Human beings are complex and unique. Our personality is built on years of social conditioning, family influence, the ideas and notions of our peers, and of course, things we see and read in the media as well as thousands of other influences. This makes us who we are, but there is a lot of research to suggest that it can also lead to a series of unconscious reactions that may well affect our daily decisions. One of the most concerning and difficult of these is the issue of unconscious or unintentional bias in the recruitment process.
How do you avoid unconscious bias?
Quite naturally, most of us want to be even and measured in our approach to recruitment and every other part of our working life. We like to think that we are impartial, even-handed and fair. In fact, we make efforts to ensure this is the case, and legally we must adhere to recruitment practices that support a fair process. The problem with unconscious and unintentional bias is it is difficult, in fact almost impossible, to identify. This raises the question of how to deal with possible bias that may not even be there at all, and is impossible to recognise if it is.
- Anonymise where possible. The first part of any recruitment process will be about the initial selection of suitable candidates by skillset, experience and suitability of the application. If this is the case, then there is no real need at this stage for any identifying information to be in the initial mix.
- Standardised interviews make for a more reliable process. There is a danger in the unstructured approach to meeting potential candidates. A simple, clear, agreed structure to the interview process will reduce the opportunity for candidates and potential employers to make unconscious choices.
- Be aware of the attraction of personalities. We tend to gravitate towards people who mirror our personality or have particular personality traits that we admire. Being open and honest with yourself about this can really help focus the interview process. Recognising the potential for personality bias allows the panel to discard it, or allocate importance to it when making their selections.
- Reconsider job descriptions. Even seemingly small word changes can help make your job descriptions more inclusive. There is plenty of research to show that the descriptive language we use can influence the likelihood of someone applying for a job. Overly complex language use or too many gender-biased words, for example, can result in fewer people applying for a particular role.
- Use a gap and value approach. As a potential employer, apply the question ‘does this candidate fill a gap in my team and bring additional value’? That way, you are focused on what the person is bringing to the employment scenario, not the person themselves.
- Awareness is the majority of the battle. A proactive approach to recognising and eliminating unintentional bias in your recruitment process will do more to help reduce or eliminate it than anything else.
- Work with a recruitment partner. We are here to help, and sometimes an outside eye can see clearer than anyone inside the business. This is particularly true when it comes to areas such as the nuances of recruitment and contemporary practices.
A Good recruitment policy
Ensuring you have a good recruitment policy leads to a more diverse and efficient workforce. It makes sense, therefore, to do as much as possible to ensure that no form of bias enters the hiring process. By working in tandem with our clients, we ensure that you are hiring the best people for your team.