Trying to get rid of bias in the hiring process? You’re (probably) doing it all wrong

Trying to get rid of bias in the hiring process? You’re (probably) doing it all wrong

What got me triggered to write this blog is the fact that Equalture made it to the finals of the Dutch Challenger50 Award, an award for the fastest-growing company in the Netherlands, daring to really challenge the status quo. Out of the 50 shortlisted companies, we made it to at least the top 3 (and we might even win, who knows). 

We made it to this top 3 because of what we do. Not because we’re just one of the many hiring tools out there making you the commercial promise to help you remove hiring bias that sells well. But because we actually take the steps that are needed to achieve this. No half measures. No commercial promises. And no safe, small steps. 

When I was preparing our pitch for the finals together with my Co-Founders Fleur and Jaap, I realised once more what’s going wrong here. Why you, if you try to get rid of biases in your hiring process, are probably doing it all wrong. 

I know that you’re not doing it wrong on purpose. You just follow what experts are telling you. Or what the tools that you’re making use of allow you to do. The painful truth with most of these experts and most of these tools though, is that they lack the courage to make rigorous changes. And let’s be honest, a problem as fundamental, deep-rooted, and complicated as discrimination and inequalities, requires those radical changes. 

Here’s what you’re (probably) doing wrong

Let’s run a search on Google: ‘’How to reduce bias in the hiring process’’. One of the first articles I found was an article from HBR – not a bad one by the way. 7 practical tips to reduce bias. Gender-neutral job descriptions. Blind resume screening. Assessments or work sample tests. Structured interviews. And so forth.

I checked out around 10 more websites I found after running this Google search, all telling me the same things. Listing the same tips. But they also all forgot about one thing – and that’s why you probably did too.

Biases don’t arise from the moment your candidates read your job description and click on apply. They arise much earlier. To be precise – it starts from the moment you’re even considering a new job opening. The pre-application stage. And as long as you don’t start with this very first stage of the hiring life cycle, you’ll always fail to hire unbiasedly.

3 fundamental rules to reduce bias in the hiring process

While almost every single company struggles to hire unbiasedly and increase its diversity within the team, it’s actually not hard at all to achieve this. You just need to stick to 3 magic rules, and I can guarantee you that success will follow. I can hear you think: ‘’Should I believe what this person is telling me? It can’t be that easy, right?’’. Well, we’re actually the perfect proof of why you should believe me. 

Equalture’s very own team has recently won the Dutch Diversity & Inclusion Award for being the most diverse and inclusive company in NL. We count 30 people, 15 nationalities, and 50% of our team being female. All thanks to the magic 3.

Rule 1. There’s no one size fits all

A Sales Professional can be an absolute top-performer in your company and at the same time a low-performer in mine. That’s not because of this person, but because of the environment. For example, being the right fit for a Sales position depends on the product you need to sell, the people you need to sell it to, and its pricing. And then we did not even touch upon the company’s culture. 

Let go of standardised job criteria. Stop assuming that you always need to hire an extravert tiger for Sales, or an introvert data-lover for Engineering. Instead, start looking at what’s in your own team first, to objectively reveal your hiring needs.

Here at Equalture, we develop neuroscientific games to measure a person’s cognitive abilities, personality, and behaviour. Our Teams feature enables our customers to let their existing teams complete these games first, to get a crystal clear overview of team strengths & weaknesses, top-performer indicators, and cultural indicators. 

Rule 2. Unbiased hiring requires unbiased tooling

Assessments are oftentimes mentioned in the articles I found when running my Google search. And as we develop gamified assessments ourselves, I obviously get why. Psychometric assessments allow you to look into someone’s head and reveal characteristics of a person that you would never be able to reveal through reading a resume or conducting an interview, which you would otherwise have been forced to guess instead. Psychometric testing guarantees a level of objectivity that you need in your hiring process, in order to not let your biases do the talking. 

That doesn’t mean though that it’s a guarantee for success. Traditional psychometric tests, such as personality questionnaires, suffer from some fundamental issues, which can actually lead to making even more biased decisions. There are two main issues to highlight:

  • Social desirability. Personality questionnaires allow you to profile yourself in a way you think fits the job best. We all know the famous example of a personality test asking you whether you prefer standing in the middle of a room or in the corner. Now, maybe you, fortunately, came to the conclusion that you don’t only need to hire extravert sales tigers, but your candidates will likely still position themselves like that. Leaving you with unreliable results and poor decisions. 
  • Cultural bias. This not only arises when a test allows for social desirability (as socially desirable behaviours is different for different cultures), but also when a test includes lots of culture-sensitive words that lack context. And unfortunately, that’s again the case with traditional tests. 

For that reason, we for example develop gamified assessments. Not because it’s fun, but because it provides you with results you can actually trust on.

A visual of one of the games that is non-cheatable and measures a specific skill/personality trait.

Want to try a game yourself?

Rule 3. Timing’s everything 

First impressions. This self-fulfilling, bias-feeding concept in our brains, which makes us judge people within the blink of an eye. I’d say you should never trust your first impression, and especially not in a hiring setting. If it’s based on subjective insights

When it’s based on objective insights though, I am a big fan of first impressions. Because then they are actually reliable and unbiased. 

In rule 2, I already promoted the usage of (the right) assessments, to objectively reveal someone’s characteristics that you would otherwise have to guess from a resume or an interview. Something that I would like to add to the education here in rule 3, is that (the right) assessments are only useful when introduced at the right time. 

Think about it. 90% of all companies that are making use of assessments, ask their candidates to complete them after a first phone screening or interview. So you did do the screening yourself, filtered out a bunch of candidates, had the first chat, and then introduce an assessment. All that assessment will be able to do then is maybe slightly challenge your thoughts – but I also hear very often that hiring managers ignore assessment results if their biased brain already likes the candidates. So this means that you’ve not only filtered out candidates based on your biases but also only use assessments to back up your biases.

That’s why we stimulate our customers to let all candidates complete an assessment at the start of the funnel. The result: An unbiased, science-backed first impression

Did all 3 rules sound like a lot? Well, it isn’t. Challenge your hiring needs by analysing your team. Pick the right tool to get to know your candidates. And introduce that tool at the right time. In most other blogs on different topics, I would have said that Equalture isn’t the only option and that there’s plenty of alternatives online. But in this case, I can’t say that.

Simply because I haven’t seen another hiring tool out there that dares and that applies all three rules to challenge the status quo..

Cheers, Charlotte

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