Bias In Hiring: Going Beyond The Basics

Accepting that bias exists in your hiring process empowers your organization to productively focus on implementing the behavioral interventions that will mitigate its effects - allowing you to build a more talented workforce by making more effective and inclusive hiring decisions.

It is a given that unconscious bias exists in the hiring and recruitment process. Accepting that fact empowers your organization to productively focus on implementing the behavioral interventions that will mitigate bias in hiring - allowing you to build a more talented workforce by making more effective and inclusive hiring decisions

Last week, we covered how bias in hiring arises, and why it’s so prevalent in the recruitment process, as well as five basic actions for foundational DEI organizations

  1. Do Unconscious Bias Training Right
  2. Pre-Align on Clear Needs for Job Roles
  3. Write Neutral and Approachable Job Descriptions
  4. Recruit a Diverse Slate of Candidates
  5. Use Blind Resumes

This week, we move onto the actual interviewing process and suggest more bias-disrupting interventions for organizations that are ready to level up in DEI sophistication. 

Intermediate Actions To Reduce Hiring Bias For DEI Growth Organizations:

6.   Give Work Sample Tests

Work sample tests mimic the tasks, problem-solving dilemmas or skills that will be required on the job, simply testing the ability of candidates to do the work. They allow for more objective side-by-side comparability between candidates and are also better correlated to job performance than unstructured interviews. 

7.    Conduct Structured, Standardized Interviews

Even when basic measures to mitigate bias are put in place, the face-to-face interview can undermine the best intentions.  Unstructured and organic interviews, where managers go with their gut, are simply not useful in job success evaluation: meta-analysis on how well assessment predicts performance shows that unstructured interviews have very poor correlation with job effectiveness - and they are breeding ground for unconscious bias.

Structured interviews are far better correlated to job performance - asking each candidate the same preset questions, related directly to facts that will impact job performance, in the same order. Responses can be scored in real time on a predetermined scale. When structural interviews are based on behavioral-based interviewing, they tightly focus on competencies needed for success in the job, and ask for anecdotal evidence of past application of those behavioral competencies, without prescribing a context in which the skill was applied. 

The increase in remote work, combined with the knowledge of the  bias that face-to-face interviews bring in and how they disadvantage certain groups,  leads to new approaches in hiring. Bold companies are conducting digital structured interviews where the decision has been 99% made before the final formality of a face-to-face meet (on video or in person) to  extend the offer. 

8.  Get Data-Rich and Data-Wise About Recruitment

One of the most powerful actions organizations can take to mitigate hiring bias is to understand how bias is impacting the recruitment journey at each step - through data and metrics.

Action without evaluation can too often lead to wheel-spinning. When outcomes are not meeting expectations, how do you know where your interventions are falling short? What if despite all your efforts, nothing is making a difference, because ultimately there’s an external perception issue about your organization that is outside the influence of your recruitment-based strategies? 

Data analytics not only highlight where, why and how to focus, but also help you track the progress made as you implement different strategies and tactics to mitigate bias. Data enables you to know what works and to what extent. 

9.   Build Your “Diversity Brand Equity”

As highlighted in DiversityInc, your “diversity brand equity” reflects how people - including prospective talent - view your organization when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

Consider what DEI brand image you are putting out there as potential talent interacts with your organization, does your language and visual imagery (website, career pages, social media, blog, recruitment ads, current employees) reflect a gender-neutral ethos and communicate a culture of diversity and inclusion? Do you provide cues, authentic and from current employees, that allow different underrepresented groups to imagine themselves in your organization and feel they could belong and thrive there? 

This is not about posturing. When auditing the imagery and language, consider who remains excluded, and whether this is due to a real outage in the talent in your organization. 

10.  Form Diverse Hiring Teams

Diverse hiring teams - composed of individuals from different groups and different functions - creates a collaborative hiring dynamic where candidates are evaluated through diverse perspectives (including secondary dimensions of diversity such as cognitive diversity). Hiring more diverse candidates necessitates more diverse hiring teams. 

This is not the same as group interviews (which can exacerbate affinity bias); it’s important that each member of the hiring team gets to indicate their individual scores and form their evaluation, before and independently of input from other team members, so as to not be influenced by bandwagon bias or particularly dominant team members.

Once individual appraisals are well-documented, collaborative hiring provides a debrief forum in which team members can “check” each other for bias. As Catalyst points out, group discussions can help to identify where bias is seeping in and provide a safe place to challenge it.

Advanced Interventions for DEI Leading Organizations: 

11.  Hire for “Cultural Add”

Directly challenging the thinly guised affinity bias, and often exclusionary notion, of  "cultural fit,” Ruchika Tulshyan, author of Inclusion On Purpose, challenges organizations to hire for the “cultural add” - which complements setting diversity goals. 

Imagine replacing the question of likeability and cultural fit with assessing whether a candidate is truly an addition to the current organizational culture: do they stretch the demographic diversity, diversity of perspective, cognitive diversity, communicative diversity for your organization? or will they contribute to group think?

Culture add requires going against the grain of normal bias. Diversity Officer Magazine suggests that when two final candidates are equally qualified, inclusion requires a hiring practice of intentionally going away from affinity bias by selecting the historically underrepresented or under-estimated candidate, instead. It also could mean treating cultural diversity as a top commodity: such as offering African American recruits in STEM, or women, the top of the salary range for a role, when bias has historically created an income gap for these groups.

12. Create Dedicated Recruitment Initiatives for Specific Groups

Especially when it comes to including underemployed talent such as neurodiverse individuals or people with disabilities, focused and committed hiring initiatives have proven to lead to outstanding results. There is a growing awareness of the competitive advantage of hiring neurodiverse talent, but traditional processes to attract, evaluate, and integrate this talent segment are not effective.

Often, a change in approach involves working with external partners who specialize in assessing talent in these groups to support recruiting intentions, as individuals in these groups have too strong a likelihood of falling through the net of traditional recruitment practices. 

Being explicit and intentional in building “diversity brand equity” with traditionally undervalued groups is very important. Question if there is arbitrary criteria for jobs that creates hurdles or exclusions that filter out this talent pool.

 

13. Be a Culture that Embodies Counter-Stereotypical Examples

The best long-term antidote to mitigate our implicit biases and our hidden stereotype-based beliefs is greater exposure to people different from ourselves. With a broader range of experiences, we are less likely to rely on stereotypes, or mental shortcuts; as we encounter individuals who challenge our automatic assumptions, we disrupt the societal conditioning that stereotypes are, in part, based upon.  

The most evolved leaders in DEI will be the companies who challenge themselves and the organization to push the edge - they are walking the walk, effectively integrating  many of the interventions that disrupt bias. As a result,  their workforce and leadership presents counter-stereotypical examples at every turn, far beyond recruitment. The true leaders in DEI will challenge the status quo to a degree that eventually creates a new status quo that renders today’s hiring context antiquated

Until then, the leadership move is to build processes to identify and  mitigate bias in the current system and to hold themselves  accountable for outcomes, no matter your organization’s level of  DEI sophistication, focus on introducing one well-executed behavioral intervention at a time. 

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