Hiring Bias: What They are and How They Affect your Organization

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Susan Leonard

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: November 5, 2020

HRMantra

HRMantra : No. 1 In Recruiting Software

When it comes to recruitment, good intentions don’t always lead to a more diverse workforce. Diversity initiatives and process changes cannot improve workforce diversity when the final decision lies in the hands of hiring managers who fail to address their own bias.

What is Hiring Bias?

Bias in recruitment occurs when interviewers subconsciously draw erroneous conclusions about interviewees based on their personal biases and prejudices. They inadvertently reject qualified candidates and let their biases override their impartial judgments.

For example, hiring managers may pass on a middle-aged woman for a role that requires a lot of travel because they assume that she has kids and will not want to be away from home. 

Similarly, hiring managers may pass on a qualified black or Latin-American candidate for an account manager role, assuming that most of their white clients will be more comfortable dealing with someone who looks like them.

Why is it Important to Eliminate Hiring Bias?​

To diversify their workforce, organizations must be more aware of unconscious biases in the hiring process and its impact:

Hiring bias can-

  • Hamper an organization’s potential to achieve diversity
  • Impact mentoring and promotion
  • Prevent women and other historically oppressed groups from obtaining equal opportunities in their careers
  • Put unfair, added pressure to perform on marginalized groups of employees.
  • Lead managers to hire the same kind of people over and over again.

What are the Different Types of Hiring Bias?

Often, hiring managers are oblivious to underlying biases in the recruitment process. Listed below are eight of the most common hiring biases:

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1. Bandwagon Effect

If several interviewers favor a specific candidate, conformity bias can drive the entire team to select that particular candidate overlooking other worthy alternatives. It is the tendency of the people to “hop on the bandwagon.”

2. Anchoring Bias

Hiring managers fixate or anchor on to the first piece of information they acquire about a candidate, such as their race or gender, and interpret everything based on that filter.  

3. Horn/Halo Effect

The interviewer tends to generalize and interpret the candidate’s behavior as positive (halo) or negative (horn) across various situations. An example of the halo effect is when candidates who are physically attractive or match the race/gender profile of the hiring manager are excused from negative behavior such as job-hopping and are offered the job anyway.

On the other hand, an example of the horn effect is when candidates with less desirable physical attributes or those from marginalized communities are assessed more harshly in similar situations, even when they have positive achievements to their credit. 

4. Affinity bias

This refers to the hiring manager’s tendency to select a person who is similar to him/her either culturally or socially. In this case, familiarity, relatability, and comfort with the candidate tend to override the fair assessment of a candidate’s skill and abilities. 

5. Confirmation Bias

This occurs when recruiters make an initial judgment about a candidate and then actively seek evidence to back up their judgment. For example, when a candidate projects confidence, recruiters may unconsciously focus on the candidate’s positive attributes and dismiss all negative signs.

6. Recall Bias

Recall bias occurs when specific attributes of a candidate cause hiring managers to recall someone else from their memory who displayed similar traits and then unfairly link the two, even when presented with contradictory facts like test scores. 

For example, suppose the hiring manager had a bad experience with an ex-employee a couple of years ago. The hiring manager is now interviewing a candidate from the same racial background of ethnicity and is instantly reminded of his/her ex-colleague. 

Recall bias occurs when the hiring manager’s decision to hire the candidate is impacted by the association he has formed in his mind between the candidate and the ex-colleague.

7. Exposure Bias

This is the tendency to prefer a specific candidate just because you have been exposed to a similar candidate before. The sense of familiarity overrides other factors and ensures acceptance. 

8. Performance Bias

This arises when interviewers become so enamored with a candidate’s performance, that they dismiss other crucial factors like the skillset and experience required to fulfill a job.

Eliminating Unconscious Bias in Your Hiring Process 

Human beings are prone to various biases. However, in the interest of fairness and equal opportunity, employers must actively take measures to eliminate hiring biases. Here are some things you can do:

  • Accept that you are subject to bias and try to recognize it in your actions
  • Devise a consistent and structured hiring process 
  • Identify where bias kicks in and how it manifests itself
  • Use decision aids like “flip it to test” and psychometrics
  • Ensure that all candidates are objectively assessed on their skillset
  • Use technological aids like applicant tracking systems and recruitment suites to make informed decisions

Using Recruitment Software to Reduce Unconscious Bias

The traditional interview process is not only a poor predictor of candidate performance but is also particularly vulnerable to bias. Interview decisions based on intuition and instincts are somewhat subjective. 

Most hiring managers believe themselves to be free of any biases. However, biases are a social virus. HR managers need to take efforts to identify and remove biases that are deeply embedded within their organizational culture and practices. Technological solutions like recruitment software and ATS solutions can come in handy during this process.

When predictive algorithms in modern recruitment software solutions are used to screen applicants, they reduce the scope of biases that would most likely creep in if a recruiter were screening the resumes manually. 

Some recruitment software solutions even enable you to hide information such as gender/ ethnicity/ location etc. from recruiters and hiring managers to ensure a screening free of any biases.

ATS solutions and recruitment software platforms also allow you to add layers of tests and assessments to the interview process. These tests and assessments can also reduce the scope of bias from interviews. 

For example, if a candidate has been rejected despite faring well in the tests and assessments, the hiring manager can be asked to justify the rejection and prove the validity of his/her decision.

Apart from eliminating hiring biases, recruitment software solutions and applicant tracking systems can streamline and automate recruitment activity and save much time, effort and cost, for everyone involved in the process.

How Eliminating Hiring Bias Can Benefit Your Business

People are having conversations about diversity and inclusivity all over the world. Their voices are only growing louder. People are demanding that organizations look into their recruitment strategies and proactively address any diversity gaps in their organization.

Ignore these voices, and you may risk alienating yourself from a wide range of consumers. People are increasingly boycotting businesses that have weak stances on such subjects. At the same time, companies that are taking steps to create a diverse workplace are being lauded. 

Most importantly, working with peers from various backgrounds in a diverse, more inclusive workplace leads to a smarter, more innovative environment that promotes critical thinking. 

Wrapping it Up:

A diverse workforce is no longer an anomaly. It is rapidly becoming the norm. It is the responsibility of HR leaders to educate various stakeholders and eliminate biases in their recruitment process. They need to take active steps to detect and remove any kind of hiring bias. Recruitment software solutions and ATS platforms can, with this help, to a large extent.

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Susan is the Senior HR Manager at Kissflow. An incisive MBA professional, Susan has close to 10 years of qualitative and enriching experience in HR. She has led the entire gamut of operations including talent acquisition, retention and company culture management; has been deeply involved in elevating processes to strengthen capabilities and ensure to meet current and future business needs. Prior to Kissflow, she was with Randstad India and UST Global.

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