The global hiring process has, for a long time, been impervious to criticism – ranging from allegations of biased recruitment to calls for establishing diverse workforces. But, during the 21st century, this layer of false security has been ripped apart completely. There is now concrete evidence, from a wide variety of workplaces, to prove that modern-day hiring practices are prejudiced and unfair. Unfortunately, ageism, sexism and several other blind spots in the human mind do play an outsized role in who lands a job.
So, as a recruiter, are there any measures you can take to alleviate these prejudices in your team or organization?
Unconscious biases create significant blind spots in human minds, compromising our judgement. They not only have the potential to make hiring managers unduly favor certain types of individuals, but also to oppress and limit opportunities for other groups of people. This could easily and quickly devolve into a situation where workplace recruitment and retention efforts are rendered ineffective.
If left unacknowledged, the effects can seep into all walks of our life. For example, the possible Presidency of a female candidate, in this case Hillary Clinton, in 2016 was so unusual that voters applied a different set of standards for her rival and her. In a similar way, without appropriate representation in the workplace, underrepresented social groups will continue to experience marginalization and different codes of conduct in everyday settings.
So here are five practical tips for hiring managers to implement in order to diminish, or maybe even eliminate, prejudice from the hiring process.
1. Acknowledge. Understand.
When it comes to tackling the corrosive influence of prejudice, the first and biggest obstacle for managers is to acknowledge its existence. They need to understand the true essence of prejudice, in all its forms, and its pervasive impact on hiring operations.
If unconscious bias is a disease, then awareness training is the most effective vaccine, because it develops a proactive urge in employees to recognize the shortcomings within their decision-making process. The ultimate aim here is to nurture a company-wide conversation about prejudice, and to initiate the process of minimizing its consequences.
2. Thoughtful Job Descriptions
First impressions are crucial, and prospective employees often make a quick judgement call on a company’s culture after getting their first peek at it, often via job listings. In fact, any application pool could be manipulated by certain words used in the listings.
For example, experiments have established that the use of masculine-oriented words — like “competitive” and “determination” — lead to the impression of an unsuitable work environment among women. Instead, usage of neutral words like “collective” and harmonious” tend to attract more female applicants than male.
3. Progress Through Blindness
Once an equitable applicant pool has been attained, the spotlight naturally moves to the interview pool. The sad fact of modern recruitment is that a candidate named Emma or Harry gets called in for far more interviews than someone named Shruthi or Amir. No matter how vehemently recruiters deny it, consciously or subconsciously, a candidate’s skin color or religion has a greater bearing on the final decision than their qualifications or talents. It is time for the script to be flipped.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate subconscious-inspired prejudice is by reviewing applications and going into interviews “blind”, which entails cutting your access to a candidate’s demographic data and only surrounding yourself with their academic and professional achievements. A blind approach will not only lead to an interview pool comprised of the most relevant candidates, but also unearth unconventional candidates with a penchant for excellence.
4. Uniformity is Gold
When it comes to interviews, hiring managers love to indulge themselves in free-flowing, all-encompassing, organic discussions with candidates. They argue that this gives them a “natural” or “true” feel for the candidate. This is simply not true; according to studies, unstructured interviews are not reliable indicators for predicting a candidate’s eventual success in a job.
A structured interview, on the other hand, minimizes prejudice by probing only those indicators that directly impact long-term performance. By testing each candidate with the same set of questions, and grading responses on a customized scale, the element of uncertainty in the interview process is transformed into a reliable, independent data point which contributes towards forming a holistic report card.
5. Structural Changes For Diversity
As criticism mounts, some of the Big Tech companies have resorted to publicly broadcasting their diversity goals in recruitment, or appointing Chief Diversity Officers in token roles. While goals set in stone are commendable, they do have a habit of courting controversy and opposition from the anti-affirmative action brigade. Sometimes, candidates hired as part of the diversity quota end up suffering through workplace hostility or criticism.
Thus, the only way forward for organizations is to go beyond just mere publicity stunts or symbolic appointments; structural changes are a must if the status quo is to be budged. Research has established that a major revamp would be well worth it: diverse workforces drive more innovation and deliver better financial returns. Now the only thing that remains is for the traditionally advantaged groups to be less ignorant.