How to reduce bias in your recruitment process

The argument for building a diverse workforce is well-rehearsed – better customer insight, improved innovation, higher levels of employee engagement, to name just a few of the benefits to be had. Organisations need to make sure they are doing everything they can to attract a broad range of talented people.

Yet, bias is still deeply ingrained in the recruitment process and there is still some way to go before truly diverse workforces become a reality. HR needs to do all it can to create a level playing field when it comes to attracting talent.

reduce bias staff employees

So, how can you root bias out of your recruitment processes and ensure you are attracting the widest possible pool of talent?

1. Put your recruitment process under the microscope

Bias can crop up even before you’ve published your job advert. Analyse the different stages of your hiring cycle and see which areas can be better aligned with your DEI policies.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • Is the language being used in job descriptions inadvertently alienating people?
  • Where are you sharing your job adverts? What type of people use those sites/platforms?
  • Are video interviews/presentations included in your hiring stages?
  • Does the selection criteria focus more on whether people will be the right ‘culture fit’, rather than their ability to do the job?
  • How many people are involved in assessing the candidates?
  • Do you have documented criteria – that’s actually used – on how to assess candidates?
  • Is ‘group think’ influencing the final decision to hire?

Looking at your current processes with an anti-bias filter can help minimise instances where personal preferences or bias can happen.

2. Review marketing materials

The job advertisement or recruitment page of a company website provides the all-important first impression any candidate will have of the business. Make sure your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion comes across loud and clear on all channels – and that what is being said is consistent across the piece.

Review all material for imagery and language that may be reinforcing gender, age or other stereotypes. Keep inclusivity in mind when writing your job adverts. You should also think carefully about where you are advertising vacancies to ensure information gets to under-represented groups. HR tech with recruitment software capabilities like Cezanne HR can make sharing posts to a wide range of sites simple to do.

3. Sharpen up on shortlisting

The shortlisting stage of the recruitment process is where bias often creeps in. For example, ‘university snobbery’ – the act of filtering out candidates that did not graduate from a list of desired universities, e.g., Russell Group universities – is alive and well, according to Milkround.

‘Blind’ decision making – where information such as names or university attended is stripped out of CVs – is reportedly being used by organisations such as Deloitte and the BBC to create a more level playing field for their graduate recruitment programmes.

The key is to make sure the shortlisting process is focused on the skills and competencies people need to perform well in the role, rather than on more personal aspects that aren’t related to role suitability.

4. Rethink your interview panel

It’s worth thinking about who people are going to be meeting with when they turn up for an interview. Are your interview panels typically diverse, made up of people with different perspectives and demographic profiles?

Forbes points out that leaders tend to hire people that resemble their own image. This doesn’t apply just to race or gender; they also look for people who think and express themselves in a similar way. If this happens a lot, it would lead to a ‘homogenous’ workforce that would restrict the organisation’s abilities to transform and develop its business and culture.

More diverse panels not only help to convey the message that the company values DEI, they also lead to more diverse hiring decisions.

5. Consider a random selection

If you’re unsure about whether you have a good reason to hire (or not hire) someone, drill down to the ‘whys’ of your (or other interviewers’) doubts. But if you’re down to your best final candidates, all possessing the similar skills, experience, and qualities you’re looking for from a new employee, you can consider choosing randomly.

Unchecked bias rears its ugly head when we rely on gut feelings. So, strategy and behavioural science professor Chengwei Liu proposes using random selection when you can’t justify hiring one person over another at the final stage of your recruitment process.

6. Crunch the numbers

Good HR systems can give you the data you need to track, analyse and improve your organisation’s diversity performance. It will highlight areas where action is needed and can support decision making.

The problem is that data often isn’t captured consistently or at all stages of the employee lifecycle. Make sure you exploit the wealth of information available in your HR system to inform decisions about recruiting and resourcing and put the spotlight on areas where the business needs to pay more attention.

Recruitment is a process where you can create a big impact in terms of DEI efforts, so it’s important to discover any blockers from the get-go.

For more tips on how to use HR software to help with your recruitment process, read this article.

Sign up to our newsletter