Whether you’re realizing it or not, some biases (gender, age, race, etc.) play a very pivotal role in hiring talent for a company. A lot of job vacancies, especially in Asian countries, almost always put up some age restrictions or sexual orientation as part of their qualification list. Albeit it’s up to a company’s policy to do so, but these practices will limit the amount and variety of talent they could potentially reach.
According to a diversity and Inclusion workplace survey conducted by Glassdoor, 76% of job seekers and potential candidates see a diverse workforce as an important factor when deciding whether or not they’re going to accept the job offer. And a McKinsey research shows that companies with high diversity count in their talent pool are 25% more likely to outperform their competitors.
So, it’s clear that incorporating a diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy could benefit the company in the long run and implementing the blind hiring into the earliest stages of the recruitment process can entice the right talent to apply/respond to the job vacancy you posted!
What Is Blind Hiring Process
Blind hiring or blind recruitment is a process where a company stripped away identifiable characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, level of education, etc. from a resume to reduce or even eliminate cognitive biases in a hiring stage. Basically, leaving the sheet with nothing but job-related information, experiences, and skills.
Think of it like a symphony orchestra who held auditions behind the curtain. Back in the ‘70s, a symphony orchestra which mostly consisted of white men, held an audition where anyone from any background could do the audition behind the curtain. This will significantly reduce any bias where the judge would only be able to hear the music, without seeing who performed it.
Same with blind hiring, recruiters or HR will be able to eliminate some of the initial preconceived notions about a candidate and focus only on their qualifications. Removed bias from a recruiter will give the best candidate a higher chance to get the job based on their qualifications, experience, and skills, instead of their age, sex or background.
How Blind Hiring Works
Although bias is human nature, bias in a professional setting can be disadvantageous for the company when they’re trying to recruit top talents or candidates. According to Psychology Today, bias is a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone. So, eliminating any possible biases from the get-go is the only way to make sure a blind hiring process works.
By concealing certain bias-inducing elements from a resume, your hiring team will be able to shift through them with a more objective pair of eyes. Here are some steps to help reduce hiring bias in a professional setting:
- Neutralized job description: Instead of saying that you preferred male or female for the job, start by eliminating that element and use gender-neutral language when composing a job vacancy.
- Standardized interview question: When preparing a list of questions for candidate interview, standardized questions both for your male and female applicants. Focus on skill, talent, or experiences-related questions only.
- Diversified hiring team: Have a diverse hiring team for recruitment and interview process that consist of both male, female, old, young and when possible, come from at least two different ethnicities or backgrounds.
- Hiring bias training: Held a hiring bias training to employees, especially managers and those who are involved in the hiring team. Consistent exposure to hiring bias information will train everyone to be more objective towards potential candidates.
- Referral from diverse talent: Consider asking your already diverse team within the company to refer their qualified friend or acquaintances to apply for the job. This will expand your candidate pool and increase the chance of getting the right talent.
Having a diverse team within the company may increase profit and grow the bottom line where highly diverse companies had both 19% points higher innovation revenues, and 9% points higher EBIT margins according to this Harvard Business Review research.
While this Forbes research states that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time and decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
It’s clear that a diverse team within the company will be more beneficial in the long run, and its high time more companies implement blind hiring in their recruitment process.
16 Common Types of Hiring Bias
Hiring bias refers to the unconscious or conscious prejudice that can influence the selection of job candidates during the recruitment and hiring process. This can manifest in a variety of ways, such as choosing candidates who are similar to the hiring manager or those who come from a particular background or demographic. Hiring bias can have negative consequences for both the individual candidates who are unfairly passed over and the company, as it can result in a less diverse and potentially less successful workforce. Here are 16 common bias in recruitment process.
1. Affinity Bias
Affinity bias is the unconscious tendency to associate with people who are similar to ourselves. During subjective assessments and interviews, we tend to give higher ratings to people with similar backgrounds to ourselves. People are programmed to seek out the familiar because it appears to be safer, but this is a survival instinct that has no place in a twenty-first-century workplace. This is often shown by asking candidates about their personal lives, hobbies, and other things that have nothing to do with the job.
2. Expectation Anchor
When hiring employees, you have a hundred things to consider as a recruiter. It takes time, effort, and perseverance. So, it's easy to base your overall opinion on just a few things. These are your "expectation anchors," and they may be the source of your poor hiring decisions. It's like buying a used car solely based on the number of miles on the odometer. Okay, it's probably better than picking a car based on its color, but it's not an accurate representation of all of its strengths and weaknesses.
3. Confirmation bias
It's human nature to make snap judgements about people we meet based on our "gut feeling". Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek evidence to confirm our initial impression of someone. This also includes dismissing evidence that contradicts our initial assessment of someone. Hiring on gut instinct is fraught with confirmation bias; anyone who does so risks missing out on great candidates because they made a poor first impression.
4. Affect Heuristics
Affect heuristics is when you jump to conclusions about someone before you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision. When we are tired and bored of sitting through interview after interview, we look for this mental short cut most often.
Assessing candidates quickly is more efficient and cost-effective. Recruiters only spend a few seconds reading a CV. The problem is that if this is your process, you are more likely to make the wrong decision. Worse, you'll probably make your decision based on how someone looks, what their name is, or where they come from.
5. Halo Effect
Having a good opinion of someone in one area affects how you feel or think about them in other areas. Just because someone excels at one thing does not imply that they excel in all areas. Although this increases your likelihood of hiring someone, it does not prevent hiring bias: you are still overlooking more qualified candidates, that's called the Halo effect.
6. Horn effect
It's the inverse of the halo effect. This is where one perceived flaw distorts your entire perception of someone. For example, if a candidate has a poorly designed and laid out CV, we may think they're a bad fit even if the role doesn't require any word-processing or design work. If the Halo effect is about thinking positively, then the horn effect is about negative prejudice.
7. Overconfidence Bias
This is where a recruiter is overconfident about their own abilities to identify good applicants because they believe they have "wonderful instincts". Because of this apparent superiority, 90% of the public believes they are better than average.
8. Illusory Correlation
This bias is where the interviewer observes one element and assumes that it correlates to another, possibly unrelated factor, which is then used to evaluate job performance. For example, being outgoing does not automatically imply being effective at sales. Unstructured interview questions and chit-chat about a candidate's personal life frequently produce spurious associations.
9. Negative Emphasis Bias
This is an unfavorable judgment of someone based on personal, irrelevant preferences such as height, weight, or haircut. Taller males, for example, have been found in tests to earn more money. According to University of Florida studies, every inch of height increases earnings by $789 per year. Obese candidates are also deemed much less competent than non-obese ones. All of this is dependent on cultural ideas of beauty and has no bearing on an applicant's ability to fulfill job functions.
10. Beauty Bias
According to research, beautiful people have distinct advantages. They are more likely to obtain a well-paying job, to be popular at school, and, if arrested, they might receive a shorter prison sentence. Although beauty is subjective, it's difficult not to instinctively associate someone's physical attractiveness with their expected job success.
Evidence that beautiful people are more successful in the workplace is most certainly the result of this prejudice in action. Of course, there's no real link between beauty and capability - and even then, unless it's something that can be statistically verified by the company.
11. Conformity Bias
Peer pressure influences employment decisions, which leads to conformity. This can occur in assessment centers and group interviews when assessors allow other people's perspectives and opinions about an applicant to affect their conclusions. It is extremely advantageous to refrain from discussing or revealing feelings about applicants until all exercises or interviews have been completed and scoring has occurred.
12. Contrast Bias
This is caused by comparing performance to the person(s) who came before them rather than the hiring criteria. There are some pretty compelling facts to back up the importance of contrast bias in the recruitment process:
- We are more likely to look favorably on someone's CV if it is evaluated immediately after a poor one.
- We are more likely to give a candidate a better score at interview if the previous candidate received a low score.
This happens when you look at CVs one after the other and have interviews quickly after each other. With a constantly moving benchmark, the risk is that unfit candidates will go through while good candidates will be overlooked.
13. Non-Verbal Bias
Body language misinterpretation might lead to incorrect judgments. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabia, our opinions are formed by:
- 55% body language, such as how someone seems and acts;
- 38% the sound and tone of someone's voice; and
- 7% what they really say.
The best interviewer, not necessarily the greatest candidate, is said to get the job in recruitment. Nonverbal prejudice, often known as body language bias, occurs when we are too influenced by someone's body language and charisma. You can cut it down by using online tests and blind auditions as part of your hiring process.
14. First Impression Bias
It only takes a few seconds to establish a first impression. There is hardly enough time for a job applicant to show if they will be a good worker or not. Making a decision in the initial few moments after meeting someone is known as first impression bias. It's especially deceptive because an applicant's nerves can give an interviewer the wrong first impression, especially in a stressful interview setting. You can also make a first impression before the interview, for example through your CV or social media, which are not always good indicators of work success.
15. Central Tendency Bias
Assume you have a scorecard that ranks a candidate's competencies from 1 to 5. The central tendency is when most of the items on a rating scale are put in the middle and the extremes are not taken into account. This effectively limits your range of judgement and makes distinguishing among your candidates more difficult. When in doubt, don't just give applicants a 3 out of 5; instead, use the entire range of scoring and take the time to assess evidence fairly.
This is your "gut feeling" when meeting new individuals. Recruiters frequently utilize this intuition as proof of their hiring ability (see overconfidence bias). This intuition, on the other hand, is probably caused by biases we've already talked about, like confirmation bias, beauty bias, affinity bias, and expectation anchoring. Put aside your feelings and focus on the facts.
5 Important Points on How to Prevent Hiring Bias
Preventing hiring bias is an important step in creating a fair and inclusive recruitment and selection process. Take a look at five important steps below.
1. Blind Resumes
Remove any information that could contribute to bias, such as names, photographs, hobbies, and interests. This type of information excludes applicants while providing little value in terms of predicting job performance. It also prevents improper pre-interview candidate research.
2. Pre-hire Assessments for Candidate Screening
Manual CV screening and interviews are not only biased, but they are also one of the worst indicators of job performance as an assessment tool. Pre-hire exams that are realistic and job-relevant have been shown to assist firms screen candidates more effectively and fairly than any CV or resume-based method. As a result, organizations who used technology-based pre-hire assessments have experienced a 39% decrease in employee turnover.
3. Avoid AI Trained on Existing Hiring Data
Artificial intelligence can be valuable, but it is often based on historical data. In other words, you always face the risk of falling back on previous hiring habits. If you want to make a more diverse and inclusive workforce, measuring against past records might not be the best way to go. According to decades of audit studies, employers' discrimination against women and ethnic minorities and a recent meta-analysis reveals that little has changed in the last 25 years. As Amazon discovered in 2015, AI will simply perpetuate this bias.
4. Diverse Hiring Panels
Diversity in your recruitment staff is an easy way to achieve diversity in your workforce. Each interviewer will approach the interview from a different perspective due to their own mental model—their strongly held views about how the world works. This will aid in the prevention of bias blind spots.
5. Avoid Unstructured Interview Questions
In terms of forecasting job success, questions like "what's your worst weakness?" or "tell me about yourself" are of limited use. The answers will be qualitative, so you'll be able to draw your own conclusions based on what you already think.
How to Implement Blind Hiring
Now that you’ve learned about the benefits of blind hiring, and interested in implementing them, here are some of the things you or the company you’re working at can do to start:
1. Use Blind Hiring Tools
You can use Textio, Pinpoint, or Blendoor to anonymize applications by removing any demographic information from resumes. Blendoor can obscure names and photos of a candidate to reduce unconscious bias and increase diversity in hiring, while Textio will be able to assess your job descriptions by highlighting problematic phrasing within and provide recommendations to attract qualified diverse candidates.
2. Customized Job Vacancy
Customize your job vacancy by creating standardized applications for a broader potential candidate. Remove unnecessary gatekeeping such as age, race, or gender, and list only the relevant skills and experience expected for the job qualification. You can even ask applicants to remove certain information from their resumes before applying.
3. Manual Removal
When your team is small and you don’t have the extra budget, you can simply use manual removal techniques. You or the HR team can export candidate information onto an Excel or Google Sheet, and then hide certain columns. You can also black out certain elements on a printed resume before sending it out to your hiring team.
How to Successfully Conduct ‘blind’ Recruitment
Conducting a successful blind hiring process involves identifying the right candidates for the job and ensuring that they are selected and onboarded effectively. This requires careful planning and execution, as well as the implementation of strategies to attract and evaluate qualified candidates. To conduct a successful blind hiring process, we have summarised 5 useful steps, take a look!
Step 1: Anonymise Applications Beyond Names
Hiding the names in blind hiring is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Even though this information may be a good indicator of someone's skills, it is very hard to make up for what someone went through in their early years. Those from disadvantaged circumstances are less likely to attend top colleges and hence get the best looking experience, but this does not indicate they lack the necessary talents.
Most people in charge of hiring think that education and experience are important ways to figure out if someone can do the job. The facts, however, simply do not support this. Education and experience do provide information about applicants (therefore their predictive validity is more than zero), but they are only proxies for skills.
Extensive experience does not make someone the ideal candidate for the job. However, talents acquired via experience do.
Step 2: Use ‘Work Samples’ to Ensure a Skills-based Approach
Work samples transform aspects of the role into questions or tasks. They are intended to be as near to the role as possible. Rather than making informed judgments based on background, work samples are the small aspects of the task.
To make a work sample question:
- Begin by describing the essential abilities required for the position.
- Consider a real-life task or circumstance that someone in the role may face and put one of those skills to the test.
- You can turn posing the events theoretically into a work sample (by asking, "What would you do?").
- Repeat to develop 3-5 work samples that put each skill to the test.
You can either ask candidates how they would approach the assignment or simply ask them to complete it, depending on the situation. You may ask them how they would prioritize a list of jobs or deal with a client problem. You may also simply ask them to do a task, such as writing an email or a blog post.
Step 3: Data-Proof Your Hiring Using Scoring Criteria
When it comes to recruitment best practices, grading criteria are critical. Your process will be fair if you know what you want and only judge candidates based on that.
To generate quantifiable scores for candidates, try scoring answers on a scale. This will give you numbers that you can use to make fair, reasonable decisions about who to hire based only on the skills needed for the job.
Step 4: Remove Ordering Effects and Lesser-known Biases
Did you know that applications that are assessed initially tend to receive higher ratings?
Besides the obvious, surface-level biases, there are many other ways that our brains can go wrong, leading to unfair results and bad decisions. Who comes before you, the time you're being reviewed, or a single good or terrible attribute can all have a big impact on your prospects of getting recruited.
Remove all irrelevant and personal information from applications and assign each candidate a number to help them be identified.
Next, make sure the applications are separated so you can compare how candidates answered each question instead of comparing candidates one by one. This is done to reduce the halo effect - if a candidate answers one question really well, we'll likely have a skewed perspective of all of their replies.
The following step is to randomize the sequence in which the answers are assessed. Even after applicants have been blinded, ordering biases remain. As a result of this randomization, you will be able to make better, more data-driven recruiting decisions.
Panels of review
According to research, collective judgement is often more accurate (and less prejudiced) than that of a single person - this is known as 'Wisdom of the Crowds'. Allow three members of your team to independently assess applications and average their results to create a candidate leaderboard.
Step 5: Use a Structured Interview Process
There will be some interview bias when interviewing applicants face to face (or via Zoom) unless you go in blindfolded. But you can take steps to make sure your interviews are as objective and accurate as possible.
In a structured interview, all candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. This is the second most successful type of evaluation on the table of predictive validity. In terms of interview questions, the ideal practice for blind recruiting is to ask work sample-style questions rather than queries about candidates' backgrounds. This means that you can ask candidates how they would handle problems if you hired them.
For example, you could ask candidates:
- To give a presentation (you'd obviously need to provide them with the necessary information ahead of time)
- To gain some fast insights from some fictitious data
- to examine and analyze your actual strategy (for senior roles)
- To act out a client meeting
These types of tasks allow you to see how applicants might do in the role without digging into their work history.
Before implementing any blind hiring techniques though, it’s best for you or the company to create a goal around what you hope to achieve. If your company lacks female executives, then the aim is to increase the number of female executives in your company by a certain percentage.
Choose the goal, and then incorporate them into your job description and decide which parts of the resume you’d like to conceal. Don’t forget to train your recruiters and hiring team to focus on skills, experience, and the candidates’ overall ability to avoid unconscious biases.
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