Unconscious Bias In Your Recruitment Process?

Released On 10th Feb 2021

A crucial part of the recruitment screening process – the job interview.  The CV ticks all the boxes, they sounded great on the phone and passed the pre interview aptitude tests with flying colours.  Surely the interview is now just a formality?  You really LIKE them.

Sound familiar?  To give credit where credit is due, to take a candidate to the in person (or virtual in person) stage of the recruitment process, assumes on paper – the candidate in question could do the job?  But for the most part, if you’ve done your due diligence, the purpose of this stage isn’t to establish whether someone could (in theory) do the job. 

An in person (or virtual in person) interview should focus on gathering detailed information about the values, attitudes, behaviours and drivers of the candidate, to understand whether they are someone who aligns with the values and mission of the hiring business.  All too often, this stage of the process comes down to a decision based on gut feeling, after a ‘nice coffee and a chat’.

It's a great feeling to connect with someone.  But when hiring, there are a myriad of different factors at play, and left unchecked, can seep into our decision making – potentially resulting in poor hiring choices.

The definition of ‘gut feeling’ is an immediate or basic feeling or reaction without a logical rationale.  On reflection, should you base the future success of your business on a reaction without reason? 

More often than not, gut instinct can also lead you down the slippery slope of unconscious bias.  Unconscious biases are the unconscious beliefs an individual holds about social groups or social stereotypes, and are formed by the brains’ propensity to categorise the world around you, to make sense of the things we encounter on a daily basis.  As as the use of the word unconscious suggests - they are biases you didn’t even know you had.  

They aren’t always negative either – nor are they limited to ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any of the other protected characteristics.  It can be as simple as forming a bond with someone who grew up in your hometown – or swapping anecdotes with a prospective employee who went to the same university as you.  By having things in common, your brain categorises that person as part of your ‘tribe’.  This is known as affinity bias

Culture not Cult

Whilst it is prevalent to ‘like’ the person you are hiring and ensure that they will ‘fit in’ with the team, applying a mindful approach to selection ensures you sidestep the trap of building a cult-like team of clones, and equally avoid the ‘Super Chicken Model’. 

We can, however, combat conscious and unconscious biases in the hiring process.  The first step is to put in place a standardised interview process that asks situational based questions, based on the core values of the business, and ensure that every applicant is held to the same standards – regardless of what has gone before, or any perceptions you as the hirer might have.  Also consider how your candidates are scored, and decisions are made.  Do you use a scorecard system or post-interview debrief session?  What metrics can you put in place to ensure a fair and unbiased hiring system?

Ultimately, take action to be aware of conscious and unconscious biases coming out to play in your interview process, for a more diverse and inclusive workplace.