When a small or medium sized business begin recruiting for new members of staff, there are a multitude of concerns. You need to think about how to write the job advertisement, where to place it, who should interview the applicants, how they are evaluated, and much more. The subconscious bias that may influence the process doesn’t occur to many, but it should be an important consideration of any MD, HR manager or department.
A recent CIPD study concluded that subconscious bias is still prevalent in recruitment. Bosses tend to employ people with similar hobbies, experiences, dress sense and mannerisms as themselves, despite the fact that these qualities have no bearing on a candidate’s ability to do the job. Subconscious bias in recruitment is a big issue. It can significantly decrease the diversity in your workforce, as well as meaning that the right person for the job isn’t always the one appointed!
The research report, conducted in August 2015, found that candidates with ‘white-sounding’ names were called-back more often than those without, even when their CVs were identical. Both male and female managers also favour men over women when looking for new employees.
The emphasis on getting the right ‘fit’ for the company means that managers tend to employ people who are similar in non-relevant ways to existing employees or the decision-makers themselves. Concerns about applicants being too dis-similar to the existing workforce often override concerns about productivity or skill.
Interviewing candidates is a long and strenuous task in most cases. The CIPD study showed that fatigue can set in as early as the fourth interview, with confirmation bias and ‘selective hearing’
Jonny Gifford, researcher advisor at the CIPD, commented on the study. “If you’re doing a number of interviews in a row, you start to make quicker judgements on whether you think people are in or out. So you’re taking in less information and you’re jumping to conclusions more,” said Gifford.
So what can you do to combat this subconscious bias in your own organisation? The CIPD has some great tips for better recruitment practice:
- Take a fresh look at person–organisation fit, considering both current and aspirational organisational culture.
- Test the wording of your job adverts to see how it affects who applies.
- Group and anonymise CVs when reviewing them.
- Pre-commit to a set of interview questions that are directly related to
- performance on the job.
- Focus interviews on collecting information, not making the decision.
- Include people in hiring decisions who have not been involved in
- assessing candidates.
- Stick to what the scores tell you for final decisions.
- Spread assessments and decisions across days, but keep all other
- conditions similar.
- If discussing subconscious bias, emphasise the desired behaviour of
- assessors, rather than the problem.
- Evaluate your assessment practices.
- Ask for feedback from rejected and accepted candidates.
What do you think? Is subconscious bias a problem for your recruitment process?
Find out more on the CIPD website