Reviewing job candidates’ applications and resumes without any unconscious bias is particularly hard to accomplish.
After all, it’s …unconscious: you don’t know you’re doing it/have it.
So how can we not do something when we’re not aware we’re even doing it?
That IS the question!
Yet we can do so. All it takes is awareness and effort.
And lots of practice.
First, how prevalent is unconscious bias in hiring?
The amount of bias is hard to quantify, of course, but one statistic says that 48 percent of HR managers have admitted that bias does affect their choice when it comes to choosing candidates.
This is almost half of HR managers who admitted to bias. Unconscious bias is probably higher because, as mentioned above, it is unconscious.
But let’s move on: How can we help ourselves review candidates – no matter what phase we are in during our reviewing process – without unconscious bias?
- Decide that you and anyone in your organization who hires candidates will make unbiased hiring an absolute priority.
In fact, it should be the absolute priority of your company as a whole, from the CEO/president on down. Company leadership should set goals and provide training and additional help to help ensure that HR professionals, division leaders, department managers, etc., all decide and agree that the company will work hard to ensure unconscious bias is no longer a factor when hiring.
- Provide unconscious bias training to those who make hiring decisions.
This is probably a “no duh!” statement, so let’s extend it a bit further: Consider also training everyone who works in the company on unconscious bias.
- Set diversity goals and monitor the company’s or your department’s progress.
Be bold and announce when you succeed – but also admit when you’re falling short. Those are the first steps for a company or department. Let’s move on to the personal steps.
Tips to help YOU avoid unconscious bias when you review job candidates
After all, ridding ourselves of unconscious bias is pretty much something only we as individuals can accomplish. Doing so will then improve a company’s ability to slow/stop unconscious bias in hiring because when everyone isn’t doing something, the company isn’t doing something.
- What IS a bias?
A bias comes into being because our brains continuously take in vast amounts of info, arranging it into mental associations so that we can make sense of the world.
Yet we often link these associations to labels such as “negative” or “positive,” and we then extend the labels to entire groups of people. Our biases can stem from factors such as age, height, weight, race, marital status, parental status, educational background, and so on.
We may believe we’re impartial, yet unconscious biases are an inherent part of being human. Still, we all have the capacity to overcome our biases via awareness and conscious efforts to lower them and/or remove them.
- Understand that you have them.
You do! There’s just no escaping it. After all, you were raised in a certain time, by certain parents, in a certain city/area. You had your own life to live with your own experiences, lessons and gifts.
Your life is like no one else’s – not even those of your siblings raised by the same parents in the same household – and your experiences and your biases will be different.
But your biases are there.
- Becoming the “boss” of your biases.
The first step in overcoming your own unconscious bias is becoming aware of it. When you think of someone over 40, for instance, is your very first thought “he/she is less knowledgeable about X, Y or Z”?
What other assumptions do you make? The over-40 applicant may not be willing to work more than 40 hours a week due to family obligations? She won’t like working for a younger manager?
Just becoming aware of your biases is a strong first step to ensuring they don’t impact your candidate evaluation.
Seek out diverse perspectives and experiences to counterbalance your own biases. Talk to co-workers, managers, HR pros and others to gain insight into different viewpoints. Actively join in discussions about bias to expand your understanding.
- Actively challenge those assumptions and broaden your perspective.
Whenever you catch yourself making snap judgments about a candidate based on their age, gender, race, or another characteristic, pause and question your assumptions. Remind yourself that everyone is unique and should be evaluated on their experience and skills alone.
In addition, review the processes and criteria you use when evaluating candidates. Make sure you use relevant and objective criteria that relate directly to the position’s requirements.
Steer clear of asking questions or making decisions that could see the candidate discussing personal information unrelated to the position. Doing so might inadvertently trigger bias.
Like anything new, it will take concentrated practice in challenging your assumptions and actively seeking diverse perspectives. Yet, over time, you’ll minimize – perhaps even eliminate – your unconscious bias as you evaluate job candidates, helping you make better-informed hiring decisions.