Reduce Hiring Bias With These Seven Practical Ways

Joe Weinlick
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Experts say unconscious hiring biases cause people to make hiring decisions in favor of certain groups. This has a detrimental effect that creates less diversity in the workplace, affects recruitment efforts and increases employee turnover. Discover seven practical tips to un-do biases in the workplace.

1. Start Talking

Understand your hiring practices as they currently stand. That means examining your staff and hiring practices. A full audit can uncover any hiring biases within your organization in an objective manner. Have every employee undergo diversity training to help individuals recognize their own biases. Once the entire organization starts talking about bias, employers can take steps to change a firm's culture.

2. Remove Names on Resumes

Computer software can examine resumes based on skills, experiences and qualifications only. These programs remove the names of people, which can reduce occurrences of a hiring bias. Consider that people named Jamal, Lakshmi and Chen may face certain bias versus people named Jim, Rachel or Adam. Getting rid of names on resumes can help recruiters find candidates who are the best possible fits for the organization. Rank resumes based on ability first rather than names.

3. Revamp Job Descriptions

Language in job descriptions may unintentionally show hiring bias against certain people. Words such as "competitive" and "determined" may result in women feeling as if they don't fit into this workplace environment. Try substituting the words "collaborative" and "cooperative" to attract a more diverse crowd. These word choices downplay any competition within the work setting and focus on teamwork. Again, software can help here. Computer programs can pinpoint gendered words and suggest improvements.

4. Administer Work Sample Tests

Ahead of an interview, administer work sample tests to candidates. This gives you a way, on paper, of evaluating how someone may perform on the job ahead of an interview. You can use a work sample test, also known as a skills test, to eliminate candidates based on ability rather than a bias.

5. Structure Your Interviews

Unstructured interviews, although favored in some circles as ways to start a conversation, often make interviewers feel more comfortable with those who have similar backgrounds. Instead, maintain standardized and structured interviews. That doesn't mean ask the same question for each position at every interview for several years. This simply means ask the same questions of every candidate to see who gives the best answers.

6. Stay Objective

Many hiring managers hire on a likeability principle. This is problematic because companies gravitate towards people who are closer to the same mindset as company leaders. Although it's natural for someone to hire a person he likes, this cognitive hiring bias leads to managers hiring people based on whether they have things in common with a candidate. Get rid of this bias by hiring people based on pure skills as opposed to aspects of their personality that really don't matter to their job performance.

7. Set Goals

As a conclusion of your overall audit of your hiring practices, set diversity goals for your company. Use hard data as a background for this goal, as diverse companies make more money, increase sales and have major business advantages over those that don't.

Hiring biases can stunt a company's growth, hurt employee retention and cost some great hires. Use these seven practical tips to improve your hiring practices.

Photo courtesy of buyusone! at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @David T. - wow! Thanks. I sure can sense your frustration. It's a tough world out there today. Not like it used to be. I have to agree with what you said but I know that's not the way things work anymore. Hiring managers should make hiring their number one priority instead of trying to fit it into their work day. Some of them do while others are just thrown resumes at the last minute and asked to step in to the interview. Truly unfair for that job candidate who has spent the last week practicing for this interview! As for panel interviews - in my job world, they have always been the rule instead of the exception. I have done more panel interviews than I care to even think about. Yes you typically do have one who is the "spoiler" so you just have to take a deep breath, let it out, smile and respond to the questions without getting upset or wanting to walk away. As for the testing - we get emails all of the time about how terrible these assessments are. Sadly, they are not going away. Companies like Verizon, Sprint, etc. use assessments to weed out the undesirables so that they can concentrate on interviewing only those who they feel would be a good fit. The funny thing about assessments is how they ask the same question but phrase it differently. They want to see if you are really paying attention or if you are just clicking on boxes and moving on. The applicant tracking software (ATS) is not going away anytime soon, either. If your resume does not score high enough; game over. I can't comment much on the reverse discrimination as my company is global and, as such, we have people from all over working with us. Sorry @David T. but this is the world that we live in today. Not a great answer I know but I have learned that it is what it is and I can either just take early retirement and cheat myself out of a lot of money or I can accept it and keep working until that retirement date. Sure do wish you all the best @David T.

  • David T.
    David T.

    @Michael M.
    RE: "[Hiring Managers] are often asked to take time out of their day to [interview potential employees]."

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! This is one major problem with people today--they think paid company time is somehow still "their" time to decide how they want to use it. Hiring Managers are NOT "taking time out of their day" to interview. If their job that day is to recruit/interview/hire someone, that IS their day! That time is still IN their day, you understand?

    Whether you're being paid to drive a truck, assemble widgets, prepare spreadsheet, major project planning, break down petroleum into chemicals, or just staple 1000 sheets together ... IT'S ALL BEING PAID THE SAME!

    Hiring Managers need to stop this track of taking weeks and weeks and months to "get around" to hiring someone, which isn't realistic and is brutally unfair to the applicant needing work/income NOW, not six weeks from now. Hiring a competent employee INCREASES productivity and is not an "interruption" or "distraction" away from your work ... it IS your work and you're being paid for it, so stop complaining and, especially, procrastinating about it. That new "asset" is for the company's overall benefit, not yours, and you need to do your damn job and hire someone instead of beating around the bush.

    From time of initial job posting to having a warm body in the seat should be no more than 10 days (2 calendar weeks)!!! THAT is how long you have to bring someone in and let them start working before they must move on to find someone who's ready to hire. Either start "painting" ... or get off the damn ladder!

  • David T.
    David T.

    Absolutely do NOT continue this "testing" nonsense! That's just unpaid work. In a bad job market, people don't have hours or days to complete "tests" to demonstrate experience/skills which any competent recruiter "should" be able to determine from thorough review of resume and, if applicable, existing work samples.

    What's truly sickening is that only certain professions seem to be targeted for testing. Why should I, as a Technical Writer, have to "prove" I have the experience/skills thoroughly demonstrated by my education, resume, work experience, work samples, etc. but yet ... engineers are hired based on nothing more than their degree (or, more likely, being related to some VP in the company)?

    When was the last time an engineer was handed a calculator at interview and told they must "prove" they know how to calculate stress on a load-bearing beam? Do teachers have to "prove" they can teach with a mock classroom setup, or are they simply hired because they have the requisite credentials? Hey HR person, did you have to "prove" your skills before being considered?

    Another huge problem is this trend of "group" interviewers all ganging up on the interviewee. There's always one person in the group (whom I refer to as "spoilers") who just loooooove to ruin the chances for anyone new, especially if they sense or fear the new person is more qualified, competent, intelligent, etc. than they are.

    Hey Hiring Managers, it is NOT important for your assistants, employees, and/or direct reports to give you their OPINIONS on hiring a new employee! It is YOUR job to hire and all employees need to just suck it up and work together. Remember the old maxim--you do Not have to like each other to work together! Leave all your personal prejudices, problems, issues, jealousy, envy, doubts, fears, inferiority complexes, and all other forms of "bias" at the damn door when you walk in each morning!

    Finally, stop it, enough already with the reverse discrimination! Quote: "... people named Jamal, Lakshmi and Chen may face certain bias ...". Oh yeah, they face "bias" alright ... positive bias FOR them, not against. There is no "white privilege" anymore, and I for one am sick of being openly held back and discriminated against every time I go for an interview. Certain ethnic groups have managed to infiltrate the HR Dept. and/or Recruiting Dept. of every major and minor company out there, and I cannot even count anymore how many times I've been ambushed, sabotaged, or deliberately misled in every stage of the hiring process (initial contact, contractor "promises", written details of job description, especially group interviews, and even "bait and switch" job offers).

    Enough already with all this dishonest! Work in the U.S.A. used to be a very simple equation: Employer (your actual day-to-day boss) + Employee (recruited, interviewed, and hired directly by their boss) = Income exchanged for Work and Mutual Success.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michael M thanks for your comment. It is a shame when companies don't take the interview process seriously. After all, the person being interviewed could be the next employee so they should find out everything that they can about this person. True, they should have people designated to interview candidates and make sure that they are able to do this task. I, too, have been on interviews when someone is pulled from their work - completely unprepared - to do an interview with a prospect. Terrible way to do this. Happened to me on more than one occasion. We ended up just gabbing - nothing to do with the job.:-) As for getting feedback - from an interview - most companies are not wiling to go the extra mile and tell the prospect why they were not selected. And, as for feedback to the interviewer, It would be great if that would happen. I know I have always wondered how my interviewing skills were. But it's hard to get feedback when no one is there to evaluate you. The only time I have seen feedback to the interviewer is when I worked for a company that believed in panel interviews. In this case there were 4 interviewers to the one candidate. That is the only case that I have ever been involved in that included helpful feedback.

  • Michael M.
    Michael M.

    Sorry but companies must provide rigor and enforcement if they don't expect their employees to get lazy about the interview process, especially if you consider they are often asked to take time out of their day to do it. I can say that, while there are excellent processes available to companies to provide rigor and structure only a small percentage use them and never have I ever seen the interviewers trained in any way to effectively use it. The efficiency of this process has never risen about the 15% mark completely and absolutely do to companies not providing measured over-watch and feedback that would continually tune and improve the process until an effective process results. The investment is temporary. Once rigor is introduced and feedback loops in place the same amount of time will be taken but the results much better. It is a failure all around in a world where employees are not challenged to excel and 'we're no worse than the next guy' is the only objective that needs to be attained.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Suzanne g thanks for your comment. So very true. Life would be so much easier if they would just be straight with us. If we are not a good fit - tell us. Don't make us wait a week and then call only to go into that deep dark voice mail which is probably just deleted as soon as we say who we are! Sadly, though, this is the way of the hiring world for now. We can only hope that things will start changing for the better.

  • suzanne g.
    suzanne g.

    Why is it when you look for a job the person will say I need to talk to someone then I will call you in a week why can't they be honest and tell you I'm not hiring right now or I want to start you now however I need to talk to someone first call me back on such such a day if you don't hear from me so you do the follow up and still don't hear

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Helen M thanks for your comment. I see that you commented on several other articles - all with negative comments. I am guessing that you got let go from a job and are struggling to find another one. Have you gone through the whole gamut - finding a recruiter who specializes in your field? What about temp agencies? Many times a temp job can turn into a permanent. I like having temp workers because it allows the manager to audition the worker for a length of time. Then, if there's not a true match, no harm, no foul because the expectation on both sides is "temporary". If you receive a job offer and it's not the salary you were expecting then negotiate with them. Be realistic about your needs. If the salary is below what you were hoping for, request a salary review in 6 months with the expectation that you will receive an increase if you are working out. It doesn't always work but it truly is worth a shot. Take control. This is your career and your future.

  • PAUL M.
    PAUL M.

    if you offer to work for whatever they pay the cleaning help you may be hired

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