Awareness and Action: How to Recognize and Reduce Conscious and Unconscious Bias in Interviewing 

Awareness and Action: How to Recognize and Reduce Conscious and Unconscious Bias in Interviewing 

As humans, it’s only natural for us to have our biases. However, when these biases are left unchecked in areas such as interviewing and hiring, they can have unintended consequences. 

It’s possible to find yourself showing favoritism or disregarding candidates for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job—like their looks, where they come from, their personality, or who they are. This doesn’t just affect those candidates because it can lead to a workplace that’s less diverse and more biased. It might even put your organization at risk legally and reputation-wise. 

If you’re looking to create a fairer and more inclusive environment while learning how to reduce bias in hiring, this article is here to guide you. 

What are Hiring Biases? 

Hiring biases are preconceived notions or attitudes that an interviewer or hiring manager might hold towards a candidate. These biases can be conscious or unconscious, and they can significantly influence the recruitment process. 

Conscious biases are the ones you’re aware of and might knowingly express. Conversely, unconscious biases are judgments and attitudes you’re unaware of possessing. Both types can lead to unfair decisions and hinder efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Related Reading: Galt Foundation Expert Insights: John D. Kemp’s Guide to Inclusivity at Work 

Types of Hiring Bias 

Here are some examples of biases that might not be immediately obvious but can still significantly influence the interviewing and hiring process: 

Accessibility Bias 

This bias involves assumptions about the capabilities of people with disabilities, like thinking your workplace can’t accommodate someone in a wheelchair or believing a person who is deaf can’t communicate effectively. 

Affinity Bias 

This involves favoring candidates who are similar to you or share similar backgrounds, like attending the same alma mater. 

Compensation Bias 

Expecting individuals with disabilities to either perform better or offering them lower compensation due to perceived limitations. 

Confirmation Bias 

This involves seeking information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs and possibly overlooking a candidate’s shortcomings. 

Conformity Bias 

Preferring candidates who align with the existing norms or culture of the organization, potentially excluding those who are different or require accommodation. 

Disability Bias 

It involves underestimating or overestimating the abilities of people with disabilities based on stereotypes rather than qualifications. 

Halo Effect 

This occurs when you form an overall positive opinion of a person based on one favorable trait. For instance, a candidate with an impressive resume or charming personality might be rated highly across all skills, even if there’s no evidence to support this. 

Horns Effect 

This is the opposite of the halo effect, and it happens when you form a negative view of someone based on a single unfavorable trait. For example, a typo in a cover letter or a candidate’s nervousness might lead you to undervalue their overall potential. 

These biases, whether conscious or unconscious, can significantly impact the fairness and effectiveness of the hiring process, potentially leading to a less diverse and inclusive workplace. 

How to Reduce Bias in Hiring 

Here are strategies that can help you identify and counter your biases, allowing you to evaluate candidates in a more objective and standardized way. 

1. Simplify the process 

This involves using tools like software to organize how you hire people. When the hiring process is complicated and changes a lot, it’s easier for unfairness to slip in. Different people might use different ways to pick who gets a job. But if you use tools that help automate and tidy up the process, like systems for tracking applicants, talent pools, and job boards, it helps everyone make decisions that are less based on personal opinion and more on what matters for the job. 

2. Rework job descriptions 

Job ads are often the first thing potential candidates see about your organization. A LinkedIn study found that the language in job ads can affect who applies because certain words might seem more related to a specific gender, race, or culture.¹ For instance, words like “competitive”, “dominant”, and “leader” might sound more masculine, while “collaborative”, “supportive”, and “nurturing” might sound more feminine.  

The words you use can influence who decides to apply. To avoid any kind of bias, be mindful of the words you use in job ads. Consider avoiding words that might suggest a preference for a certain type of person. Instead, use clear, neutral words that describe the skills and abilities needed for the job. 

3. Practice Blind Hiring 

Blind hiring involves focusing on what matters most in resumes – skills and experience – and not on personal details like names, gender, race, age, or education. Sometimes, hiring managers and recruiters may naturally lean towards people who seem similar to them or fit certain stereotypes about a job or the company. This can unfairly leave out qualified people just because their name or background is different.  

If you take away these personal details from resumes, it helps those making hiring decisions to concentrate on what’s important: the talents, experiences, and achievements of the person applying for the job. This way, everyone gets a fair chance based on what they can do, not who they are. 

4. Use validated assessments 

This involves using well-designed assessments to understand what each candidate can do. These assessments can include tests, simulations, work samples, case studies, or projects that mimic the kinds of tasks the candidates will be doing on the job.  

These assessments reduce the focus on resumes, interviews, and references, which can sometimes be influenced by personal biases. It’s important, though, to ensure that these assessments are not only accurate and reliable but also directly related to the job. 

5. Standardize the interview process 

Standardizing the interview process involves asking each person the same questions and grading their answers using a set scoring system. Interviews are one of the most common and influential methods of hiring. However, they are also one of the most prone to bias, as they may form impressions and judgments based on the candidates’ appearance, demeanor, or personality rather than their qualifications, skills, or potential.  

To avoid hiring bias, consider using a structured interview with a set list of questions and clear criteria for how to score the answers, all of which should match the job requirements and the company’s values. 

6. Set diversity goals 

Diversity goals are specific, measurable, and targets that show a company’s commitment to building a workforce that includes a wide range of people. These goals could be about having more women, people of color, people with disabilities, or other groups that aren’t as well represented in certain jobs or levels in the company. 

This can be a reminder to keep working towards a more inclusive workplace. Additionally, by monitoring how the hiring process is going, you can see how effective your efforts are. You can also spot any areas where unfairness might still be happening and work on fixing those. 

Related Reading: Start Strong, Finish Stronger: 10 Mistakes to Avoid During Onboarding 

HIRING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: A SMART MOVE FOR YOUR BUSINESS 

Did you know hiring people with disabilities into your team can benefit your business in many ways? Research by Accenture shows that businesses with strong disability inclusion practices see impressive results: 1.6 times more revenue, 2.6 times more net income, and double the economic profit compared to others.² Beyond these numbers, hiring people with disabilities can also enhance your customer base, boost your brand’s image, and create a richer, more varied company culture. 

So, where do you start in finding and recruiting talented individuals with disabilities? That’s where Galt Foundation comes into the picture: we’re a staffing firm focused on disability hiring. Our pool of candidates is diverse, skilled, and ready to contribute to your business in meaningful ways. We don’t just stop at placement – we also provide ongoing support to ensure everyone has rewarding work experience. 

Seize this chance to expand your business and make a positive societal impact. Get in touch with us, and let’s find the perfect additions to your team! 

References 

1 Huppert, Maxwell. “5 Must-Do’s for Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions” LinkedIn, 9 April 2018, www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-acquisition/must-dos-for-writing-inclusive-job-descriptions 

2 “Companies that Lead in Disability Inclusion Outperform Peers Financially, Reveals New Research from Accenture” Accenture, 27 Nov. 2023, www.newsroom.accenture.com/news/2023/companies-that-lead-in-disability-inclusion-outperform-peers-financially-reveals-new-research-from-accenture 

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