11 March 2019

Think before you talk. This is how to outsmart your hiring bias before you start thinking.

Ever been in a situation where the most crappy, non-fundamental thought just seemed to fall out of your mouth before you even realized what you were just saying? Don’t worry, I can imagine what you felt at that specific moment — I’ve been there as well.

That crappy, non-fundamental thought is what I call your bias: aprejudice for or against a person, group or belief, especially in a way considered to be unfair. When it comes to hiring new colleagues, this ‘’innocent brain process’’can really bite you in the ass. And not just once.

In this article I will talk about:

– The two biggest nonsense expressions I’ve ever heard about bias;
– How to outsmart your bias during a hiring process (spoiler: I’m not going to tell you how to become unbiased, because that’s never gonna happen, I’m sorry).

The two nonsense expressions about unconscious bias

#1 Bias? I’ve learned how to have no bias.

‘’In this company we’re following courses to learn how to be unbiased.’’

Well, if that’s what you’re paying for, please get your money back as soon as possible.

Everyone is biased. Always. And everywhere. And guess what: bias is not always a bad thing. At the age of 2 every person has developed a frame a reference. This frame of reference is full of bias, I know, but is also enables us to make 10,000 (micro)decisions per day. Every single word we say, movement we make or piece of information we process is determined and guided by our frame of reference. And yes, unfortunately by our bias as well.

So having no bias would mean your frame of reference has just died. Just tell me, how realistic does that sound to you? Good luck with the 10,000 decisions for the rest of the day.

#2 I know it’s wrong, but we need bias to have happy clients.

‘’I know it’s wrong to be biased, but we serve clients that just don’t feel comfortable working with someone who wears a headscarf.’’

Wauw. I thought we were living in the 21th century. And to be honest, I’ve heard this sentence a painful amount of times.

So, because your clients are insanely biased, you just decided to join their way of thinking? My advice: just drop those clients as soon as possible. They not only stimulate racism in all different sorts, but they will also lose the competition, because diversity in your company simply works. So if I were you I would start working with the ones that actually are winning the competition (hint: the ones who are not only living in the 21th century but also act like that).

How to outsmart your bias during a hiring process.

Step 1. Don’t worry about it.

Admit that you’re biased. Embrace it and never feel bad about it again.

Step 2. But.

A subtle ‘but’: you’re only allowed to not feel bad about it if you’re working (or about to work) on how to outsmart your bias.

Step 3. Let’s find the monsters.

To outsmart your bias, you first need to find out which details cause bias for you. For instance, I experience my bias while reading someone’s name and age, while my colleague gets biased when it comes to educational institutions. So let’s first find out what are your monsters when it comes to bias.

Step 4. You don’t have to be strong. Just be smart.

Now you know what data cause bias for you. At this point you have two options:

– Try to fight your frame of reference;
– Outsmart your frame of reference and let it learn from practice.

My advice: go for option two. If you’re willing to fight your frame of reference you will have to change your way of thinking which you’ve been doing your whole life (minus the two first years). And let’s be honest: do you learn most when you just read about something or when you’ve experienced it yourself? My guess is you will go for answer B.

So we go for learning from practice. Cool, that’s the smart move.

Step 5. Influence your first impression.

To outsmart your frame of reference you just need to influence your first impression. So if your monsters are demographics, just make sure you create a first impression without knowing anything about the demographics. Hide these from a candidate profile.

You’re now just ‘fooling’ your brain. Instead of starting with a first impression, you now start with a deeper understanding of a candidate (experience, skills, personality, etc.) and áfter finishing this deeper understanding you bring in the first impression. Now your bias might influence your opinion, but the opinion itself is already so strong at this point that the impact of your bias will be minimized.

How we do this at Equalture

As you might know, Equalture is a pre-selection technology to help you hire the best candidate for the job. One of the features we offer is the blind hiring feature. This is how that works:

– When a candidate has finished his/her application, the full candidate profile (including a matching score) will be sent to either your Equalture dashboard or your Recruitment System.

– When the blind hiring feature is activated, you will see all candidate information except from your monsters — personal details for instance. So now you have to judge a candidate by reading the first pages of the book instead of just quickly analyzing the cover.

– Does this candidate tickles your interest? Perfect, just swipe the candidate to the next stage of your application process in your pipeline. Once you’ve done that, this candidate will be notified (so there’s no way back) and your monsters will be revealed.

Sounds quite simple, but the impact is enormous. Curious to see how this works in practice? Just contact us if you’d like a 15-min demo.

So don’t worry anymore about a situation where the most crappy, non-fundamental thought just seemed to fall out of your mouth. I think it won’t be as crappy as you’re used to after outsmarting your bias.

Happy unbiased hiring!

Cheers, Charlotte