Council Post: 15 Steps To Reduce Unconscious Bias In The Hiring Process


In today’s diverse and multicultural workforce, it’s essential for companies to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in their hiring process. However, despite a company’s best intentions, unconscious bias can still seep into recruitment practices, leading to a lack of diversity in the workplace.

To create a truly inclusive and diverse workforce, it’s crucial to identify and try to eliminate any unconscious bias that exists in the hiring process. Below, 15 Forbes Coaches Council members share strategies companies can implement to mitigate the risk of unconscious bias harming their recruiting efforts and ensure that they’re hiring the best candidates regardless of their background

1. Get Feedback From Candidates

As humans, we must accept that unconscious bias exists. To keep it from impacting the hiring process, calibrate the process with a diverse panel of internal key stakeholders and candidates. Enable the panel with regular training and cultural exposure opportunities. And finally, incorporate a feedback loop into the candidate experience to enhance the process. – Anthony Howard, HR Certified LLC

2. Compare Candidates To Responsibilities

For years, recruiters said experience enables them to hire in three seconds. The key to unbiased hiring is to prepare for a 360-degree assessment with a job description, personality tests and two interviews with two people. Always exclusively compare the candidate to the role’s responsibilities. Never compare candidates to the person who is leaving or to other candidates. There’s no better or worse; there’s a “fit” or “not a fit.” – Krumma Jónsdóttir, Positive Performances

3. Show Vulnerability To Encourage Self-Reflection

Unconscious bias will always be with us, regrettably. Homo sapiens are consistently off the mark; it’s our nature. The management mechanism is self-awareness. Leaders must show vulnerability (but not too much) about their weaknesses. Tell stories about how and when you were wrong. This will go a long way toward fostering a culture of self-reflection, which is the starting point for sounder judgment. – John Evans, Evans&Evans Consulting

4. Avoid ‘Selection By Impulse’

Eliminate the bias of expedience. We tend to think that our first opinion must be true. Once we have a first reaction about a candidate, our brain wants all of our subsequent reactions to support our initial reaction. To prevent this, require hiring teams to make lists of pros and cons individually, then share their lists with each other to overcome “selection by impulse.” – Sheri Nasim, Center for Executive Excellence

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Identify And Label The Bias

To remove unconscious bias from your hiring process, you must label it. You shine the light on it by stating what it is, how it reveals itself, what consequences follow and how exactly you can avoid it in the future. As a company, you must do it frequently, considering how common it is for biases’ influence on business outcomes to be underestimated. – Alla Adam, Alla Adam Coaching

6. Challenge Cultural Uniformity

Unconscious biases are inherent in corporate cultures. By definition, they are unconscious, and therefore, hardly removable! What can be done in the recruitment process is to question the type of hire you want. Challenging cultural uniformity to introduce diversity requires specific recruitment processes, including interviews by external recruiters and/or a panel of people of various backgrounds. – Catherine Tanneau, Activision Coaching Institute

7. Regularly Review Your Hiring Process

By establishing a culture of continuous improvement, companies can put in place regular review mechanisms—on a quarterly basis, for example—for their hiring processes to identify areas where biases may be present, and then take action to address them. This may involve analyzing candidate demographics, monitoring hiring outcomes and seeking employee and candidate feedback. – Andre Shojaie, HumanLearn

8. Communicate The Importance Of Objectivity

A hiring process that prioritizes skill sets and values that align with the purpose of the role will reduce unconscious bias over the long term. Start with communicating the importance of objectivity to the hiring team. Standardize interview questions to reduce bias, and allow candidates to be evaluated on the same criteria. Conduct team debriefs to reflect on the outcomes and fair hiring practices. – Priya Kartik, Enspire Academy

9. Evaluate Who Represents Your Company In Interviews

One step companies can take is to evaluate who represents the company in the interview process, and how. They should include individuals with diverse backgrounds in the interview process, since they bring unique lenses with which to evaluate candidates. In this same vein, companies should train interviewers on unconscious bias, because learning to identify it is the first step in overcoming it. – Savannah Rayat, Rayat Leadership Coaching

10. Bring In Unusual Voices For Real Dialogue

Bring different voices into the process, including unusual voices, and add observers. Be serious about doing the work that it takes to understand systemic bias in your culture and processes. Learn to have real dialogue and create space for it, building the capacity to hear what you don’t like to hear through feedback and observation of the facts: Do candidates express the values you say you hold true? – Alessandra Marazzi, Alessandra Marazzi GmbH

11. Standardize Your Process

Design and consistently implement a structured recruiting operations process. This will ensure that every candidate flows through the hiring process following the same steps. Everyone in the process understands the role they play, and interviewers stick to the same questions and methodology for evaluating candidates. Unconscious bias increases when these standards are missing from the hiring process. – Leang Chung, Pelora Stack

12. Remain Mindful Of Your Own Biases

As a leader, practice self-awareness and remain mindful of any biases that could be influencing your decisions during the hiring process. Remember that you have the power to shape organizational success simply by weighing each candidate objectively and making sure they get a fair chance. This requires becoming conscious of how an applicant’s skill set can impact mission objectives! – Daphne Michaels, Daphne Micheals International

13. Seek ‘Different’ Instead Of ‘Better’

Ask yourself, “How does this candidate make us different?” Using the word “different” instead of “better” helps you see the benefits of being different, instead of seeking out more of the same. You won’t automatically hire the person who makes you the most different—but you will be more open to what you couldn’t see before. – Jamie Flinchbaugh, JFlinch

14. Educate And Self-Reflect

Education and self-reflection are key! Educate HR managers on potential biases, and introduce management systems and alternative dispute resolution practices that consider the interests of all stakeholders. Hold company training courses on the seven types of biases. Include self-reflection in the education process. Have managers reflect on their propensity for bias and discuss it with their supervisors. – Karina Ochis, Prof. Dr. Karina Ochis

15. Commit To A Diverse Slate Of Candidates

The basic first hurdle is to commit to a diverse slate of candidates. My husband is a marvelous executive recruiter; one of his biggest challenges is hiring managers saying, “Bring me diverse candidates,” and then not interviewing even one diverse candidate. First, know that bias is selection through a traditional lens. Demand a diverse slate. Interview a diverse slate. Commit to diversity on your team. Just do it! – Jodie Charlop, Exceleration Partners

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