We are bombarded with 11 million pieces of information at any one time, but our brains can only process 40.
This means 99.999999996% of our thinking happens unconsciously. So, in order to handle it all our brains have to take shortcuts, and it’s these shortcuts that lead to unconscious bias.
Now, the goal of every recruiter and hiring manager is to identify and hire the best employees possible. But, sometimes the unconscious biases lodged in our brains can, and often do, influence hiring decisions.
TYPES OF UNCONSCIOUS BIAS
The first step to avoiding unconscious bias is to be aware of the different ways that our brains can influence our decision making so we learn to recognize how these attitudes are expressed in our behaviour, and start to correct it.
So, here is are the 7 different types of unconscious bias are brains are subject to…
Affinity Bias makes us more likely to hire people who we feel are similar to us. So, for example we might be more likely to hire someone who went to the same school as us, or someone who grew up in the same town as us, or even someone who just reminds us of someone we like.
In fact, a 2018 study showed that it’s extremely likely that employees report to managers of the same ethnicity and gender.
When we think of our own actions, we tend to think that that our achievements are a direct result of our merits as people, and that our failings were due to some external factor that adversely affected us, and so prevented us from performing to our full potential.
However, when we review other people’s actions, we tend to think the opposite is true. In recruitment this means that often we can focus too much on a candidate’s fauts and mentally minimise their achievements.
Conformity bias happens when you skew your own views to agree with a group. So, for example, if the majority of the group shares an opinion about a candidate, you usually decide to agree with them even if your original opinion differed.
Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for information that backs up our preconceived opinions. After all, we all want be proved right all time! This can lead to selective observation so you overlook information that differs to what you already believe.
The halo effect occurs when you perceive one piece of really positive piece of information about a person and then this skews your perception of everything else.
So, for example, if we see that a candidate won a really prestigious award this might cause us to look on all of their other achievements more favourably.
This is the opposite of the halo effect. So we pick one thing we don’t like about a person and then apply this negative mindset to everything else.
HOW TO COMBAT UNCONSCIOUS BIAS
Here’s your checklist to help you avoid unconscious bias during the hiring process.
ENSURE YOUR JOB ADS USE NEUTRAL LANGUAGE
Your job ads might be shrinking your talent pool without you even noticing. This is because certain words and phrases can deter women and minorities from applying.
Job ads that look for “confident, independent leaders” would be more likely to attract male applicants. Whereas an advert asking for candidates who “can work in a supportive and collaborative environment” would be more likely to attract female candidates.
There are plenty of free tools out there that can show you where your job ads might contain gendered language or problematic phrases so you can remove them.
ASK CANDIDATES TO DO A WORK SAMPLE TEST
Ask prospective candidates to try out some of the real work they’ll be doing on the job. This will not only help you compare candidates without being influenced by your preconceptions but there is also evidence that tests like this are a good indicator of future job performance.
CONVERT SUBJECTIVE DATA INTO NUMERICAL SCORING
Often our responses to candidates can be emotional, so instead use a numerical ranking system when considering more emotional hiring factors such as likeability and cultural fit.
REVIEW CVS BLIND
Back in 2003, researchers published a study called “Are Emily & Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” They sent out identical CVs to employers and some had typically white names on them, and the others had typically black names.
They found that the CVs with white names on had a call back rate of 9.65%, whereas the same CV with black names only had a 6.45% call back rate.
That’s why it’s so important to review CVs without any identifying markers, so you can focus on the candidate’s achievements.
CONDUCT STANDARDIZED INTERVIEWS
Giving interviews in which each candidate applying for the role are given the same set of questions minimizes bias and, if you make sure this questions directly align to the job description, they can also help you focus the interview on the skills that the candidate will need in the job.
FOCUS ON COLLECTING INFORMATION, NOT MAKING THE DECISION
When you’re conducting an interview, you can avoid making hasty or instinctive judgements by re-framing the job interview as more of a data-gathering exercise as opposed to a decision making session.
You should use the insights that you get from the interview as well as the insights from their CV, and their sample test results.
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