Understand frequent recruitment biases to avoid them

2020 | 08 | 12

There is a lot of information and analysis that goes into recruitment, and therefore room for a significant amount of unconscious biases.

Recruitment biases affect profitability

Dr Pragya Agarwal has documented for years the effects of biases- including recruitment biases, in today’s workplace. According to her, they lead to poor decisions and unintentional discrimination, impacting the diversity of the company and indirectly its profitability.

A McKinsey report published in 2018 states that there is a bias for women on executive teams to be hired toward staff roles (support) rather than line roles (core roles). And yet, an organization would greatly benefit by having more gender diversity in management positions.

Organizations that successfully hire for diversity are 33% more likely to see more profits than those who were still recruiting with biased decision-making.


Delivering through Diversity

When it comes to deconstructing biases and recruitment, we must start by raising awareness. These are 3 common phrases we heard recruiters say, conscientiously or not, and what can be done to minize their impact on diversity.

Thinking the classic recruitment process is enough

The first step to recruiting is looking through all the candidate resumes and inviting those who are most relevant for an interview. This is done by analyzing the overall look and feel of the resume, followed by diving into details on educational background and past experiences. If the candidate seems to match most criteria, the second step is the interview to get a better understanding of the candidate in-person, digging deeper and asking behavioral-based questions and maybe even some role-playing. If all seems well, the natural third step is the job offer.

This is a typical three-step recruitment process, but it is all very surface-level. How much do we really know about this person? How can we know that the information we are receiving is genuine and truthful? How can we determine if this person will perform well simply by taking their word for it? Relying only on what is found on paper, appearances, and first impressions can all be sources of recruitment bias.

Naturally, a candidate will always present themselves in the best light and will say all the right things in order to be chosen for the role. To remove recruitment bias and make the decision-making process more objective, additional steps can be implemented, such as using an assessment tool that can help delve deeper into the essence of the person and learn more about their true personality.

This person is like me- I perform well and so will the candidate

There is a tendency to form bonds and connections with those who confirm rather than test our core beliefs. When a candidate comes in with similar interests, values, personality traits, and even a similar appearance, we assume there is a perfect match and they will fit right in!

Maybe, but maybe not. What is happening here is that we are forming an unconscious recruitment bias and projecting ourselves onto the candidate. Thinking that, because you perform well within the company, surely the candidate will too. However, it is crucial to keep in mind the role
that the candidate is applying for and all the tasks and responsibilities they are expected to perform. The candidate may be there for a different position requiring completely different competencies and behaviors from yours.

Although hiring someone like you can be very enticing, you can ultimately end up with an individual working in the wrong position, not performing as well as expected. Here, it is important to know what kind of competencies and behaviors are necessary for the specific role and hire the individual that objectively best fits with those criteria.

They are inexperienced, it won’t work out

When recruiting, you want to make sure you hire the best possible candidate. To do so, you look at their experience to see how much they know about the role, and how much they can benefit the company. The general belief when hiring is that the more experience the candidate has in a specific role, the more potential and capacity they possess to develop into something great.

Identifying candidates as high-performers by looking at their past job experience is a popular go-to strategy, but one that brings a lot of recruitment bias. By hiring only those that need little development and training, you overlook candidates that may be an ideal fit for the role and will exceed expectations.

One way you can measure potential is to not rely only on the past and present information of a candidate’s career, but also look at the behavioral tendencies of the individual and how motivated and eager they are to learn and develop. When you have more information about how a person acts and what kind of personality fits best with which role, you can determine the performance potential of even an inexperienced individual – they just might end up being very successful and great for the long-term!

Objectivity in the recruiting process

To avoid recruitment bias, we must first learn to identify all potential areas where there can be a slip-up. It is best to not focus so much on the superficial face-value aspects, such as the resume, appearances, similarities, and how well a candidate convinced you during the interview.

Understand that unconscious biases, particularly recruitment bias, can always be present, and the best you can do is to add objectivity and data to your decision-making process. Consider using an assessment tool that will uncover hidden information, and that allows you to find out more about the candidate’s true personality, fit within the role and organization, and their potential to be a high performer.

Written by
Anna Szymanowicz - updated in July 2020 by Stephanie Pelland