April 7, 2021
As managers, recruiting is the most important thing we do. We all want to appoint candidates that have the right skills, reflect the organisation’s values, and become an integral part of the team, but it is important to understand our unconscious biases in order to avoid introducing unintentional discrimination, especially as we are all looking to diversify the sector. Here is some friendly advice ahead of your own Kickstart recruitments.
What is unconscious bias?
Unconscious bias refers to the split-second judgement we may make about a situation or person. Our brain forms these views based on our knowledge on social situations, cultures, stereotypes or personal experiences. It affects our own everyday behaviour and, more importantly, our decision making. For instance, rapport building questions in an interview might help calm a candidate’s nerves, but they can lead to a bias, meaning you might inadvertently favour candidates with backgrounds, experiences and interests similar to your own. Seemingly small biases like this can create a massive impact on your ability to recruit fairly.
What does unconscious bias look like?
There are many different types of unconscious bias. Below are two of the most common types found in recruitment:
Confirmation Bias. This involves drawing conclusions about a person or situation based on your own pre-existing beliefs, or desires, rather than on merit. For example, when shortlisting, it’s common to form initial opinions of someone based on irrelevant attributes, like their name, or where they grew up. Although unintentional, these preconceptions formed during the earlier stages are dangerous, and can steer your interview questions in order to confirm your initial opinion of the candidate.
The Halo Effect. This describes the tendency to have higher expectations after learning something impressive about a candidate, creating a ‘halo effect’. For example, finding that a candidate has previously worked at a prestigious company, or has studied at an elite school or university, may form opinions or expectations about their abilities. The candidate is then viewed in a positive light before even meeting them, which may blind the recruiter from potential red flags or inadequacies. Recruiters need to consider the full range of a candidate’s experiences, skills and personality to make a well-informed decision, and not be hooked by experiences that could be linked to their privilege.
How you can prevent unconscious bias
Manobi Mostafa, Recruitment Manager, Generation Success