Many hiring practices contain “unconscious bias” that have a negative impact, leading to hiring less qualified applicants. Biases are unavoidable as human beings. Our brains are wired to help us process the volumes of information we take in daily. Biases help us sort and classify information to be more efficient, but often in misleading ways when it comes to hiring. Here are five common unconscious biases that play a role in the hiring process.
Affinity bias – you share something in common with a candidate that has nothing to do with their ability to do the job. You went to the same school, grew up in the same town, enjoy the same hobbies. None of these indicate the person’s ability to perform the job, but may lead you to prefer them over other candidates.
Gender bias – you have beliefs about abilities that are tied to gender. Gender is often viewed as indicating inherent skills and abilities. This clearly does not hold true. Gender equity has received a lot of attention over the last decade and tremendous strides have been made in reducing this.
Affinity and Gender Bias can be addressed by redacting information on resumes or applications that points to these two types of bias.
Confirmation bias – you only look for information that confirms what you already believe. Will you be open to considering a candidate who doesn’t fit the “normal” mold? Research shows that groups with diversity of opinion and background outperform, in the long-run, groups that have people who are all alike.
Confirmation bias can be addressed by purposely seeking a variety of employees that bring diversity and ranging perspectives on issues and opportunities within your company.
Halo bias – an applicant has one positive attribute that is so overwhelming that you don’t objectively look at what might be their downfall or outweighs considering another candidate who is more evenly qualified for the position. This can be a disaster if you hire this person and they come up short in the majority of the skill requirements.
Horn bias – this is the opposite of the halo bias, where one negative attribute an applicant has is so overwhelming that you don’t objectively look at positive skills although the applicant may be more evenly qualified for the position. You may be losing out on a great employee who has an addressable issue.
Both the halo and horn bias can be addressed by looking at all skill requirements and assigning appropriate weight to each so that one skill doesn’t override the other skill needs of your company.
Chris Dressel is senior vice president of retail banking, marketing and chief human resource officer at First State Bank and Trust and is chair of the Washington County Workforce Development Board. She has seen these biases as critical to avoid. She also cites having a clear structure to the process is key to finding the best candidate and suggests you don’t marry yourself to an applicant’s responses to your questions during the interview. Rather, record the responses and then after the interviews are completed, rate each response an applicant makes and compare those ratings to the other applicants’ ratings on a spreadsheet. This will help you maintain objectivity in your selection process.
Rick Roy manages the Washington County Workforce Development Division, which is part of Minnesota’s workforce development system, called CareerForce. Visit CareerForceMN.com for more information about recruiting, developing and retaining employees, plus creating an inclusive workplace. You are also invited to connect with CareerForce in Woodbury for more information or email email@example.com.