Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

How to Bias-Check Your Organization’s Hiring Process

May 26, 2021 - Valery Caputi Lopez

Bias is everywhere, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it’s overt and obvious, but more often than not, it’s a subconscious part of our decision-making that has more power over our thinking processes than most people give it credit for. So, how do we become more mindful of the mental processes that influence our actions, and what can we do to identify and put them under a more critical and objective lens?

This is the question that many HR departments and talent sourcing experts ask themselves as they take steps to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. But while many organizations understand the need for frequent bias checks within their ranks, particularly where hiring processes are involved, the process of implementing them isn’t always so straightforward.

What Is Bias and Why Does It Need to Be Addressed?

A bias is a prejudice for or against a thing, person, or group that is shaped by a person’s experiences, upbringing, and/or a combination of internal and external influences. For instance, you may have a favorable bias toward products from a certain store and always tell your friends to shop there or vow never to eat an entire category of food again because of a single negative experience you had at a restaurant. Biases can shape the way people view the world around them and how they interact with different elements within it.

But hiring decisions shouldn’t be based on biases, and for good reasons. Biases, hunches, and first-impressions don’t take into account all the qualifying factors that make up a good candidate. In fact, biases can cloud recruiters’ and hiring managers’ judgement to the point that they purposely ignore a potential candidate’s unique strengths and abilities. Intentionally or not, biases lead to uninformed decisions that cost companies to lose valuable money, time, and top candidates that would have otherwise been excellent hires.

That’s why it’s important for every organization to regularly take time for self-reflection around the following areas in order to identify where biases exist in their hiring process and what needs to be done to actively address them:

Understand Explicit and Implicit Bias

Biases usually fall into one of two categories: implicit bias and explicit bias. Implicit biases are inward-facing, while explicit biases are outward-facing. As such, explicit biases are considered to be more controllable because they translate into tangible words and actions that others can see. This makes them easier to spot and tackle than implicit biases, and it’s important for organizations to have clear policies in place about reporting and handling instances where explicit biases translate into actions that violate the law and your company codes of conduct..

Implicit bias is much more difficult to identify because it happens within a person’s head. People harboring implicit bias may not act on their their thoughts or feelings in obvious ways, but they can still harbor feelings of discontent or hatred towards fellow employees that can manifest themselves with acts such as poor interview reviews, heavy workloads, or by cutting off targeted employees from opportunities and promotions they would have otherwise had.

Educate Your Team on Implicit and Explicit Bias

Because there are usually a number of people involved in a hiring process, not everyone in the organization will have received the same level of training to spot bias or stop discriminatory thoughts and behaviors. While recruiters and TA professionals are often well-versed and trained in the most up-to-date language and legal terminology needed to talk to a diverse candidate base, hiring managers and other decision makers may not be as proficient simply because they don’t interact with prospective hires nearly as often.

So make sure to conduct joint training sessions between recruiters and hiring managers about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) to make sure everyone is up to speed and on the same page. (Check out these posts for ideas on effective ways to train hiring managers to lead a more inclusive recruiting process and on for a recruiter’s guide to inclusive language).

How Are Organizational Decisions Made in a Hiring Process?

Next up is evaluating what recruiters, TA professionals, and hiring managers do with the training and information they receive. Is there lots of room for personal interpretations and feelings when evaluating a prospective employee, or is the process standardized using tools such as forms, peer-vetted interview questions, or feedback sessions that everyone must use? Have you and processes been evaluated for implicit bias prior to using them in a hiring or evaluation setting? Many organizations benefit from bringing in external consultants to review their materials and processes to reinforce objectivity in evaluating this area of the business, depending on the scope, size, and scale of your organization.

The more objective a hiring process, the better. So find ways to ground and standardize your organization’s official decision-making protocols for a more transparent and DEI-aligned hiring process overall.

Does Our Current Technology Mitigate or Exacerbate Bias?

Technology itself can reflect implicit bias, because it has been programmed by other humans who may have biases of their own, as Forbes recently reported. So it’s important to also objectively evaluate the tools you are using, and how you are using them, to ensure you don’t unintentionally reinforce systemic bias.

To counter this, evaluate your technological support solutions often to determine if they are helping or hurting your organization’s DEI efforts, align their objectives, and adjust for historical inequalities for the best results.

Better yet, consider implementing new tools purposely created to improve job candidate accessibility and open up your organization to a more diverse and inclusive hiring pool. Brazen’s virtual and hybrid event platform facilitates and promotes connections with job candidates from anywhere around the world thanks to its real-world applications in both fully virtual and hybrid recruitment spaces, offsetting the physical and psychological barriers that may prevent great quality candidates from reaching the TAs and hiring managers trained to see their worth.

Where can we improve as an organization?

Meaningful change doesn’t just happen overnight. It needs champions and it needs a plan - and most importantly, it needs daily, authentic action. For DEI initiatives to work, they have to have buy-in and consistent support from decision-makers and contributors at every level of your company hierarchy.

So when it comes to helping your organization make diversity progress on the hiring front, partner with teams and leaders across the organization to present a unified front in the battle against implicit and explicit bias. Your joint efforts won’t just make a big impact on the prospective candidates you’re bringing in, but the positive effects will reach employees at every level, ultimately building and sustaining a better working environment for everyone.

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