Unconscious bias in the hiring process

Published by Elaine Gallagher on

Unconscious bias in the hiring process

Table of contents

Every company wants to hire the best available talent no matter their background, but unconscious bias could get in the way.

Unconscious bias is when social stereotypes unconsciously affect your way of thinking and your actions. These social stereotypes might involve gender, race, background and more. In unconscious bias, these biases go unnoticed by a person, and are unintentional. 

Unconscious bias in your organisation can undermine efforts to build an open and inclusive workplace. This can result in a struggle to hire diverse teams, and efforts to improve workplace inclusion will be limited.

Research shows that a diverse workforce is more productive and a key factor in many successful businesses. Unfortunately, unconscious bias often prevents you from having a diverse workforce. The effects of unconscious bias can start as early as the hiring process, and have a negative impact moving forward.

Ultimately, unconscious bias needs to be understood and taken into consideration during the hiring process, to raise awareness of it. It is key to instil a positive workplace precedent for the future, and avoid missing out on talented recruits. So, what should you do?

Assess your hiring process

Unconscious bias often becomes unintentionally codified in hiring processes. To avoid it, you need to look at all aspects of your recruitment, interviewing and onboarding. 

Firstly, begin thinking about where you advertise and what words you use to describe the role in the job specification. Your job advertisement is your first impression. Avoid starting on the wrong foot. 

Your interviewer also plays a key role in the results of your hiring process. Consider what questions they are asking, and how they are evaluating candidates.

Putting a focus on reducing hiring bias will help you recruit the best possible talent. 

Standardise interviews 

Eliminating hiring bias means taking a more objective approach to interviewing. One way to do this is to standardise the process. You should create structured interviews where candidates are asked the same set of questions that focus on factors that directly impact job performance.

This structure helps minimise bias by taking out subjective factors such as ability or appearance. Be deliberate in your process and define what qualifies an excellent fit.

Consider ways of testing

Setting a pre-interview task is a great way to gain a better understanding of a candidate’s abilities, without being biased. The task should be the same for all candidates. The task should allow you to get a feel for their individual creativity, ability, and personality.

This allows you to judge them based on how they have performed and what they can bring to the business. 


Educate your team

A culture of unconscious bias can infiltrate your company. It can impact everything from company culture to how you interact with customers. 

Removing unconscious bias from the hiring process forms a culture of diversity and inclusion. The process also improves staff retention.

There is a lot of talk about conscious inclusion as the opposite of unconscious bias. Conscious inclusion requires employees to think proactively about their opinions and resulting behaviours. The key is to prevent their opinions or beliefs from affecting their decisions.

However, conscious inclusion can only happen when businesses take concrete actions to change their processes to root out unconscious biases. You need to consciously change the way your team thinks and acts.

Educating and training your team is a critical first step. Hold internal training about unconscious bias, explaining what it is and how to develop processes that diminish its impact.

Making them aware of these issues will make them better at their job. It will allow you to create a more equal and fair company culture which will also enhance your hiring process


Change how you onboard

An important part of onboarding is connecting a new starter with their colleagues. This includes getting to know their manager and team. You might have a ‘buddy system’ where a new starter has a designated colleague for their workday questions. These working relationships aren’t exempt from unconscious bias.

Consider implementing an onboarding process that includes digital experiences. Digital experiences are an interactive custom training tool. This training can be consistent across specific roles, and amended depending on feedback. 

As a result, your onboarding process is less likely to be affected by unconscious bias. Your teams are trained equally, and given the best chance to get started with your company.

At BAD, we build custom digital experiences and training to help companies change people’s behaviour to create a diverse, inclusive, and talented workforce. Our digital tools can help you shape your employees’ way of thinking and minimise the effect of unconscious bias. Get in touch with us today.

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