8 Ways You Can Overcome Being a Biased Recruiter

By Adela Belin - Mar. 6, 2019
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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Adela Belin – Head of Digital Marketing at Writers Per Hour. Her opinions are her own.

“Biased? Me? Not at all” – that’s how most hiring managers and business owners react when told about the rampant hiring bias that exists. While we would all like to think that we are impartial and screen candidates without an iota of bias, truth is that unconscious bias is a reality and there is no denying that. What’s important is becoming aware of our biases so we can recognize and eliminate them when they crop up.

Whether it’s judging someone purely on the basis of their university, having preconceived notions due to the gaps on their resume or even being inclined towards a candidate just because they remind you of your younger self – all these cases (and more!) are considered to be biases and need to be avoided at all costs.  

Taking decisions driven by biases has a negative impact on hiring. You end up recruiting the same kind of people while restricting new perspectives and not creating a diverse workforce.

It’s important to take informed decisions and rely on a more holistic selection process in order to hire the right employees. How do you do that? Here are 8 ways to overcome biases in your recruitment process.

1. Look inwards

Before you point fingers at others, look inwards and come to terms with your own biases first.

Unconscious biases are a product of our experiences, existing stereotypes and societal norms. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. All of us have some sort of bias which impacts our attitude, perspective and decision-making.

The only way to overcome our biases is by challenging our beliefs and consciously bringing about a change in our perspective. Every time you meet a candidate or even come across a resume – challenge the first thoughts that appear in your head.  

Look at your past hiring record – do you see any trends? Do you always end up hiring the same kind of people or people from the same gender, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation? Now, that’s a pattern you need to break.

Acknowledge your biases – that is the first step to overcome them.

2. Re-evaluate job descriptions

Building an inclusive work culture begins with creating an inclusive job description because that is what forms the first impression potential employees have of your company.

Many companies make the mistake of using gendered language that make women feel excluded. In fact, a study revealed that women refrain from applying to jobs with descriptions that contained masculine words. Hence, use neutral words to make your job descriptions inclusive and effective. Even small aspects like ensuring you use inclusive pronouns instead of only ‘he’ or ‘she’ makes a huge difference.

While stating the perks, consider those that appeal to a wide section of people of all genders, races and ages. Finally, avoid being too stringent about mentioning the ‘mandatory requirements’ in the job description as that just narrows your hiring pool.

It’s a good idea to be clear about how your company promotes diversity as it is sure to leave a positive impression.

3. Follow a standard process

Yes, every candidate is unique and is bound to respond differently. The best way to evaluate them in a fair manner is to follow a standardized interview process. That way, everyone is asked the same questions and you end up judging them on the same parameters. Sounds fair, isn’t it?

Every position you hire for should have an interview structure in place which needs to include the questions the candidates will be asked through all the hiring stages. Not only does it save you time but also makes for a more holistic and unbiased hiring process.

Always remember to take notes while interviewing instead of purely relying on your “feelings” about a candidate or what you perceived their answers to be.

4. Encourage dialogue

Interviews are a two-way street. Instead of solely driving the conversation, you must also ask the right questions to know candidates better and give them the scope to ask you questions as well. Both the parties should derive value from the interview. Remember, it’s an interview, not an interrogation.

Enter the interview with an open slate and form objective opinions in the process. A one-sided conversation will not give you any interesting insight into the candidate’s personality and can negatively influence your hiring decision.

5. Have a diverse panel

There is a lot one can say about how diverse your company culture is by just looking at the interview panel.

An interview panel consisting of men and women from different backgrounds and ages denotes diversity and also gives positive signals to the potential employee. This eliminates unconscious bias and brings varied perspectives to the table which is essential in making an unbiased decision.

Don’t just include people for the sake of showing diversity. Ensure each of them brings something unique and adds value to the decision-making process.

6. Be objective

How objective is your hiring process? What do you base your decisions on? – you must evaluate these parameters with your fellow interviewers before you select the right candidate for the role.

It’s a good idea to maintain a criteria list and judge every candidate on the same. The assessment list can include factors such as their educational background, past work experience, technical knowledge, skills and personality. You can also ask them to solve situational problems on the spot to gauge how well suited they are for the role.

An interview scorecard can be maintained wherein every interviewer can score the candidate basis the various parameters and you can all objectively come to a consensus, thereby leaving no space for any kind of bias and avoiding hiring people only on the basis of “culture fit”.

7. Get feedback

No process should be set in stone because there is always scope for improvement. After having conducted multiple interviews, it is bound to develop blind spots. Hence, it’s essential to get feedback on your recruitment process and be open to making improvements.

How do you achieve that? You can set up a candidate experience survey where every candidate can share their experience and give feedback on the entire process right from the job description to the personal interview stage. You can also take feedback from your employees and get their opinion on the hiring process.

8. Adopt blind recruitment

There has been a lot of debate surrounding blind recruitment and its effectiveness in removing hiring bias. What is blind recruitment? It refers to a hiring process which involves removing the candidate’s name, age, sex, location, education and background. By doing this, this process aims to only assess candidates purely on the basis of their experience and skills.

While the biggest advantage of blind recruitment is that it leaves no scope for bias, there are drawbacks too and it does not always prove to be effective. Hence, it is recommended to approach ‘blind recruitment’ with a pinch of salt. Companies can adopt blind recruitment while reviewing resumes in the early stages after which they can continue with the normal process after having shortlisted the candidates.

Adela Belin is the Head of Digital Marketing at Writers Per Hour. She creates content surrounding marketing with a focus on social media and digital marketing.


Adela Belin

Adela Belin is the Head of Digital Marketing at Writers Per Hour. She creates content surrounding marketing with a focus on social media and digital marketing.

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