5 Ways to Eliminate Bias from Your Hiring Process


Being open to a variety of different views is a good thing, regardless of any rhetoric to the contrary. After all, in the United States alone, many of the biggest corporations today were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants, a group that practically ensures diversity. 

Differences in background make for differences in the thought process, and this is a clear asset when attacking big problems, whether in business, institutions like schools and governments, or society in general. In short, having more options beats having fewer options; diversity ensures there are more options available to meet challenges.

Unconscious biases can limit your applicant pool, and your hiring results.

Moreover, diversity is plain good business. Research by McKinsey consistently shows that companies with the greatest gender, racial, and ethnic diversity perform better than companies that are more homogenous.

McKinsey’s findings are impressive. In the US, every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity among senior executives increases earnings by 0.8 percent. In the United Kingdom, every 10 percent increase in gender diversity among senior executives raises earnings by 3.5 percent. Therefore, it makes sense to try to eliminate bias from online recruiting efforts. Here are five ways companies can do that. 

1. Limit Adjectives in Job Descriptions to Open Up the Hiring Pool

The more adjectives in an online recruiting ad, the more likely the ad is to contain subtle gender bias. For example, adjectives like “dominant” are unconsciously associated with masculinity, while adjectives like “committed” are unconsciously associated with femininity. Purging gendered language from online recruiting ads makes sense, as does limiting adjectives describing the ideal applicant. The more adjectives describe the imagined candidate, the more likely gendered language is to creep into the ad. Ensure your ads reach out equally to men and women and you reach a larger talent pool. 

2. Ensure Only “Name-Blind” Applications Are Considered

Much as everyone may be loath to admit it, names carry connotations, and those can pique underlying biases of hiring managers. In 2015, the UK government decided to avoid these biases by having the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) consider student applications with attached names erased. Companies that use online recruiting can do the same thing. Indeed, many Australian companies have taken steps to blank out other details like age and gender from job applications. Some have also removed school and geographic names as well, to further avoid conscious or unconscious biases in hiring. 

3. Consider Using Video Interviewing

Video interviews with multiple participants can help counteract hiring bias.

While video interviewing may seem to contradict the anonymizing aspects of the online recruiting process, it can actually help reduce hiring biases. The reasoning is that video interviews are viewed by multiple people, and the presence of multiple people can act as a check-and-balance to inherent biases. While video interviewing gives indications about a job candidate’s attractiveness, accent, race, age, and other characteristics, companies can train and monitor interviewers to focus only on criteria relevant to the job being filled. Video interviews can also be far more cost-effective than transporting job candidates for in-person interviews, so you can interview more extensively. 

4. Allow Technology to Help 

Online recruiting already benefits from technology, and many companies use computer algorithms to narrow down the applicant pool. Researchers are busy developing artificial intelligence (AI) applications that can sift through applicants, blind to gender, race, and other potentially biasing factors, and focusing only on qualifications. An app called Joonko is an AI-powered diversity coach designed to root out workplace bias, and another called Blendoor hides a candidate’s name, age, photo, and other information so that employers only focus on qualifications for a job. 

5. Make Hiring a Structured, Defined Process

It is only human for hiring managers to listen to gut feelings when evaluating job candidates, but this influences them to hire people like themselves, with whom they get along easily. This type of subtle bias can be dangerous, particularly because many hiring managers do not realize they are biased at all. Companies with structured, clearly defined hiring processes can avoid this problem by, for example, identifying and targeting key competencies needed for a particular job, and structuring the hiring process around them. The more fluid the hiring process, the more likely a company is to go with someone who looks, sounds, and has a similar background as others in positions at that level. 

Online recruiting has opened doors for companies and job candidates, but underlying biases can still influence the hiring process. Companies that try to eliminate those biases from their hiring processes benefit from the economic and cultural advantages that have been shown to result from having a diverse workforce. 

Ashley Morgan

Author: Ashley Morgan

Ashley is the Director of Marketing at HiringThing, an award-winner online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.