The Psychology of Recruiter Bias and How to Eliminate it from your Hiring Process

Smart companies agree that recruiting for diversity makes good business sense in a competitive marketplace. They understand that diversity boosts productivity, promotes creativity, and inspires innovation. But it has always been a challenge to figure out exactly how to ensure that your recruitment campaign avoids unconscious bias and adheres to a best-practice, diversity-focused methodology.
While many believe that the recruitment process is simple and straightforward, and that hiring more diverse candidates is just a matter of making a conscious commitment to do so, the reality and the science behind it, is a lot more complex.

How does the psychology of ‘unconscious bias’ work?

What we have learned, the experiences we’ve had in life, and the people we’ve met along the way affect so much of our thinking and behaviour. These factors influence how we respond to individual candidates within a recruitment campaign.
As recruiters, we all prefer to think of ourselves as fair, unbiased and open-minded in our decision-making processes. However, our brains are just not biologically wired to work this way. Instead, they have evolved from years of making associations between certain things. The simplest example of this is gender stereotypes. Even the most open-minded person may associate women more strongly with housework and childcare, and men with the business world – even if unconsciously so.
We have also evolved to prefer, or to give positive bias to people who are ‘like’ us – who sound like us, look like us, or share similar interests. This is just a natural way that our brains work. We tend to gravitate towards these people and consider them (and ourselves) to be superior to those who are different from us. Whereas ‘different’ people – from different ethnic cultures or religious backgrounds to our own – represent a ‘threat’ since we are unfamiliar with them and unsure of how to interact with them.
This concept is commonly referred to as ‘unconscious bias’ and in its simplest definition it is a process by which we form social stereotypes about certain groups or ‘types’ of people resulting in a prejudice that influences our behaviour towards them.
We may form conscious or unconscious stereotypes and judgements about any observable element of a person, including race, gender, age, dress choices, height, weight, and even hairstyle!
Unconscious bias is often incompatible with our conscious values and beliefs of treating everyone fairly and equally. This is why the concept is very sensitive and personal for individuals, and therefore challenging to address in the recruitment process.

It is not enough to simply decide to be more open to diverse candidates. A formal methodology is required to ensure unconscious bias is eliminated

To eliminate unconscious bias from recruitment simply deciding to be more open to diverse candidates won’t work – not without the right process and infrastructure. What is needed is a formalised and structured approach to ensure the elimination of unconscious bias.
Blind Recruitment is the answer.

Blind Recruitment removes unconscious bias from the hiring process

Research has shown that a candidate’s name, address, and even which university they attended, can influence how recruiters interpret their suitability for a role. Blind Recruitment removes identifiable information from CVs and applications, thereby minimising the impact this information has on recruitment decisions.
Typically two differing levels of blind recruitment will work to remove unconscious bias – depending on your organisation’s diversity objectives:

  1. Name-Blind: This simple blind recruitment process removes applicant names only, retaining all other information.
  2. Demographic-Blind: This multi-layer approach removes any number of additional identifying layers, such as residential address, school and university names, and names of previous and current employers.

The Benefits of Blind Recruitment:

  1. Discrimination: Eliminate virtually all the effects of unconscious bias in the early stages of the recruitment process, to allow for more diverse candidates to reach the shortlist.
  2. Candidate experience: Candidates feel reassured when the selection process is fair and equal to everyone and not impacted by subjective factors, but based on objective data only.
  3. Smart hiring: Selecting candidates solely on their actual achievements, qualifications, and skill-sets, ensures that the best talent is selected, irrespective of their gender, race, or socio-economic status.
  4. Diversity: Hiring from the same universities or industries, or the same geographical areas, leads to a homogenised workforce that looks and thinks the same, and is not representative of the wider community. Blind recruitment improves diversity of skills and talent entering your organisation, leading to improvements in productivity, innovation, and profitability.
  5. Brand recognition: Organisations that demonstrate a commitment to diversity, through tangible initiatives such as blind recruitment, are more likely to attract high quality talent and become an employer-of-choice in the marketplace.

A well-structured blind recruitment process allows you to focus only on the objective, performance-predictive variables of an applicant’s background such as skills and qualifications. It eliminates the risk of your recruitment team being unconsciously influenced by factors that don’t scientifically (or legally) justify progressing the candidate to the next round of the recruitment process. And best of all, blind recruitment is not only more fair and ethical for the candidate, but also ensures that you get a higher quality of candidate to fit the role, and culture of your organisation. Quite simply, blind recruitment is a win-win for everyone.
Images: Testgrid, Shutterstock

This article is sponsored by Testgrid

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