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Minimising unconscious bias in your recruitment process

By Six Degrees Executive
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We know that unconscious bias is impossible to eliminate, but processes and strategies can be implemented at every stage of the recruitment process to take bias out of the equation.

Orchestras have run blind auditions since the 1970s. Musicians are separated from a judging panel by a screen, while the adjudicators have no idea of age, ethnicity or gender – just ability. It’s something of an eerie process to go through as the applicant must avoid making any sound that could reveal their identity or gender – even leaving their shoes at the door to reduce the give-away sounds of women’s versus men’s footwear.

While orchestras use screens because the classical music world is insular (it’s likely an adjudicator will know many of the applicants), its secondary effect has been to address a notorious gender gap in orchestras across Europe and the US. Researchers have determined that screens make it 50% more likely that a woman will advance to the next round, while screened auditions have also been credited with a surge in the number of women being offered positions.

Minimising bias every step of the way

In the business world, it’s highly unlikely that the face-to-face interview will disappear any time soon. Unlike an orchestral audition, there will come a point in every recruitment process where the identity of the applicant is revealed. But before the applicant even steps into the interview room, there are a number of hurdles they’ve had to go through where unconscious bias may have come into play.

The job listing

Reviewing your job listing and position descriptions can help remove unintentionally gendered language. Peppering your job listings with masculine adjectives like “competitive”, “determined” and “assertive” will unsurprisingly provide an overwhelmingly male pool of applicants – women reading the ad may perceive that they would not belong in that work environment.

On the other hand, words like “supportive” and “collaborative” are associated with femininity and are likely to discourage men from applying for the role.

In a perfect world there wouldn’t be such a thing as gendered adjectives, but generations of stereotyping have led to a situation where a word such as “competitive” strongly suggests a male-dominated workplace. Instead, you can expand your potential talent pool by using different word choices that avoid gendered language.

A glance at any jobs board will show that job titles themselves are often discriminatory, with terms like Foreman, Salesman and Chairman still in circulation.

Another tip for job ads is to keep it concise and avoid including a long list of qualifications for the role. SEEK recommends that anything over six bullet points can be a turn-off for female candidates, as women typically don’t apply for jobs unless they feel they are 100% qualified. Men tend to have a lower threshold and are likely to apply despite meeting only 60% of the requirements.

Blind resumé reviews

The beauty of the orchestral audition screen is that it’s delightfully low-tech. But when it comes to shortlisting high volumes of resumés, big organisations simply can’t manage without the help of software and AI.

Removing demographic characteristics from applications can help level the playing field before shortlisting takes place. This may include removing the applicants’ names (that give away gender and often reveal ethnicity). Ideally, what should be left is a resumé stripped down to the things that count – qualifications, experience and achievements.

The interview

How diverse are the people evaluating your applications? And how diverse is the interview panel? In the same way that the staff at your organisation should reflect the diversity of your customer base, so too should the evaluation panel reflect the diversity of your candidate pool. A diverse panel helps reduce the risk of unconscious bias occurring at evaluation stage.

Unconscious bias can be minimised in interview situations by:

Ensuring the interviewing panel is diverse.

Standardising interview questions to avoid having a different interview experience for diverse candidates.

Focusing on attributes such as honesty, integrity, reliability and performance consistency, as well as considering a candidate’s untapped potential.

Taking notes and not relying on your memory of the interview, as your recall of the interview may be influenced by unconscious bias.

Onboarding

Once selected, it’s important to onboard and integrate new hires to ensure a smooth transition. Look for any potential barriers that could prevent your organisation from reaping the benefits of diverse hires, and rectify them. Make inclusion your number one tool for settling your new hire into their role.

 

Talk to Six Degrees Executive to learn more about diverse and inclusive recruitment.