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Biased Hiring

What Is Biased Hiring?

Biased hiring occurs when interviewers (or screeners) form feelings or opinions about candidates that negatively or positively impact the interview. For example, biases could arise based on a candidate’s appearance, voice, gender, or virtually anything else an interviewer finds out about them.

Bias can creep into the hiring process in a number of ways. For example, if you’re looking at a group of resumes and your first thought is that one candidate looks more qualified than all others, it could be because they have a name that’s more common among your target demographic — but it could also be because of unconscious bias against people who don’t belong to your group.

This kind of unconscious bias can affect both men and women equally: A study by the University of California found that both genders tend to view women as less capable leaders than men with identical credentials.

Avoid Biased Hiring

Hiring bias is often subconscious. Everyone has internal biases, whether they admit them or not. And interviewers may not realize they are subtly judging candidates in a way that limits their potential in the hiring process. So:

  • Be aware of your own biases.
  • Listen to interviewees.
  • Take a close look at your job description for any biased language.
  • Ask for feedback from candidates who aren’t selected, and use it to improve your process going forward.
  • Understand which laws apply to hiring practices within your state so that you don’t inadvertently discriminate against certain groups.

Using competencies and structured interviews can also reduce the chances of injecting bias into your hiring process. Competencies refer to the characteristics you’re looking for in a candidate. Structured interviews build off of those competencies by asking questions that determine whether or not a candidate has those predefined characteristics.

Specifying the competencies you’re going after before an interview, forcing interviewers to ask the same set of questions, and evaluating candidates solely on the answers to those questions gives candidates a much more even playing field. Interviewers aren’t basing decisions on their gut feelings but rather on concrete evidence. This evidence enables interviewers to compare candidates fairly, dramatically lessening the potential of biased hiring at your organization.

Remember, hiring bias can have a negative effect on the company’s culture by creating an unwelcoming environment for employees from marginalized groups who may feel like they don’t belong in the workplace. Over time, this can lead to lower productivity levels and low morale.

Laws and Regulations That Protect Against Hiring Discrimination

You can study the laws and regulations that protect against discrimination in hiring and employment practices. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

The EEOC website has information about these laws: https://www2.eeoc.gov/laws/types/index_employers.cfm

Hiring Bias Is a Serious Issue

It’s important to know what hiring bias is, how it works and how to avoid it in your company. Hiring bias can impact your company’s policies, practices and culture if not managed properly.