There is the potential for bias in all aspects of life. Everyone has their own way of looking at the world and interpreting everything they come into contact with.
When we experience something we have an opinion on it and our reaction to it is based on, or influenced by, this opinion. These reactions can be conscious or subconscious but they’re there and it can affect your judgment both positively and negatively.
When we look at the things that can affect our relations with others it is a natural human tendency to be drawn towards people that you perceive as being like you. Not only those who are the same gender, race, sexual orientation or age as you, but also those who have the same work style, way of expressing themselves or opinions.
At SThree we’re committed to increasing awareness of unconscious bias and equipping people with the tools to remove it as much as possible from the decision making process. We make sure that this is reflected in the training programmes we offer our recruiters and managers and in this article we’ve put together some useful tips on how to be aware of unconscious bias within the recruitment cycle and what you can do about it.
Understand the issue
Firstly, it’s important to understand that unconscious bias does exist, and that if it is allowed to, it will affect the recruitment process and decision making, which ultimately may mean that a client may miss out on the best candidate for their role.
Bias can impact every decision we make. If you don’t like onions then it stands to reason you’re not going to want to try a French onion soup, but what about a sandwich shop that has a picture of onion in the window, you might consciously know that you can ask for no onions and that they don’t make and serve onion sandwiches but that “bad” onion reaction could be enough to make you choose the other sandwich shop over the road that has no hint of onion.
If you don’t like an accent you might mark a candidate down because they have that accent even though they fit all the client’s requirements. Similarly you might have to overcome a client’s unconscious bias and highlight all of the candidates other attributes to promote them to an employer.
Being aware of how unconscious bias can influence someone’s thinking is critical if recruiters are to help themselves and companies avoid falling into that trap.
So knowing that we all have a frame of reference which creates a potential for bias, what is yours? Understanding this will allow you to start to counteract any bias. Know your drivers and why you do things, and try to understand those of others.
Create a structured recruitment and selection process
Having a structured and robust recruitment process in place will minimise opportunities for unconscious bias to impact the decision-making. A structured process should include a well-crafted job specification, which clearly defines the skills, knowledge and behaviours, as well as the experience required for the role. This will allow recruiters and managers to match candidates objectively to a set of specifications.
Ensure that the selection process is objective
If possible, each candidate should go through a formalised step-by-step selection process, involving a number of different people from diverse backgrounds, which will allow for some of the risks of unconscious bias to be mitigated.
Having a standardised process which accurately records each interview will ensure that the skills and capabilities of each candidate are captured at the time of the interview and in a fair way.
Review your own decisions and those of other people within the selection process to check you’ve maintained objectivity and removed any risk of stereotyping.
Ensure you are evaluating people equally and that your focus is on outcome rather than style.
Understand and promote the diverse candidate employment mindset
Traditionally it can be perceived by some that male candidates “sell themselves” better than their female candidates, but as a recruiter you should be selling ALL the candidates that meet the specification for the role.
As a recruiter it is your responsibility to present your candidate so that their strengths and experiences are drawn out for the hiring manager. It is your job to ensure that the candidates’ skills and capabilities are understood by the decision maker.
Instil and promote confidence and a 'can do' attitude
Part of the recruiter’s role is to coach your candidates. Think about the styles and strengths of your candidates and how you can best support them. For example you can help candidates to recognise the areas that they should be promoting, allowing them to draw on their positive attributes and guiding them to be confident in their own abilities.
If you want to know more about what SThree is doing to tackle unconscious bias, then read this article featuring our Managing Partner Natasha Clarke.