3 Ways to Mitigate the Effects of Bias in Recruitment

November 23, 2021 | Bryan Barajas

The resurgence of the civil rights movement in 2020 sparked conversations about creating meaningful change for historically marginalized communities — including an imperative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the corporate sector. The most significant barrier to this objective is tough to overcome since it’s a product of the human mind.

Unconscious bias leads those in power to make decisions that favor certain groups over others, usually perpetuating larger power structures. But as HR and talent acquisition professionals, we’re obligated to interrupt our personal biases to make fair and equitable hiring decisions.

Here are three best practices to interrupt the effects of unconscious bias in your recruiting processes.


Update Job Descriptions With Objective Criteria

The best way to avoid the effects of bias is by clearly laying out job-relevant criteria to direct decision-making. Without clear criteria related to the job, recruiters and hiring managers are more likely to fall back on their personal biases and preferences when making hiring decisions.

“Transparency and having clear commitments to how they assess candidates is something that every company is struggling with, regardless of industry, when it comes to bias,” says Rachel Orston, Chief Customer Officer at SmartRecruiters.

Yet, according to SmartRecruiters’ State of Diversity Hiring report, only 31% of companies have assessed high-performing employees in the role to benchmark predictors of success. Objectively identifying the right skills, competencies and behaviors leads to the best performance outcomes. These qualities can be measured objectively in your selection processes to minimize bias in recruitment.


Implement Assessments and Scorecards

Once you’ve identified precisely what leads to high performance in a role, you can use assessments to rank candidates against those requirements. Since assessments measure traits and aptitudes, regardless of the candidate’s education or experience, candidates with less formal qualifications can still rise to the top of the applicant pool — opening up more opportunities for candidates from historically marginalized groups.

With transparent scorecards in place, it’s easy to see who’s most qualified without permitting our biases to affect our decision-making. “Without transparency and consistency in the process, bias is going to creep in,” Orston says.

Laying a transparent, consistent framework is especially important when candidates are passed from recruiters to hiring managers. By giving final decision-makers the right tools, recruiters can increase objectivity and minimize bias in the last stages of the hiring process.


Train Hiring Managers to Conduct Standardized Interviews

Hiring managers typically aren’t trained on recruitment and interview best practices, so the interview stage is especially vulnerable to bias. “Hiring managers who are unprepared think that they can just have a conversation, and that leads them to ask questions that have nothing to do with whether or not someone can do the job,” says Anna Papalia, founder and CEO at Shift Profile. “Teach hiring managers to ask specific questions that are tied to competencies that are required for the job.”

If the interview veers off-track, it’s harder to review what hiring managers learn in an objective light. Standardized questions can keep interviews on track and prevent off-script questions that could reveal information managers don’t need to know, such as marital status or number of children.

Hiring managers need to learn to approach interviews as tests, Papalia says, and to provide a consistent experience across all candidates for the best, most objective results. Help hiring managers stay laser-focused on objective, job-relevant criteria so they can make the best selection decisions.

By implementing these best practices, you can minimize the effects of bias in your company’s recruiting process. Embracing objectivity and incorporating scorecards, assessments, and standardized interview questions keeps recruiters and hiring managers focused on what matters: hiring the best person with the right traits to perform the job.

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