Top 5 Unconscious Biases While Hiring and How to Avoid Them

Unconscious biases are stereotypes formed when someone engages with another person or group. For example, when meeting a new coworker, we typically will form bias based on their appearance. Our own biases often are influenced by our own experiences and/or culture. Our brains make judgments (unconscious biases) about these new individuals, even if we aren’t realizing it. 

Often, these biases are the cause of people being treated differently, which could lead to discrimination within a workplace. Research supports that unconscious biases may influence the hiring process. How can a leader reduce unconscious bias within their organization to make sure the most qualified people are getting hired

Below are different types of biases and how to avoid them during the hiring process. 

What is Gender Bias?

Gender bias is when one gender is hired over another gender. A study by the Harvard Business School found that women are more likely than men to hire other women. Researchers also found that when a woman was making the decision, women were hired 50% of the time. Yet, when a male employee was making the hiring decisions, women had only a 40%  chance of getting hired. 

How to avoid Gender bias in the workplace?

To avoid Gender bias, your team can use a technique of blocking out personal information on resumes. This way, hiring managers or recruiters can only focus on experiences and/or skills that are relevant to the open position. 

Also, setting specific diversity hiring goals for your team to meet will hold the company accountable. 

What is Age Bias?

Age bias in the workplace is a prevalent issue that often goes unnoticed. Ageism is a type of discrimination where individuals are stereotyped based on their age, typically being older or younger than the average employee. This can lead to unfair treatment, such as not being considered for promotions or excluded from important projects. Age bias often happens during the hiring process, where older applicants may be seen as less desirable due to stereotypes about their abilities or potential retirement.

How to avoid Age bias in the workplace?

To combat ageism, organizations should first recognize the unconscious biases that may be present in the hiring process. Hiring managers should be trained to focus on the candidate’s skills, experience, and potential rather than age or other irrelevant personal factors.

Secondly, job descriptions should avoid age-related terms, such as “recent graduate” or “young and dynamic,” as these can discourage older candidates from applying. Instead, job postings should focus on the qualifications and experience necessary to perform the job. (Bonus: Celarity has an extensive library of free job description templates for roles in the marketing, creative, and digital industries)

Lastly, organizations should strive to create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that values the contributions of employees from all age groups. This can be achieved through mentorship programs, job shadowing opportunities, and training programs that provide employees with the skills needed to succeed in their roles, regardless of their age.

What is the Halo Effect?

The Halo Effect refers to when an individual develops a positive view of another person due to hearing impressive information about them. This effect can play a huge role in the hiring process. For example, if a candidate has previously worked at a credible company or graduated from a reputable university, indicating so on a resume can make a huge first impression on a hiring manager or recruiter.

How to avoid the Halo Effect in the workplace?

When comparing candidate resumes, remember to give a fair shot to candidates who may not have had the opportunity to work for those credible companies or attend universities. Block out all personal information on a resume & focus on previous experience. This method is referred to above for eliminating gender bias. 

Remember to select the candidate that best describes their responsibilities while supporting them with actionable results and obtaining skills/tools that would be beneficial to the company. 

What is the Horns Effect?

This bias is the complete opposite of the Halo Effect. The Horns Effect refers to when people develop a negative view of someone else based upon unpleasant information they may have heard. For example, maybe a hiring manager finds one weakness of the candidate during their interview. This may make the hiring manager uneasy and hard to focus on the other positives that the candidate obtains. 

How to avoid the Horns Effect in the workplace?

We recommend having two or three people from your team perform the interview. This way, more than one person from your team can meet the candidate and ask them a variety of questions. You do not have to start the interview with three people in the room but can invite another employee to enter the room at the end of the interview. If you’re unsure whether the candidate would be a good fit, you can check with the rest of the team to help you evaluate. 

What is Confirmation Bias?

This is especially important if you have recruiters working at your company. Confirmation bias is the tendency to focus and remember information that aligns with our own opinions. These opinions of a candidate can be transferred into the interview process & trigger questions to confirm the original opinion of that person.

How to avoid Confirmation bias in the workplace?

Although unique conversations may arise in interviews, it’s important to standardize the process as much as possible with the same questions being asked of each candidate. This way, you’re giving talent a fair opportunity to stand out amongst the other candidates. 

What is Affinity Bias?

Have you heard of companies hiring a specific individual because they’re a great “cultural fit”? Some hiring managers will put a big emphasis on if a candidate has similar interests or backgrounds when compared to other individuals in the organization. These biases may not be relevant to the position or teamwork.

How to avoid Affinity bias in the workplace?

Affinity bias can have a huge impact on the hiring process for an organization. Candidates with similar backgrounds should never be disqualified nor a determining factor within the hiring process. As a hiring manager, take notes of the similarities and differences while seeing the ‘big picture’ of how this candidate can contribute to their team.

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