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Five Ways to Eliminate Bias from Your Hiring Process


What is Bias?

Merriam-Webster defines “bias” as “a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly. We can universally agree that in the majority of cases, bias isn’t good. We can also universally agree that whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all filled with biases. While there are those who wear their biases and prejudices proudly, a more sinister, and common type is unconscious bias.

Unconscious or implicit bias is typically defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor or against on thing, person, or group, as compared to another, in a way that is considered unfair that an individual isn’t explicitly aware of.

Diversity is Good for Business

Biases in the hiring process, whether explicit or implicit, are bad for business. Unconscious biases can limit your applicant pool, your interview process, and your hiring decisions, and result in a homogenous workforce. Diversity, which bias inherently works against, is good for business. Research by McKinsey consistently shows that companies with the greatest gender, racial, and ethnic diversity perform better than companies that are more homogenous.

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns than industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns than industry medians.
  • In the United States, for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings rise 0.8%.

These findings are impressive and underscore that while eliminating bias and increasing diversity is the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest business move.  Here are five actionable ways you can help eliminate diversity in your hiring.

Diversity doesn’t just include race and gender. Sexual orientation, age, country of origin, socioeconomic background, level of education, and ability all play into creating a diverse workforce. This detailed guide dissecting what diversity entails is worth a read.

Five Ways to Eliminate Bias From Your Hiring Processes

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. 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You a More Successful Recruiter has actionable, specific examples you can use to make your language more inclusive.

Want to make your job descriptions more accessible? Check out our Ten Tips for Making Your Hiring Practices More Inclusive and Accessible.

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. Glassdoor has an excellent guide to “blind hiring,” including a link to a really informative TED Talk on the subject.

Check out how Titan ATS worked to eliminate bias from their hiring process.

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.

Recruiting plays a big role in making a more diverse workforce. Looking to reimagine your hiring strategy and add more DEI initiatives? The HiringThing Guide to Increasing Your Applicant Traffic is an interactive workbook to help you audit what you’re currently doing and map out changes you want to make.

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.

How Do We Eliminate Bias in Our Own Hiring Practices?

We asked HiringThing’s Human Resource Generalist, Becca Noland, what some of the ways we’ve eliminated bias from our own hiring. Here’s what Noland shared:

  • Every initial interview is done blind, with just a phone call.
  • We use an interview template so that everyone in the pre-screening process gets asked the same general questions for each role.
  • We don’t have a profile picture uploaded with applications, even if candidates shared their LinkedIn profiles.
  • Our cultural exploration portion of the interview is also designed to help remove biases by giving both the candidates and team a chance to know each other in a way that invites learning more the connection between diversity and strengthening the culture of the company.

Want tips for using HiringThing’s applicant tracking system (ATS) to eliminate hiring bias? We wrote a post about that too.

About HiringThing

Approachable and adaptable, the HiringThing platform empowers everyone, everywhere, to hire their dream team. Try HiringThing’s easy-to-use, feature-rich applicant tracking system with a free 14-day trial today!

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.