscious bias means for your business and how to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting candidates.

What is unconscious bias?

Before exploring how you can overturn unconscious bias in your recruitment process, you must first fully understand what we mean when we talk about this sensitive subject. No one likes to think of themselves as holding biases or prejudices that might keep them from making the right decisions, especially when it comes to what candidates might be best for your company.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to the associations we have that are not within our awareness. We do not consciously decide to hold these biases, they are built through our upbringing, the kind of media we consume, our own life experiences, and the people we associate with. These biases then dictate how we relate to others, and can cause us to make assumptions or judgements too quickly, without pausing to think more deeply.

As you can imagine, the cost of this to the hiring process, and to the employees who end up working in your company, can be extremely high. So how can we avoid it?

Accept bias in yourself and others

The first and most uncomfortable step is accepting that unconscious bias exists with data that proves it – and this means looking at yourself and those around you with a keener eye. You might not be able to locate your biases, but you have to know that they exist so that you can understand when you are making assumptions based on them. This is an ongoing process – the work is never done!

Make diversity a priority

Diversity should be a priority for your workplace, at every level – not just in staff training, which can have mixed results . The best way to begin to truly disrupt unconscious bias is to have a diverse workforce at every level. It is important for managers and higher up members of your organisation to be diverse and visible, which not only allows you to have more informed discussions on subjects such as recruitment, but also encourages people from different backgrounds to apply for positions with your company, widening your talent pool considerably.

Have a strong structure

A structured interview is an important part of removing unconscious biases from your recruitment process. By asking candidates the same questions and not straying too much off track, you can get a clearer view to compare them and you are less likely to make a choice based on first impressions only.

You should also have a good structure before the interview begins, which should involve a variety of different voices to help you to design the best and most inclusive recruitment process possible.

Recruiting in a bubble, with only one or two people responsible for the process, can be where you run into some considerable issues with unconscious bias.

Think outside of skills

While you might be tempted to recruit based solely on the skills needed for the job, this could mean you are only getting one kind of applicant, or those from a similar educational and employment background. Skills are important, but they are also one of the easiest things to train in a role – look instead at the kind of person who will fit the role well. What are the behavioural needs of the role?

By recruiting candidates who are a good fit for the values of your company, you loosen the hold that education and experience has over your hiring process – and accept that a good fit is perhaps the most important thing of all.

Look beyond recruitment

The truth is that while the recruitment process and the employees you end up hiring often illuminate the presence of unconscious bias, this is not the only stage you should be looking at. Instead, take a look at the way you advertise positions and where – are you recruiting from a small pool because of this? Are your applications inaccessible to some candidates, or do you have clearly available accommodations in place?

As well as this, you should be examining the existence and impact of inherent biases in your organisation when it comes to existing employees, such as your maternity vs paternity allowances.

How to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting candidates

With more knowledge of how to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting candidates, you truly can look forward to a better future for your company. Hiring a diverse and dynamic workforce is possible, and could be the key to longevity as we continue to move forward – and getting outside input could help you.

If you want more support with sourcing the best candidates for your roles, CNA International can help. With over 20 offices worldwide, we are dedicated to helping you to find the best people, with our unique CABS (Candidate Aspiration Based Search) method ensuring we always locate the best fit.

We are dedicated to bringing a high-level service to clients all around the world, finding the right candidates for senior positions in a range of industries, from Manufacturing and Financial Services to Healthcare, IT and more. If you would be interested in finding out more about how we could help your business or your own career, then please contact us to begin a conversation.

Leave a comment