Your bias is preventing you from hiring the best talent

The goal of every hiring manager is to select the best talent possible. But will we ever see an end to unconscious bias in recruiting?

The goal of every hiring manager is to select and hire the best talent possible.

However, recruitment decisions can be (and often are) influenced by unconscious biases. These biases can be difficult to uncover and can lead to imbalances in the hiring process, ultimately preventing your company from accessing the best talent.

Here’s why.

Unconscious biases comprise of subconscious patterns of thinking, meaning it happens without us even realising it. It’s triggered by our brain making a quick judgment. And it’s much harder to prevent than conscious bias, because well, we do it unconsciously.

Unconscious bias

A recent report showed that UK employers’ initial perceptions of whether a person will be a good fit for their company or not, is highly determined by unconscious biases, such as visual, cultural, demographic and situational factors.

For example:

  • Both male and female managers tend to favour men over women in hiring decisions
  • Evidence suggests that we hire a ‘Mini-Me’; people similar to ourselves in terms of profile, professional experiences, and how we dress and present ourselves at interview
  • The time taken to make a recruitment decision is often higher for the first few candidates, but drops as soon as the fourth person is called in for an interview, at which point confirmation bias or ‘selective hearing’ can come into play

The issue of unconscious bias is rife in the UK and not nearly enough is being done to address it. The result is that hiring managers end up with a homogenous talent pool that lacks diversity in skills and problem-solving methods. This can be detrimental to a company’s productivity and growth. If diversity isn’t encouraged, it not only decreases employee experience but also harms the business’ bottom line – a sentiment shared by software solutions providers in the pre-employment space, such as Harver.

Studies have shown that companies that employ diverse talent with different experiences, expertise, and working methods, have a happier and more productive workforce, yielding higher profits than those with uniform employees. A diverse talent base has also been shown to breed creativity and drive innovation, helping to solve problems and meet customer needs in new and exciting ways.

Not many hiring managers would disagree that the most important part of the hiring process is finding the very best person for the job.

Unfortunately, unconscious bias can be harmful to this goal, and because it’s very much a part of human nature, it’s difficult to avoid. Many SMBs have looked to unconscious bias training as a possible solution. However, studies suggest the training is ineffective and in some cases, could actually increase biased decision-making.

So, how in the world can this issue be avoided?

Recruitment tech

Hiring managers can benefit from recruitment tech solutions that use advanced algorithms to filter through candidates. Online hiring platforms for example, use advanced algorithms to filter through candidates, matching companies with the best talent solely from a skills and competencies based perspective. Here, variables such as age, name, race, or gender are removed from the equation.

Consequently, these kinds of technological solutions offer hiring managers with an unbiased pool of the most eligible candidates for the job in a matter of seconds.

Removing hiring bias can help you achieve a fair hiring process and reduce the failure rate for hiring. Our research on UK businesses found that one in three new hires currently fail to make it through probation. On average, companies spend nearly £6,559 a year on recruitment and hiring. If a candidate doesn’t work out, not only are these fees lost, but the salary for the probationary period is also wasted.

With the average advertised UK salary being c. £35,000 (according to Adzuna), this equates to potentially £17,000 lost over a six month probation period. In total, that means that one in every three new hires could be wasting businesses £23,000. So if you can achieve a fair hiring process that eliminates, as far as possible, hiring bias, then that’s a pretty solid win.

However, in the end, it’s still up to the hiring manager to choose whom they believe will best conduct the job and represent the company.  In that way, the hiring manager can still project his or her own bias when choosing the final candidate. One way to solve this problem is to implement blind recruitment in every step of the process.

In a nutshell, choosing the very best candidate for the job is key for boosting your company’s potential, no matter the gender, race, or nationality. This will not only make your team smarter, but will ultimately also make your organisation more successful, whatever your goals.

So, to get a head start in making sure you are enforcing the best hiring strategy possible, that is free from unconscious biases, here’s four key  steps you need to consider.

Four steps to prevent unconscious bias:

  1. To get started, always question your own judgment and become aware of your own biases. Only by acknowledging the issue of hiring bias, can we work towards finding a solution to eliminate it.
  2. Be open-minded to harnessing tech solutions: hiring platforms powered by algorithms will help you find the best person for the job and luckily for you, they are free from biases.
  3. Encourage your hiring managers to use blind recruitment in every part of the process possible to prevent unconscious bias. Exclude name, age and race from a candidate’s CV, so that the recruitment decisions is purely based on merits.
  4. Communicate the risks associated with unconscious bias to all involved in the recruitment process. Raise awareness of it at every level and help stakeholders understand why avoiding unconscious bias is so important. To remove this bias from the process means your organisation needs to get aligned and on-board with their understanding of it. 

About the author

Mathias Tao Agger Linnemann is the Co-founder of recruitment tech firm Worksome.

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