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How to Remove Unconscious Bias from Your Recruitment Processes

How to Remove Unconscious Bias from Your Recruitment Processes

Unconscious or ‘implicit’ bias is an inherently human habit. It refers to the social stereotypes or preconceptions humans unconsciously form about others based on a number of physical attributes. Such attributes could be related to gender or race – or simply around how someone looks, speaks, or behaves.

According to experts[1], unconscious bias in the workplace often manifests in the hiring and promotion process. When it comes to recruitment, we as hiring managers – and indeed humans – naturally gravitate towards those who think like us, act like us and look like us.

While these biases are innately human, it’s imperative that they are monitored and challenged – since failing to do so can hinder companies’ efforts to recruit the best talent.

Ultimately, unconscious bias is unavoidable, so it’s less a case of eliminating the habit altogether than acknowledging and confronting it when it sneaks into our decision processes. In short: the first step to minimising unconscious bias, is to be conscious of it. By equipping ourselves with the right processes and technology, and more importantly self-awareness, we can reduce the chance of unconscious bias in the recruitment process.

Here we identify four ways to help remove unconscious bias from your hiring processes.

Make data-driven decisions

More than ever before, companies around the world are turning to HR technology to help boost diversity in their workforce and ensure they hire the best individuals for their business.

While not all stages of the recruitment process will be automated, since face-to-face interviews will of course still take place, the automation of the initial candidate sourcing and screening phase can help to rid your processes of bias by objectively selecting candidates based on factual information alone.

Meanwhile, having an at-a-glance overview of your existing workforce will help to break down the real numbers on things like diversity – providing insights into whether unconscious bias has already had an impact on your organisational make-up, and helping to inform a diverse talent acquisition strategy.

ELMO’s Hire suite of solutions enable businesses to attract and select the best candidates by building candidate sourcing capability, facilitating collaborative recruitment with peers and colleagues, refining recruitment workflows, screening questions and interview processes, and streamlining the onboarding process.

Hold structured interviews

Each company does interviews differently – with some preferring more ad-hoc, free-flowing interview questions that provide a sense of the candidate’s true nature. But the latter method can unwittingly lead interviewers to foster unconscious bias, since it may not give every single candidate a level playing field. For example, a free-flowing interview might informally lead to a topic in which the interviewer and interviewee discover they have a mutual interest. That’s all fine and well, but what about the next candidate who comes in next, who – though equally as competent as the previous – might not have ingratiated themselves as favourably on personal basis? Keeping in mind that we’re innately drawn towards people who think and look like us is a helpful step towards recognising and tackling unconscious bias.

Sticking to the same questions for every interviewed candidate helps to create a structured, fair process that tests all applicants in the same way, limiting the chance for unconscious bias to creep in.

Have a diverse interview panel

It’s easier to remove one person’s bias in an interview if there are several people conducting it. This way, each interviewee is more likely to hold one another to account for such biases.

Further, having a diverse panel made up of people from different ethnicities, age groups and socio-economic backgrounds can offer a broader set of perspectives, allowing for more informed and balanced decision-making.

Ensure job descriptions are gender neutral

When writing job descriptions for roles that traditionally have been occupied by one gender over the other, it can be easy for gendered wording to creep in. After all, how often do we stop and think about some of the gendered language we use every day? While job descriptions can be lively – if indeed that’s the sense of culture you’re attempting to convey – this should not come at the expense of gender-neutral language. When it comes to recruitment, the implications of gendered language can have a significant impact on the recruitment process. Avoid using colourful but gendered language such as ‘budget queen’, and instead use more inclusive language such as ‘budget pro’. Using such language will also give a more professional D&I-focused impression of your company – working wonders for your employer brand.

ELMO Software provides innovative cloud HR and payroll technology to more than 1,600 organisations across APAC. ELMO’s suite of HR and payroll solutions can be used together or stand alone and are configurable to your organisation’s processes and workflows. ELMO helps you to automate and streamline your HR & payroll operations, across the employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. For further information on any ELMO solution, please contact us.

[1] “Putting Humanity into HR Compliance: Become Aware of Unconscious Bias”, SHRM, June 2019