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How Hidden Biases Can Affect Hiring And Diversity Initiatives

Businesses often pride themselves on their diversity initiatives in the workplace, but the hidden danger of recruiting bias means limiting your candidate options during the hiring process. Maybe you don’t even know you’re doing it, but everyone has internal biases, whether consciously or unconsciously. Besides the most common bias that is already being tackled, like gender bias in hiring, the workplace is rife with unconscious bias, and since you aren’t aware of it, it’s hard to stamp out. It’s detrimental to both current and prospective employees, recruiters, and the companies themselves. Unconscious bias can inhibit diversity, recruitment efforts, promotions, and the retention rate in companies. For being an unknown factor, bias has a lot of harmful side effects.

Are You Guilty of These Common Biases?

The good news is that once you know about your own hidden biases, you can take steps to correct them with knowledge and training. This means that you won’t always be affected by them, or, if you are, at least to a lesser extent. What exactly are these biases that might be affecting your hiring decisions? Listed below are some of the more prevalent ones:

  1. Confirmation bias: Confirmation bias means you only take in information that confirms your beliefs and ignore everything else. It also means you don’t look for details or under the surface since you believe your first impression. If you see a well-dressed candidate or resume or both, and you think that means they are a good candidate, then you will ignore anything negative about them after that. This generally means that you form your opinion, positive or negative, based on one detail (like from a resume) and simply see everything as confirming that opinion or as unimportant if contrary.

 

  1. Affinity bias: This is where you identify with a candidate based on a similar or likable trait, so you act warmer towards them during the interview and speak better of them afterward. There was no fundamental basis for this warmth, just a feeling, which is subjective and can hurt other candidates.

 

  1. Similarity bias (Ingroup bias): Similarity bias means you want to hire those most like you (same group interests or hobbies, etc.). While this is a great way to make friends, it’s not a successful tactic for hiring the best, unless they are applying for your job. You need to remember that most jobs have different competencies and, on top of that, you want diversity in the workplace. 

 

  1. Projection bias: You believe that others share your own goals, beliefs, etc., and so you think they’d be suitable for the company you are hiring for. But people have their own priorities and goals that have nothing to do with you and yours, so assuming this just leads to confusion and disappointment.

 

  1. Halo effect: The halo effect is where you think that since the person is good at A, they will also be good at B, C, and D. But you need to see if they have the requisite skills and not judge the candidate based on one trait.

 

  1. Pitchfork effect: This is the opposite of the halo effect where you see or hear something negative and then assume all of the candidate’s other traits are negative too. For example, during an interview, if the candidate answers the first couple of questions badly, you think they’ll answer everything that way and assume they’re not qualified for the job.

 

  1. Status quo bias: The status quo bias is where you like everything the way it is and want it to stay that way. There are two sides to this coin: a) You are only looking for past experience to find a good candidate, which means you miss out on someone just entering the field, but who could be perfect. This means you keep focusing on those already in the field while ignoring fresh talent.  Alternatively, if you are filling a previously held position by someone you liked, you’ll try to get a carbon copy of them in the next hire, which adds internal blinders to your search for the best candidate.

 

  1. Nonverbal bias/Effective Heuristic: This is where you judge a candidate’s ability to do the job based on a superficial trait like tattoos or body weight. However, a one-dimensional characteristic doesn’t mean you can perform a full analysis to see if they are qualified. (It’s also dangerous on legal grounds, beware.) For example, if you think CEOs should be tall, then you will discount anyone shorter than your assumed cut-off height.

 

  1. Expectation Anchor: If you are convinced that an earlier candidate was the best for the job,  you don’t consider any of the later candidates even while still conducting interviews.

 

  1. Contrast effect: The contrast effect happens when you see a ton of resumes or interviews in a row, and so you start to compare how they are to the previous candidates, even though you should be comparing individual skills and experiences to the job posting only.

 

  1. Conformity bias: This bias is where, if you form a different opinion than the rest of a group, you’re more likely to change your mind to agree with them. This can be seen as the “Majority rules” idea or the “Mob mentality” that happens when a group of people form and one idea takes hold even when not everyone agrees with it.

 There are quite a few biases you need to be aware of which makes hiring an even more difficult process. As, you don’t even realize that you might be missing out on the best candidates when you believe your first impressions and take things at face value.

 

Tips to Overcome Unconscious Hiring Bias

Refine Job Descriptions

Different words attract different candidates. Hence, it is essential to choose the right words while writing job descriptions. Job descriptions act as a primary filter and can in fact influence both the hiring process and the candidate’s opinion of the business brand, even before they get into the interview. While writing your job descriptions pay attention to making them standardized, job role-specific, and inclusive of supporting all forms of diversity. 

Use a Hiring Marketplace

Hiring Marketplaces offer businesses a wide variety of candidates to choose from, with varying sets of skills and diversities. An open marketplace encourages anyone to apply and helps remove intrinsic bias. Rather than scrutinizing a worker’s background, this model gets to the heart of what matters most: finding talent that performs and produces results at the highest level. Moreover, modern-day Hiring Marketplaces built using the latest technology help in bias-free candidate matching by using smart algorithms and assessments to objectively match the best candidates with the right skills and motivations to the relevant jobs.

Improve Interview Processes

While conducting an interview, it is important to stick to a structured process so that everyone answers the same standardized questions. This makes it easier to compare candidate abilities without being influenced by superficial traits. It is also helpful to ask behavioral questions to see how candidates have reacted in the past to assess possible future situations.

 

Additionally, try to have many pairs of eyes on the interview, either with a transcript or with a panel interview. You could even try to have live or recorded phone or video interviews so that more people can hear the candidate and weigh in on the matter.


After conducting the interview, take a minute to see if you are dismissing or pushing forward a specific candidate. Is this action based on actual concrete data from their resume, skills test, or interview, or is it based on something else like a gut feeling or a physical characteristic? If it’s the latter, then you are being biased. Once you recognize a bias, you need to get back on track for an objective analysis. You need to train yourself out of making decisions based on superficial traits (appearance, culture, comfort level during the interview, etc.) and look deeper. If you still have issues, you need to ask better questions during the interview or look into interview training. You need to avoid making snap decisions since they are not the best way to hire someone. Don’t forget to test your conclusions. This is where reference checks come in. Always verify that the candidate is who and what they say they are.

Explore Digital Solutions to Curb Hiring Bias

Just as we can’t remove emotions from people, we can’t suppress their biases. However, by deploying the right digital workforce solutions, businesses can eliminate hiring biases to a great extent. Prosperix aims to help businesses identify and conquer all forms of hiring biases to onboard exceptional professionals — regardless of who they are or where they came from. Our solution is a combination of the latest technology catalyzed with our white glove MSP/VMS services that guarantee organizations the best hiring outcomes. We reinforce technology with active human curation to handpick and thoroughly vet candidates before presenting them to businesses. Since we are a certified tier 1 diverse supplier, all hires made through Prosperix’s VMS count towards tier 1 diversity spend, and our built-in AI makes hiring outstanding candidates easy, matching you to the most capable suppliers and candidates in real-time. 

With Prosperix, diversify your workforce and make hiring bias-free.

To learn more about our workforce solution, schedule a demo with us today.

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