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How to Overcome Bias in Your Hiring Process
July 24, 2021 at 6:30 PM
by Devayani Bapat
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“One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

As Neil deGrasse Tyson rightly stated that human beings have a tendency to create a bias in their mind, one that can be easily tarnished with research that most do not want to conduct, very often these biases creep into the process of hiring too.

It is human nature to carry forward one’s opinions and views into every scenario they are presented with, but to overcome these preconceived notions to make way for bigger and better things is key. That’s what we’re here to talk to you about today, hiring bias, how to identify you have a hiring bias, why you must overcome it, and how you can do so. So dive right into this read, we promise you it’s going to be all things, insightful and hopefully, bias-free.

How to Identify and Overcome Hiring Bias

1. What is a hiring bias?

2. How can you identify a hiring bias?

3. Reasons why you must overcome a hiring bias.

4. How you can overcome a hiring bias?

1. What is a Hiring Bias?

Have you ever realized that every single day, you make decisions and choices without thinking about them first? As an individual with a conscious and subconscious mind, you weigh the pros and cons, foresee an outcome and decide whether or not you want to indulge in an activity every single day. Sometimes you make these choices consciously, with an aware mind, however, every day you make decisions without even realizing they’re “decisions” that you’re making. I know this sounds confusing, but let me give you an example.

Have you ever gotten into a car and driven yourself to a grocery store? Let’s assume you have. Now let me paint out the scenario for you. You realize your fridge is understocked. This realization gives rise to the decision of heading to the grocery store. This is a conscious decision you have taken. You’re heading to your usual grocer, one you’ve visited multiple times. This is a biased choice that your subconscious mind took without you even realizing it was a decision you were to take.

Just as in this scenario you realize there are some decisions you take with knowledge and some that you take without, in hiring too, very often you carry forward biases, subconsciously or consciously and these are known as hiring biases. For instance, if you’re a graduate from a Harvard School of Business, a candidate applying to your firm, a graduate from the same school as you, will be one you’ll be keen on taking through to round 2 of recruitment. This is because one very often tends to gravitate towards people that provide them with a sense of belonging, a sense of familiarity. These hiring biases can often lead to firms closing off from diverse hiring practices and that’s something that needs to change.

2. How can You Identify a Hiring Bias?

The best way to put it is that you’ll know you have hiring bias if based on everything you read above, you look at the employees in your firm and realize that they are all reflections of your personality, culture, and education in some form or the other. Either the people in your firm look like you, speak like you, hail from similar cultural backgrounds, have similar interests, went to your school, are from the same university, belong to the same town as you, or are a reflection of your social circle.

Very often this is a result of similarity-attraction. According to the similarity attraction hypothesis, human beings tend to like people who are similar to them and fail to realize that in reality “opposites attract” thereby limiting their growth and perspective.

Hiring biases are of various types and some of the common ones are as follows -

1. Similarity-Attraction bias - This is as stated above, you like someone who is similar to you and hence you believe they are fit for the role.

2. Confirmation bias - This usually means you take one thing that the candidate said that agrees with your mind and then stick to that, developing an irrational affinity and thereby readily ignoring every other aspect of candidature.

3. Expectation anchor - This means that you liked a candidate and because of this affinity are now convinced that no one else can do a good job, therefore not presenting further candidates a fair chance.

4. Status quo bias - This can usually mean two things, one that you are trying to fill in the shoes of someone you really liked, therefore, looking for a carbon copy of the past employee, or you prefer everything the way it was and therefore are hell-bent on looking for someone with experience rather than someone free off the boat.

5. Projection bias - When you have a projection bias it often means that you believe that the candidate in front of you projects your thoughts, beliefs, and ethics, thereby making you more inclined to hire them.

3. Reasons why you must Overcome a Hiring Bias.

Hiring biases lead to a lack of innovation and diversity in your company. If you hire talent based on your preconceived notions, you will merely end up hiring yes-men who are carbon copies of your existence. A recruitment bias can make you actually overlook or skip a candidate perfect for the job just because they do not conform with your social opinion, thereby costing you a wasted effort in the world of recruitment.

If this is the series of events that takes place, you will end up hiring someone completely wrong for your firm, leading to quick fires or job abandonment by candidates in turn increasing your costs incurred, as well as delaying the work process as a whole.

4. How you can Overcome a Hiring Bias

Many might ask, ‘How can I overcome a hiring bias? I didn’t even know I had one!’ well, the answer is simple: identify that you have a bias and work on it actively, and consciously changing around your hiring practices. This will help you set yourself apart from the crowd.

Make sure you have a structured hiring process and your recruitment guidelines are set in stone, so as to ensure that the focus is on choosing the best fit for your company and not somebody you can merely engage in conversation with. Focus on increasing diversity inclusion practices in your workplace and set up equal employment opportunities for minority communities.

Don’t merely hire people from diverse backgrounds in order to portray that you are a diverse hiring firm as very often firms tend to take on that approach. Make sure your recruitment process is designed in a manner that helps you pick a linchpin for your firm, not merely a brand ambassador that can help you gain a few likes here and comments there on social media. Focus on company growth, rather than image building, for your work will speak for itself, once you have the right and bias-free recruits on board.

That’s all, for just remember a bias recognized is a bias nipped in the bud.

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