Founder and CEO of Link Consulting Services, a global recruitment company specializing in tech, executive search, and diversity recruiting.
As organizations try to promote greater diversity and inclusion within their ranks, many recruiters and hiring managers are focused on sourcing candidates from a variety of backgrounds.
This is an essential first step to building a diverse group of employees, but it is often not enough alone. To promote inclusivity in the workplace, companies must also ensure that candidate interviews and assessments are not biased against minority professionals and people of color.
Let’s talk about how to address the two types of bias that can significantly impact your organization’s diversity recruitment initiatives: unconscious bias and conscious bias.
What is unconscious bias?
Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) is the preferences and prejudices that we don’t realize we have. These biases often come from our background and aren’t necessarily apparent in our day-to-day interactions with others. However, they can inform the decisions we make about the people with whom we surround ourselves.
Everyone has unconscious biases; many hiring panels might unwittingly lean toward hiring — or not hiring — candidates based on those implicit prejudices.
What are the most common unconscious biases to watch for?
There are a number of common unconscious biases hiring teams should watch out for during the recruitment and selection processes. Examples of unconscious bias may include a bias held toward one’s ethnicity, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical appearance or disability.
Three common types of unconscious bias include:
1. Affinity bias: This type refers to the tendency to prefer people who are similar to us in terms of race, gender, age, etc.
2. Confirmation bias: This bias occurs when we pay greater attention to information that confirms pre-existing beliefs, thus essentially confirming stereotypes we hold.
3. Conformity bias: This refers to being influenced by the opinions and behaviors of others, such as other colleagues on a hiring panel, in order to conform to “proper” behavior.
What is conscious bias, and how does it differ from unconscious bias?
Conscious, or explicit, bias refers to prejudices of which we are aware. Someone who falls into this category acts deliberately and knowingly on conscious biases, such as mistreating people from a specific group that they feel deserve it. I believe conscious bias can be just as detrimental to building an inclusive environment — perhaps even more so.
What are some strategies to prevent and address these biases during the hiring process?
You and your team can prevent and address these prejudices through consistent, strategic action. Try these 10 strategies:
1. Identify your unconscious biases. You can use tools like the Implicit Association Test from Harvard to help you. Then, make sure these biases are top of mind throughout the interview and assessment process. We have to keep our prejudices front and center in order to fight them when they arise.
2. Infuse inclusiveness into your communications, both internally and externally. For example, my recruitment company is starting to use a job description analysis tool that identifies gendered language in order to make job descriptions more inclusive.
3. Require diversity training and ongoing education for all employees, particularly managers, recruiters and senior leaders.
4. Make inclusion a regular part of your conversations regarding the brand and company culture. My team has found great success with our new diversity panel, which meets regularly to discuss challenges and set goals around diversity and inclusion.
5. Implement mentorship programs across teams and demographics. Exposing team members to people from different backgrounds can promote greater understanding and empathy across the company culture, which I’ve found can significantly affect recruitment and retention efforts.
6. Look at candidates’ skills and talents before you consider anything else. You might accomplish this by requesting that a sample assignment be completed before the one-on-one interview.
7. Always ask the same interview questions in the same order for every prospective candidate. Consider using a weighted scoring system on these questions, then compare candidates objectively based on their scores.
8. Put a diverse hiring team in place. Make sure a wide range of people are represented, including multiple ages, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, personalities, backgrounds and talents.
9. If you choose to work with a recruitment company, partner with one that specializes in diversity recruitment. As the CEO of a recruitment company, I recommend ensuring they can help match your open positions with a diverse range of talented, qualified candidates as well as provide greater guidance around addressing bias during screening.
10. Commit to fighting explicit bias. This may take the form of new company procedures, training around addressing unacceptable behaviors such as sexual harassment, and a no-tolerance policy for hate speech or discriminatory language.
Becoming familiar with our biases might be an uncomfortable process, but it is necessary to create a fairer and more inclusive recruitment process. And when we accomplish that, we start developing workplaces where professionals of all backgrounds can thrive.