How To Reduce Unconscious Bias During the Hiring Process


While we’d all like to think the hiring process has become less biased over the last few decades, the data reveals we still have a long way to go in establishing a fair and unbiased hiring process. Many times, when an unfair hiring process plays out, the bias involved occurs without a person realizing their bias, hence the use of an “unconscious bias” often seen in the recruiting industry.

A bias hiring process can be very costly for a company because it deters a company’s ability to make the best hire. There is a long list of advantages to having a diverse workforce, therefore when a hiring process is biased, it reduces the chance of hiring diverse candidates. Additionally, a flawed and biased hiring process can carry significant legal consequences, as it violates the Civil Rights Act.

While there is a no Magic Bullet for eliminating unconscious bias from your hiring process, there are some steps to help.

Educate Your Staff on Unconscious Bias

For starters, you will need to seek an understanding of how unconscious bias occurs. Experts agree that no person is entirely immune to bias. At best, a person can demonstrate incredibly low levels of bias. The first step to defeating the unconscious bias is to accept that it exists. Then the following steps can be taken to improve behavior through education. Educating your colleagues on the benefits of diversity and fair hiring processes should be an organizational goal for your company. When every employee can recognize a problem, it will be easier to have an open conversation and brainstorm solutions together.

Use Gender-Inclusive Language

The words a business writes within a job description will determine the type of candidates that apply. Adopting a gender-inclusive language will invite a more balanced applicant pool and reduce unconscious bias.

Research suggests using words like “competitive” or “determined” will leave you short on female candidates. However, by replacing them with the terms “collaborative” or “cooperative” will leave you with drive a more balanced applicant pool. The careers section of your website should also possess a gender-inclusive language to appeal to all individuals interested in applying.

There are some excellent tools to utilize when improving the inclusivity of your language. A few examples would be Textio and IBM Watson.

Review Resumes Blindly

Another way to level the playing field is to remove names and other identifying information from resumes and application materials. During the screening phase, you want to only evaluate each candidates’ specific skills and qualifications.

Taking out the identifying information during this stage removes the possibility of unconscious bias trickling into the analysis. Most of the identifying information that is typically included on a resume can trigger unfavorable, albeit unconscious, responses from the person reviewing it.

Interview Structure

When sitting down to talk with candidates, it’s essential to have a strategy. Using a more conversational, off-the-cuff structure for interviews will leave the door wide open for bias. Instead, make sure you are asking the same questions no matter who walks in to meet with you. That doesn’t mean that your questions need to be stiff and dull. However, you want to make sure that you’re grading candidates with the same scoring rubric and that starts with giving them the same set of questions.

Another option for the interview process is to test workplace skills. Having candidates perform tasks that they will be expected to do on the job will give a hiring manager valuable insight. A work sample provides another option to judge someone’s ability over their demographics.

Stay Consistent

It can be challenging for a company to change existing processes, but once a hiring process has removed the unconscious bias, maintenance is simple Staying consistent requires continued education on unconscious bias, instead of a one-off seminar once a year. By keeping the issue top of mind for your employees, you’ll ensure that the progress you make continues.

As businesses and employees become more aware of their unconscious bias and take steps to prevent it, improvement will take place, thus the company culture and diversity will improve. By adopting the strategies mentioned above, you increase the ability to hire the best candidate and ensure your hiring process is free of bias.

Filed under: Business Development, Crelate Updates, Recruiting Tips