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Unconscious Biases & Recruiting

By June 18, 2021August 24th, 2023Diversity and Inclusion

Job Posting Checklist for avoiding unconscious biasWelcome to week two of our “Be The Change” summer series! This week we are uncovering unconscious biases and sharing ways we can address and reduce them in our recruiting and hr practices.

What does Unconscious Bias mean?

Unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes people unconsciously attribute to another person.

We all have biases, and these biases affect how we understand and engage with a person, either consciously or unconsciously.  

Having biases does not make you a bad person, it’s what you do with the biases, knowingly or unknowingly, that may negatively impact others and are a cause for concern.

When do unconscious biases happen?

Unconscious biases appear all the time; especially, when we are making big decisions. When stressed, we tend to rely more on mental shortcuts. These biases can lead us to make unfair or inaccurate judgments about others.

For example, that “gut feeling” you rely on when making a difficult hiring decision could be your biases coming into play.

4 Steps to reduce Unconscious Biases in the Recruitment Process

1.Understand Your Biases. We are more likely to rely on these biases if we do not recognize them. One step to understanding your potential biases is taking an implicit association test, this can help you to become aware of your preferences. Remember, we are all vulnerable to having biases, being aware and mindful of them when making decisions is key.

Person at laptop is use a gender decoder to neutralize their job posting2. The job posting. The goal when crafting a job posting is to attract the most qualified candidates to your job. Subtle word choices in the posting can end up having an impact on the applicant pool of those you attract. Biases can sneak into job postings by including gender pronouns or gendered language (more male or female associated words). We recommend you keep your job posting language neutral and specific to the job.

If you are unsure if you have a biased job posting you can put your job posting in an online gender decoder to check for gendered language skews. Gendered language refers to using words that are historically associated as more masculine such as “rockstar / ninja” or more feminine like “pleasant.” 

3. Standardize the process.  Are your interviews more conversational? This more relaxed approach may sound appealing but unfortunately, unstructured interviews may be unreliable for predicting job success. They could also result in more biased decision-making and a longer hiring process.

To minimize unconscious bias, focus on asking about components that will directly affect job performance. Using a standardized form like this one ensures you are consistently asking the same questions in every interview. When you follow the same list of questions you are able to compare the same information for each applicant to that job.

In some applicant tracking systems, like our favorite partner JazzHR, you can add interview guides to your open position. Then, you’ll have an interview guide prepared before every interview to ensure consistency.

4. Reflect – The last step to reducing unconscious biases is to reflect. It takes significant time and attention to break some of these habits and natural ways of thinking. Ask yourself “Where is bias showing up in our hiring decisions?” or “Where could biases show up in our hiring process?”

We receive 11 million bits of information every second! We can only consciously process 40 bits, meaning more than 99.99% of information is processed at the unconscious level. 

We all have unconscious biases and they aren’t inherently bad. It’s what we knowingly or unknowingly do with them that could negatively impact others.

Stay consistent and make sure your recruiting efforts stay relevant to the jobs you’re trying to fill. Contact us if you are interested in learning more practices you can implement to reduce unconscious biases in your recruiting process!


Learn more about our summer #BeTheChange series read last week’s D&I blog here.


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