January 19, 2019
Hiring 08 June 2017
What Creates Recruiting & Hiring Biases?
Hannah Son
hiring manager, hiring bias, recruiting, recruiting bias, bias

According to this year’s 2017 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. If you're at the NACE conference today don't miss this excellent panel to hear several ways to start down the path of less biased recruiting. 

The panel will be on June 8, 2017, from 10:45-11:45.  The stellar lineup includes:

Crystal Huang, CEO / Co-Founder ProSky

Crystal Huang is the Co-Founder and CEO of ProSky, a high-growth HR SaaS company that gives organizations the ability to innovatively evaluate candidates and develop employees through succession pathways, so they can recruit, hire, and retain the best diverse talent & culture fit. She is an award-winning entrepreneur and has been asked to speak for organizations like the Gates Foundation, Institute for the Future, Close It Summit and the ACT Foundation.

Freda Kapor Klein, PHD / Partner at the Kapor Center

She is an entrepreneur, activist, and leader in the field of organizational culture and diversity. Freada is a pioneer in developing models for revenue and sustainability of nonprofits and is an active advisor and mentor to social entrepreneurs. She is also an advocate for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, especially people of color and women.Dr. Klein was the first Director of Organizational Development, Training and Employee Relations for Lotus Development Corporation. Her consulting firm, Klein Associates, specializes in employee surveys, training, and consulting on all forms of bias, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace. Klein’s client base ranges from Harvard Business School to the World Bank to top tier international professional services firms and tech start-ups.In 2001 she founded the Level Playing Field Institute, a non-profit which promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces by removing barriers to full participation; it houses the SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors) Academy for low-income high school students of color. Klein is the author of “Giving Notice: Why the Best and the Brightest Leave the Workplace and How You Can Help Them Stay”.

Ed Smith-Lewis is the Director of the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative

Ed oversees all facets of the CPI, a $50 million grant to support curricular enhancements leading to improved institutional and employment outcomes for all students. Previously, Ed was an Associate Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the Postsecondary Success team.  Ed’s responsibilities included managing a portfolio of grants and contracts valued at more than $133 million; over $20 million dedicated to institutional transformation at HBCUs and large Urban-Serving Universities.

Panelists will discuss novel ways to use competency-based hiring to mitigate against inherent biases and promote diversity in the recruiting and hiring processes. If you're at NACE stop by the Versailles room at 10:45. If you'll be watching via Twitter, stay tuned as we'll be monitoring feeds to give updates!

To hear more about ProSky’s interviewing solutions can increase your company’s potential to create a diverse unbiased work environment, request a free demo here.