According to 2017's NACE panel, "If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude." Understanding diversity as a business necessity stems from the realization that diversity breeds innovation and innovation breeds business success. Thus, smart organizations need to actively consider how to promote diversity within their existing workforces and through their hiring processes.
Even for the most innovative company in the world, diversity is a big issue. Overall, 7 out of 10 people who work at Google are men and there is a severe underrepresentation of African American and Hispanics in their workforce. Lack of diversity is a problem that roots itself in hiring/recruiting biases and the effects are directly felt by both companies and universities.
A bias is a snap decision, one which happens before you’re even aware a decision has been made. "Our lizard brains" are good for many things, but making sound business decisions is not one of them.
So what creates these biases? Here are 3 examples of what is creating biases in the recruiting/hiring processes:
1. We gravitate towards those who are like us
According to the similarity-attraction hypothesis, we tend to like people who are similar to us — whether that means they are the same nationality, come from the same state or sport the same haircut. A simplified way to explain this phenomenon is that people with a decent level of self-esteem are satisfied with their personalities. So when they see their qualities reflected in someone else, they tend to like that person, too. Humans have evolved to like people who look and act the way they do, this is because, at one point in time, it was essential to trust only those in your small social group.
Many hiring managers and recruiters fall prey to their own subconscious biases about factors such as physical attractiveness, height, weight, and charisma. Employers and recruiters use their gut reactions to hire people like themselves without even realizing that there's bias in their processes.
2. We fall for stereotypes and discrimination
Discriminating candidates based on cultural differences can be done both at the conscious and unconscious level. This is especially true in the recruiting and hiring processes, where our society tends to favor those that are more extroverted, those who are younger and those who are perceived to be more competent based on their race.
You may not be aware of it, but even job postings can be biased. For example, your job post may read: “looking for a young, imaginative analyst”, but without realizing, you just performed age discrimination. It’s the difference between using “police officer” instead of “policeman” in order to avoid discriminating against women who want to apply for the job.
While it's possible to unlearn ethnic biases, stereotypes about gender tend to have deeper roots and are harder to reverse. One study even found that people were more likely to hire a male candidate over a female candidate to perform a mathematical task, even when they learned that the candidates would perform equally well.
3. We are only scratching the surface
When selecting a new candidate, some tend to focus solely on those who are experienced and in need of little development and training. Although this is not necessarily bad in all contexts, this recruitment bias can cause you to overlook candidates that are naturally built for a job, but who don’t presently have much experience.
Part of recruiting means digging deeper and investigating, however, when we’re in a hurry to fill a position, we may only see what we WANT to see in order to make a quick decision. If a candidate has a decent resume, is well-dressed and has presented himself favorably in an interview, some may refrain from investigating any further. Relying solely on first impressions of appearance and a single resume is another source of hiring/recruitment bias.
And with countless studies and data that has shown just how much looks can influence a hiring decision, we must use tools such as succession planning platforms that can help recruiters and hiring managers to look beyond the surface.
If you are looking for real-life examples of these hiring biases, here is a blog post that explains 5 common biases (and how to minimize them).
So, yes, It is in our unconscious second nature to prefer people that share similarities and reject people with characteristics that we are unfamiliar with. With this knowledge, the first thing we should all to do is to get familiar with a diversity of experiences, cultures, and people.
So, why is it important to reduce or eliminate bias from your hiring/ recruiting processes?
Although it is obvious for Equal Employment Opportunity compliance requirements and corporate ethics policies, it is, more importantly, the opportunity to increase your workplace diversity.
Hiring managers, recruiters, and companies must re-evaluate their programs and remove hidden biases. Recruiting candidates based on demonstrated skills and expertise instead of traditional accreditation and resume-based skill assertion can improve the overall quality of a diverse employee base.