Unconscious bias in the recruitment process and how to overcome it

Unconscious bias refers to the subtle prejudices and stereotypes that affect our decisions and judgments without our conscious awareness. It’s integrated into our minds due to our upbringing, social influences, and personal experiences. With recruitment being a crucial part of building an inclusive and diverse workplace, it’s essential to learn to overcome the unconscious bias affecting our decision-making processes. 


Here are some examples of how it can affect the recruitment process: 

  • affinity bias makes us prefer candidates that are similar to us (for example with their educational history, appearance, and career path) 
  • attribution bias makes us incorrectly evaluate candidates’ accomplishments (leading us to believe for example that luck and not skills helped them progress in their careers)
  • confirmation bias makes us stick to the first impressions and prejudice we get and subconsciously look for evidence to support them not giving people second chances
  • halo effect gets us to see only positive traits of a candidate after being impressed by a single thing (for example by education or former employer)


All these obstacles in evaluating candidates can lead to further issues in our organization. If we don’t acknowledge and fight to overcome unconscious bias, we will end up with limited diversity and inequalities, and a toxic workplace culture that doesn’t support productivity and engagement. We will create a homogenous group and miss opportunities to hire exceptional talent.  


Here are some steps that will help overcome unconscious bias:


Training: We need to educate ourselves and the hiring team on the risks involved. We need to provide specialized training and bring up the issue on a regular basis. Everyone involved in the process needs to understand its impact, learn how to recognize when bias takes the lead, and how to push it aside. 


Blind screening of resumes: Removing information such as name, gender, age, and picture will help us focus on qualifications and mitigate biases related to demographic factors. 


Implementing structured interviews: Standardized questions reduce the influence of personal biases, ensuring fair assessments of candidates. Having the skills, qualifications, and competencies required for the position strictly defined reduces the potential for biases to influence the decision-making process.


Diversifying the hiring team: Including individuals from diverse backgrounds in the process can bring different perspectives.


Constant feedback and evaluation: Seeking feedback from employees and candidates helps identify areas for improvement. It’s crucial to continuously evaluate the recruitment process for biases and adjust accordingly.


Overcoming unconscious bias requires ongoing effort and commitment, but as a reward, you’re creating a diverse and inclusive workplace at the same time. By acknowledging bias and its presence and implementing strategies to address it, organizations can foster a fair and equitable recruitment process that celebrates talent and potential rather than perpetuating stereotypes.