Addressing a Quiet Innovation Killer: Bias in Hiring

Finding the perfect new hire for any organisation can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. When sifting through resumes or conducting interviews, one factor you may not have even considered is personal bias.

Take this example: According to Social Talent, while 60 percent of CEOs in the U.S. are taller than six feet, only 15 percent of the total population is more than six feet tall. Although no one goes to interview a CEO looking for someone with this characteristic, these statistics suggest that we tend to equate height with leadership ability. Becoming aware of how bias plays a role in our work is the first step to making positive changes.

Bias is usually an unconscious act, which is one reason it is hard to address. In addition to more obvious examples like gender, race and age, there are many other factors that can influence a hiring decision.

Think about the last time you interviewed a potential new hire. Did you get excited to see someone who went to your school or knew one of your friends? It’s normal for things like a candidate’s degree, the school they went to or mutual connections to influence a person’s feeling towards a candidate; however, those factors may not have anything to do with the job they’re applying for.

Most of us agree that making a decision based on prejudice is unfair and unethical, and there may be broader repercussions that you have not considered. Hiring the same type of people can lead to a lack of cognitive diversity and in turn, less innovation. Filling a role with someone who lacks the necessary skills and motivation can have financial consequences due to a loss in productivity and cost to rehire. In extreme cases, bias can even lead to a lawsuit.

Fortunately, there are steps organisations can take to address bias in hiring:

  1. Offer awareness training. Helping employees become aware of their own tendencies will lead to more intentional hiring processes.
  2. Standardise the hiring and interview process. Putting a consistent structure in place will ensure that all candidates are treated the same.
  3. Review resumes “blindly. It can be done the old fashioned way by asking someone outside the decision making circle to hide demographic information or consider using technology to assist.
  4. Set diversity goals. Consider delaying the hiring process until at least 20 percent of the candidate pool represents a minority class.
  5. Know what you’re looking for. Determine which job skills are essential and have a way to measure them, which brings us to #6.
  6. Use a hiring assessment. Using a tool to determine if a candidate is a good fit can save time, money and make the process anonymous.


One of our clients in the manufacturing industry found it difficult to review countless resumes without showing preferential treatment based on a candidate’s degree or the school they attended. They realised, though, that these traits had nothing to do with the job requirements. To address these biases, they began using the Emergenetics Selection Programme (ESP) to measure job performance, which levelled the playing field and gave all candidates an equal opportunity to rise to the top.

Using a hiring assessment like ESP can help an organisation eliminate some of the most common hiring challenges by providing an unbiased, standardised way to identify the right candidates. Here are some ways ESP can support your effort:

Reduces complete reliance on resumes:

Evaluate a candidate in conjunction with reviewing resumes to quickly and objectively measure job fit.

Supports cognitive diversity:

Identify the motivations and skills needed for each position to ensure candidates will fill a gap on your team instead of adding more of the same.

Measures the whole picture:

Measure motivations, skills and attitude toward work to find out whether the candidate is capable of filling the role, a good fit for the position and if their work ethic matches the company’s expectations.

Uses data above gut feel:

Assess a candidate’s motivation and skill to enable hiring teams to compare them against a job’s requirements, rather than trusting intuition alone.

 

While bias may be prevalent in the workplace, that doesn’t mean change isn’t attainable. Taking the necessary steps to eliminate this often unconscious act can lead to better new hires, greater cognitive diversity and increased productivity, so investing in tools to reduce hiring bias should be a top priority for HR leaders.

Using a hiring assessment makes implementing these changes even easier. Connect with our team at selection@emergenetics.com to learn more!

This article was originally published in Emergenetics International Blog Addressing a Quiet Innovation Killer: Bias in Hiring".

 
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