Unconscious Bias In Recruitment Examples

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Unconscious Bias In Recruitment Examples

Let's talk about bias. Specifically, unconscious bias in the workplace. I know you probably feel like you've heard it 1000 times, but it's still an issue, so we'll continue to address it. Now, you may be thinking, "I don't have any biases!" But the truth is, we all do. It's human nature.

If you're new to the concept of bias, let's define our topic for today before we get into it- just so we're all on the same page.

What is Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

Unconscious bias in recruitment is when we make judgments or decisions about a candidate based on our thoughts and feelings about them, rather than their qualifications for the role. It's important to note that these biases are often unintentional and can occur without us even realizing it. To illustrate, let's look at some common unconscious bias in recruitment examples:

Example of Unconscious Bias In Recruitment

One common unconscious bias in recruitment example is affinity bias. Affinity bias takes place when a recruiter shows a preference for a candidate who shares similarities with themselves. This can show up in many ways. Attending the same university is one of the most common, but others could be having the same hobbies, sharing similar experiences or past employers on their resume, or having a similar background.

For example, a hiring manager who went to the University of Pennsylvania (for example) might favor candidates who also graduated from there. Depending on the interviewer's personal experience with the institution, affinity bias would shift the interviewer's perspective based on their own experience and without regard for the candidate's job-based skills, experience, and fit for the role. When this kind of bias plays out over the long term, the team will often look like one homogenous workforce, and candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences who may bring broader perspectives to the table are overlooked.

How to Mitigate Unconscious Bias.

One of the fastest ways to eliminate biases in the recruitment process is to use structured interviews backed by interview intelligence software. Structured interviews offer the benefit of candidate selection based on standardized hiring criteria and the same interview questions for every candidate. This may seem like a solution that's far too simple to be effective, but standardization creates fairness and objectivity- which eliminates bias.

Using interview intelligence tools will also change the game. Having access to post-interview insights and AI tools that assess candidates' skills instead of their personal traits, will help you create a fair hiring process for your applicants.

Types Of Unconscious Bias In Recruitment

Examples of unconscious bias in recruitment show that there are many forms of bias in the hiring process. These biases can be based on a variety of factors such as race, gender, age, education, name pronunciation, religious orientation, and even physical appearance. Biases come from thousands of years of human evolution as survival instincts drove the way we respond to stimuli in our surroundings. Unfortunately, these instincts are far less necessary in today's world but they still show up as "pre-judgments" when it comes to interviewing.

So that you're aware of their effects, let's dig into several common types of unconscious bias in recruitment and talk about how they creep into the hiring process.

  1. Affinity Bias: We'll be brief on this form of bias since we already covered it at length in the last section. Affinity bias is when a hiring manager or recruiter prefers candidates who share similarities with themselves, such as attending the same university.
  2. Confirmation Bias: This bias happens when we look for information that confirms our existing beliefs about a candidate instead of evaluating their qualifications objectively. For example, if you have a positive first impression of a candidate, you may interpret all of their answers in the interview in a positive light. On the other hand, if you have a negative first impression, you may interpret their answers more harshly.
  3. Halo Effect: The halo effect is when one positive trait or aspect of a candidate's background overshadows any potential shortcomings they may have in other areas. This can lead to overlooking red flags and hiring based on "likeability" rather than job fit.
  4. Contrast Effect: This bias is when a candidate is compared to others in the hiring process, rather than being evaluated based on their own qualifications for the role. For example, if a candidate interviews after a particularly strong one, they may not seem as impressive in comparison and be overlooked.
  5. Horn Effect: The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. It occurs when a single negative trait or aspect of a candidate's background overshadows their other positive qualities. This can lead to dismissing an otherwise qualified candidate based on one flaw.
  6. Beauty Bias: Unfortunately, studies have shown that physical appearance plays a significant role in hiring decisions. You heard that right- "pretty privilege" is real. Candidates who are perceived as more attractive may receive preferential treatment over those with features considered less attractive by society's standards. This bias can also manifest in terms of weight, height, and other physical characteristics.
  7. Name Bias: This form of bias comes from preconceived notions about certain names and their cultural or socioeconomic connotations. Studies have shown that candidates with more "white-sounding" names receive more interview callbacks than those with African-American or Hispanic names, even if they have identical qualifications.

As you can see, these unconscious bias in recruitment examples have nothing to do with a candidate's qualifications for a role and only represent an interviewer's perspective of them based on their own biases. These biases can lead to overlooking qualified candidates and creating a workforce with very little thought diversity.

Examples of unconscious bias in the workplace show that they have no positive effect on organizational success. They don't lead to more profitable companies, better products, faster innovation, or better creativity - in fact, the opposite is true. Companies with a homogenous workforce showed significantly slower growth and lower margins when compared to companies with more diverse teams.

Interview-Based Unconscious Bias

So we've talked about different types of bias and covered ways that they show up in the hiring process. Now, let's turn our attention to overcoming and even eliminating them. Hopefully, at this point, you'll have a pretty clear understanding that these biases are negatively affecting your hiring processes, and you're ready to take action.

How to Overcome Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

The first thing to understand is that we all face these biases, so give your team grace as you implement diversity initiatives. That said, be firm in your commitment to creating an inclusive culture. Beginning with Implicit Bias testing and unconscious bias in workplace training, you can identify and begin addressing these issues before they affect team culture. Next, ensure that your team is well-versed in anti-bias practices before conducting interviews. Interview-based unconscious bias is the most prevalent in the workplace, so it's critical that all interviewers are trained and held accountable for their behavior during interviews.

Another way to overcome bias in recruitment is by using blind resumes. This means removing personally identifiable information from resumes, such as name, gender, age, and education. This allows the hiring team to focus solely on a candidate's qualifications without being influenced by any demographic factors.

Now that you've eliminated many of the initial opportunities for bias, let's build an inclusive workplace culture that engrains inclusion into the core values of the business. If your team is small, this starts with identifying an internal champion. If it's larger, elect a team or hire an outside diversity consultant. This individual (or) individuals, will build the ecosystems necessary to create a work environment where every team member feels valued and respected, regardless of their background, identity, or experiences.

Start by promoting open communication and actively encourage the celebration of different perspectives. Google implemented a great set of principles around what they call "perspective diversity" that I've found to be personally impactful as our company tries to better solve the challenges our customers face. Marc Andreessen recently talked about this policy on the Impact Theory podcast. He said, (something like - because I tried to find the quote and couldn't) for a Google manager to say no to an employee's business idea, they had to write an entire executive summary on why it wouldn't work. This discouraged, "Nos," and pushed employees to be creative and innovative in their work. In this way (and many others), they encouraged employees to pursue their ideas and solutions, even when they seemed unconventional.

In conclusion, there are many ways to encourage a culture of inclusion. Including diverse interviewer panels in the hiring process, using structured interviews with interview intelligence, reviewing interviewer insights after the interview to ensure biases were mitigated, and many more. If you'd like to see how these solutions could work for you, book a demo of Pillar today. Our team would love to show you how interview intelligence can mitigate bias and increase diverse hiring by more than 40%.