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5 Ways to Remove Hidden Biases from Your Hiring Process

October 4, 2016

Statement of fact – we all have hidden biases. Every single one of us has unconscious cognitive mechanisms at play that affect how we interpret information and make decisions. While race and gender biases receive most of the attention and definitely come into play in hiring, there are many implicit biases that can affect our thinking and behavior.

Below are five ways we can limit how much our biases affect our decision-making:

1) Establish Job Relevant Criteria

One of the best ways to make sure that you are making decisions and drawing unbiased conclusions about candidates is to evaluate each of them on job relevant criteria. First things first, know the target position well by identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies that are required of a new hire. Build your selection system around these job relevant criteria.

When establishing criteria, pay close attention to education and experience requirements. If these standards are set higher than needed for new hires, then some qualified candidates, or groups of candidates, could be screened out who could effectively perform the job.

2) Be Structured and Consistent

Once the job relevant criteria have been established, a hiring process that assesses the key skills and competencies should be designed and implemented. To ensure that personal biases are minimized, every candidate should follow the exact same structured process. This allows you to gather the same job relevant information from each candidate for decision-making purposes. Being structured and consistent is a best practice for maximizing fairness and accuracy in your hiring process.

3) Don’t Use Social Media

In today’s high-tech world, there is a lot of information available to us about our candidates. Unfortunately, the more personal, non-job relevant information you find, the more likely it will seep into your consciousness and decision making. Years of psychological research has clearly shown that our gut feelings and personal character judgments are not very accurate.

A good reason for this is our personal biases. We make assumptions and evaluations of people based on many factors and many of them are not job-related. Taking a peek at someone’s personal posts on social media can tell you a lot of information about that individual like race, age, gender and marital status. You may not realize it but those pieces of information might creep into your decision making. Try not to bias yourself by gathering extra information on your candidates from social media and other sources. Keep it job-related! 

4) Use Assessments

Removing bias often means removing people from the process. One effective way of doing this is by building assessments into your hiring process. The right assessment (well-designed, job relevant and valid) is much more predictive of future job performance than interviews. Assessments ask job relevant questions and are consistently applied to every candidate despite their personal characteristics, experiences and education.

Many organizations are finding assessments to be a good best practice for identifying the most qualified candidates and they have the added bonus of reducing bias on the part of hiring managers and HR professionals.

5) Get Diverse Perspectives

Since almost all hiring processes do involve individuals at some point, one final way of minimizing bias in the hiring process is to introduce diversity in the decision-making process. To the best of your ability get diverse perspectives from others in the organization. The more diversity (age, race, gender, experience, education) there is in hiring group, the more likely it is that different kinds/types of bias are at work and a more objective decision will be made. Even with a diverse group, it’s important to keep everyone focused on the job relevant information collected on each candidate.

In sum, stay focused on the job and what is required to be successful in it. We all know that biases are at play but the more you can filter out personal information and non job-related factors, the more likely you’ll make decisions based on a candidate’s ability to perform the job. Now you have some tools in your toolkit to try to keep your personal biases in check – good luck!

Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Manager of Product Development at PSI. She is an expert in the design, development and validation of psychological assessment tools. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous competency-based assessments, including online in-baskets, job simulations and motivational fit instruments.