Unconscious Bias in Recruiting and Hiring

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Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is a prejudice or stereotype that we hold about a particular group of people. While unconscious bias is not always negative, it can have a significant impact on our decision-making, including our hiring decisions.

In this blog post, we’ll briefly walk you through the details of unconscious bias, how it can hurt recruiting and hiring, and what you can do to overcome bias in the hiring process.

Let’s get to it!

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias is a prejudice that occurs involuntarily and outside our conscious awareness. It occurs when our brain makes quick judgments and assumptions about people based on our previous experiences, beliefs, and values.

While we may not be aware of it, this type of bias can influence our behavior and decision-making in several ways.

Even people who are well-intentioned and open-minded can be susceptible to unconscious biases. In the workplace, these biases can lead to disparities in hiring and promotion practices, resulting in a lack of diversity.

By addressing our unconscious biases, we can create a more inclusive workplace that can better meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

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What Causes Unconscious Bias?

Various factors can cause unconscious bias, but it is often the result of a desire to simplify complex information. When presented with too much information, our brain automatically looks for ways to categorize and simplify it.

This can lead us to make quick judgments about people and situations that may not be accurate. In the workplace, unconscious bias can manifest in hiring decisions, promotions, and everyday interactions. Increasing awareness of these biases can help create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 working adults in the United States, the most beneficial aspect of anti-bias training is learning that the brain is malleable and can develop positively. This means that as you work to understand your own unconscious bias, you can start to overcome it.

How Do You Stop Unconscious Bias?

There are a few things you can do to try and overcome your own unconscious or implicit biases, including:

  • Be aware of your personal biases: Take time to reflect on your daily judgments and decisions. Are there certain people or groups of people you tend to favor? Why do you think you do that?
  • Tune up the training programs: Most training programs focus on the “what” and the “how,” but they don’t do a good job of addressing the “why.” Adding an unconscious bias training module to your company’s training program can help employees understand why it matters and how it can impact their work.
  • Be open to hearing other perspectives: Instead of immediately dismissing someone’s opinion because it’s different from yours, try to understand where they’re coming from.
  • Expose yourself to diverse perspectives: Seek out books, movies, TV shows, and other media that feature a diverse range of characters and experiences. This can help you become more aware of the biases you may have.

How Can Unconscious Bias Hurt Recruiting and Hiring?

Unconscious bias is unintentional, but it can still have negative results. In the workplace, unconscious bias can negatively affect the recruiting and hiring process, limiting your company’s ability to attract and retain competitive talent.

Here are just four possible scenarios of unconscious bias during recruiting and hiring:

  • Hiring managers may be biased against people with certain demographics. When the hiring managers don’t realize they hold these unconscious biases, they may overlook qualified candidates.
  • Employers may also be biased against candidates deemed overqualified for the position, even though those candidates could excel in the role.
  • Employers may also have a bias against those who are not well-connected in their industry. This is the classic “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” and it could result in an employer hiring an unqualified candidate.
  • Lastly, hiring managers may favor candidates who share their characteristics, such as age, gender, or race. Again, if this unconscious bias is present, hiring managers may choose a less-qualified individual for the role.

These implicit biases can impact an employer’s ability to find the best candidates for their organization. As a result, hiring managers may overlook qualified candidates or hire someone based on personality, not skills. This can lead to a homogeneous workforce, which means losing out on the benefits of diversity in the workplace.

Employers need to be aware of implicit bias, and then they also need to take steps to mitigate that bias.

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Tips to Avoid Unconscious Bias in Recruiting and Hiring

The best way to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting and hiring is for leaders to take anti-bias training. Insight Global offers a service called Leveling, which includes two courses:

  • The Basics & Biases: Getting back to the basics. Learning all about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, biases, and how it all affects productivity and innovation in the workplace.
  • Hiring & Onboarding: Understanding the opportunities and challenges companies face throughout the recruiting and interviewing process.

This service is great for any company committed to improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace.

In addition to learning about unconscious bias and working deliberately to overcome it, there are other options to implement in your recruiting and hiring process.

Write Inclusive Job Descriptions

An inclusive job description avoids any unintentional bias towards a specific group of people. It includes specific job requirements and responsibilities without asking for too much or using unnecessary jargon.

Here are four quick tips to writing an inclusive job description:

  • Use neutral language
  • Focus on necessary skills, not preferred skills
  • Include a statement on DEI
  • Highlight company benefits and perks

Use a Blind Resume Review

In a blind resume review, all identifying information is removed from resumes before they are reviewed by recruiters or hiring managers. This helps prevent any unconscious bias that may occur during the recruitment process.

Screen Candidates with a Phone Interview

While some identifying information becomes apparent in a phone interview, it’s still an opportunity for recruiters or hiring managers to focus primarily on a candidate’s answers, not their demographics.

A phone interview is also easier for a candidate to schedule, especially if they need to work around their existing work schedule. Finally, a phone interview allows a candidate to use notes, which can help some neurodiverse candidates showcase their expertise.

Standardize the Interview Process

Hiring practices such as structured interviews can help mitigate any implicit biases because they allow for a more objective evaluation of candidates. Use the same interview format and questions for all candidates.

Use Skills Testing

A resume only tells you so much about the candidate—and you can’t always tell if they’re being honest about their qualifications. Even at the interview stage, it’s easy to be swayed by a confident candidate who says all the right things… But do they have the skills to back that up?

Using a skills assessment is one way to test a candidate’s abilities. Plus, you’re then comparing candidates based on their skills, unimpeded by implicit bias.

If you choose to require skills testing as part of the hiring process, don’t make it too cumbersome for candidates. It’s fine to use a brief skills test early in the process, like after the initial resume screening or phone screening. A longer skills assessment should only be necessary near the end of the hiring process when you’re close to making a decision.

Involve Multiple Interviewers

It is also essential to have diverse hiring teams and interview panels to represent multiple viewpoints when evaluating job candidates. This can help prevent any biases from influencing decisions about who gets hired! With multiple people involved, differing perspectives can help overcome any implicit biases.

Refine Your Recruiting Strategy with Insight Global

Diversity is a critical component of a successful organization, and employers should have a hiring process to ensure that they can overcome unconscious bias in their recruiting efforts. By being aware of these biases and taking steps to mitigate their impact, employers can find the best candidates for each position!

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