Dec 04, 2018

Is Recruiter Bias Holding Back your Hiring Process (Part 2)

Before we continue, ask yourself this: have you already reached a conclusion as to whether or not this blog will shed any insight into your recruitment process? Are you reading this to mine for inconsistencies, flaws; details to support your conclusion?

No? Are you sure?


If the answer was yes, don’t be too hard on yourself – you are only human, after all. Even though you’ve got that conspicuous rose tattoo poking out from underneath your sleeve... but more on that later.

Despite our best intentions, unconscious bias can sneak in unnoticed when screening and reviewing candidates.   A key reason to strive for an unbiased process, aside from avoiding discrimination complaints, is that ensuring a diverse and vibrant  work force is a key objective for many businesses.  

Following on from Part 1 of our blog series on recruiter bias, here is Part 2 – Heuristic

Admittedly it’s not the most familiar of terms, but this type of recruiter bias is alarming in its simplicity.

As a human being, you’ll have all sorts of pre-conceived rules based on either your personal experience, societal expectations, or a combination of both. For example, imagine that a friend brings a bottle of wine to your house. You take it to put it in the fridge and on the way, catch sight of its $4.99 price tag. You might instinctively decide that it’s not going to be a particularly nice drop.

And you might be right. But not necessarily. A cheap bottle of wine can be a nasty one – but, and here’s the kicker, not every cheap bottle of wine is going to be nasty. Welcome to heuristics.

So how does this come into play when recruiting candidates?

Remember we mentioned your tattoo? Imagine that you’re our candidate, and we’ve already formed a heuristic (preconceived rule) that suggests that tattooed candidates make bad hires. We might not even realise that that’s how we feel. But that’s beside the point; rather than giving you a fair go, we’ve already made a judgement before you’ve even had a chance to prove yourself. Whatever your resume says suddenly becomes irrelevant.

It’s not really fair, is it.

I know that as an HR Professional, you do your best to give your candidates the best shot at advancing their careers. If you didn’t like people, you’d be in a different job. So how do you stop heuristics creeping in?

The best solution here is to adopt a two-pronged approach.

Firstly, we use data before we hire at every possible opportunity. After all, it’s harder to argue with cold, hard facts. For example, find out how many years’ experience X had in the role. Ask her referees to rate her competencies on a scale of 1 to 10. Record conversations with interviewees or referees. Take transcripts if at all possible. Rather than relying on ‘getting a vibe,’ use online recruitment tools, and organise personality profiling or aptitude testing as your second opinion.

Secondly, we attempt to identify our own heuristics, and the points in the recruitment process at which they’d have the opportunity to emerge. We then delay those points until we are as far down the fact-finding road as possible. When we finally come to meeting our candidates face-to-face, whether or not they have tattoos, for example, is less likely to affect our decision to hire than it would have should that information been available to us earlier.

Of course, like many problems, the majority of the work is already done when you manage to isolate the issue at play – so if you’re able to identify snap judgments you’re making as they happen, you’ll be two steps ahead of the game.

Good luck, and happy recruiting!

Need an unbiased opinion? Our skills and aptitude tests can help. Have a look here if you are in NZ, or here for Australia.