June 4, 2020
Hiring 19 February 2020
How to Overcome Bias when Hiring
Dillon Chen

“Diversity in the Workplace” has become an often-heard phrase commonly passed around in companies across all industries. There are many reasons why a diverse company is arguably stronger than its less diverse counterpart. 

Being able to hire candidates from diverse cultures, life experiences and backgrounds can open the door to new and innovative ideas. Hiring from diverse talent pools assures that companies are hiring candidates qualified and best suited for their roles allowing for company growth. Diverse companies are better able to adapt to changes in the industry and even expand to new markets. 

There are many stories and examples of diverse companies succeeding, whereas un-diverse companies may struggle or even face lawsuits. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed that 

"increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance (19% higher revenues due to innovation)."

This is supported in a quote from Chris Chancey of Amplio Recruiting

“Organizations with employees from different ethnic backgrounds and diverse professional experiences… perform better and are more profitable. Diversity also helps to strengthen the employer brand, allowing organizations to attract and retain top talent in a highly competitive job market.”

Many high-level executives, managers, and HR specialists are working to push this diversity initiative through to their companies with varying levels of success. In this article, we’ll be going over how to improve company diversity by going straight to the root of the problem: Mitigating Bias in Hiring.


What to look for in Candidates when hiring?

In a survey done by ProSky, we asked for the 3 most important factors in candidates when hiring... The results were:

Technical skills came in as the number one most important factor, followed by Soft skills as the next, then Cultural Fit and Personality tied for third place. It should be noted that 0% of our survey respondents considered Racial Background, Gender, Age, or Appearance as important factors when hiring. 

If race, gender, age, and appearance are rated as a non-priority on the list of important factors, why does it so often appear that many hiring decisions are made to exclude candidates with these qualities if they aren't "ideal"? These attributes are an unchangeable, yet vital part of having a diverse workforce. In order to improve company diversity, we must first overcome the associated biases.

What Is Bias and How Does It Affect Hiring?

Bias is often a snap decision, one which happens before you’re even aware a decision has been made. These snap decisions can be based on stereotypes or discriminations commonly believed to be true, or even personal opinion/ past experiences. According to the dictionary definition, 

“Bias is inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.” 

Society tends to favor those that are more extroverted, those who are younger and those who are perceived to be more competent based on their race. Though much of the bias is subconscious, the facts are hard to ignore.

For example, in the resume review process, many studies have shown that people with ethnic names need to send out more resumes before they get a callback, and that resumes with female names are rated lower than ones with male names when all other things on a resume are equal.

“It is in our unconscious second nature to prefer people that share similarities and reject people with characteristics that we are unfamiliar with.” 

Hiring managers and recruiters fall prey to their own subconscious biases about factors such as physical attractiveness, height, weight, and charisma. When this happens during the hiring process, these decisions can cause hiring managers to overlook the most qualified and best-suited candidates for the job.

Ways to Mitigate Bias

“Growing a diverse workforce doesn’t just happen - it is deliberate.”

One great way to decrease hiring biases is through the use of Software and AI. Using diversity recruiting software to prioritize candidates from females or minority groups can help you diversify your hiring pool. You can also use software that has bias protection search functionality that hides demographic information such as gender, name, age, etc. 

According to another survey done by ProSky, these are some other methods that companies have put in place and found to be effective at helping to decrease bias during hiring:

Deborah Woolridge, HR practitioner and Career Coach, has the following suggestions to further decrease bias in hiring and promotion:

a. Create awareness about what bias is - define what it looks like, its impact, etc.

b. Educate, train, and set expectations for employees and management staff.

c. Establish a company value system that sets an expectation of being a bias-free organization.

d. Address biases with employees where found at all levels and set expectations.

e. Create a bias sensitivity training program that is provided to new hires as part of their onboarding program. 

It should also be noted that Performance-Based Hiring can play a big part in mitigating hiring biases. Recruiting candidates based on demonstrated skills and expertise instead of traditional accreditation and resume-based skill assertion can also improve the overall quality of a diverse employee base. 

By adding performance-based evaluations into the hiring process for your company, it allows you to get a more accurate idea for what candidates can do and hire them based on their skills and qualifications. Putting candidates through projects or challenges and measuring their performance should be a part of every hiring evaluation. This way, you're not only hiring a diverse candidate, but you're also hiring the most qualified candidate and you have the performance data to back it up.


Conclusion

Diverse hiring should never be done just because the company needs to hit a "diversity quota", but because the candidate being hired truly earned the position. While recruiting can and should be done from diverse talent pools, hiring qualified people from within those diverse candidates assures that companies hire the person best suited for their roles allowing for company growth.

Having a diverse and inclusive company culture should be the foundation for a more accepting and happy workplace with better teamwork. The "Inclusion" part is what is really important. Inclusion is about giving everyone a voice by collecting and using their ideas to grow the company.

Once you have employees from diverse backgrounds and have access to their different experiences and skills, inclusion will make sure you actually use those skills to come up with creative ideas and approaches to problems as well as diverse ways to execute on ideas.

Ultimately, when it comes to bias, no one says it better than Mike Cohen of Wayne Technologies:

“Stop it! Just stop doing it! Challenge yourself and allow others to challenge your mental preconceived notions.”

Diversity boils down to understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between ALL people, including those of different:

  • Races

  • Ethnicities

  • Genders

  • Ages

  • Cultures

  • Religions

  • Disabilities

  • Sexual orientations. 

  • Education Levels

  • Personalities

  • Skillsets

  • Experiences

  • Knowledge bases. 

Start building a stronger and more diverse company today by mitigating bias during the recruiting/hiring process before it even becomes a problem! Talk to one of our specialists to see how ProSky can help.