Unconscious Biases & Recruitment KPIs: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

When taking into account how much information we process daily – it comes as no surprise that sometimes we make the wrong decisions. And everyone makes mistakes, right? But what if the consequences of this wrong decision cause an even bigger problem? 

Whether we like to admit it to ourselves or not, unconscious bias not only has the potential to negatively impact the hiring process and how we review candidates, but also influence your recruitment KPIs.

In this blog, together we’ll discuss what is unbiased hiring and what happens to recruitment KPIs when you don’t have an unbiased hiring process in place. 

Trust me, this is something that you’ll want to be aware of!

Unbiased hiring: A definition

A crucial component of providing equal opportunities to all candidates (and making better hiring decisions yourself) is ensuring that your hiring process is as unbiased as possible. Yet, what do I mean when I say “unbiased hiring”? 

In case you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, here’s the definition:

“Unbiased hiring is a process in which every candidate is evaluated based on insights that are predictive of job and company fit (cognitive abilities, behaviour) through an objective method, without any interference of biases, subjectivity, or insights that do not predict performance.”

In a hiring setting, being biased can lead to wrongfully rejecting high-potential candidates, or hiring low-potential candidates. That’s not all though. It can leave unerasable consequences on your recruitment KPIs.

Here’s what happens with recruitment KPIs when you DON’T have an unbiased hiring process

Candidate Experience

“Let’s not ask candidates for feedback, I’m afraid it will be overly negative and we’ve finally structured our hiring process.”

“Our hiring process is great the way it is and if candidates drop-out off the application process or don’t enjoy it, it simply means they are not the right fit for us.”

Qualified candidates per open position

“We need someone extraverted for sales, nobody introverted would ever succeed.”

“Men are probably more suitable for the role of an Account Executive than women.”

“It doesn’t matter they don’t fit the other criteria as much, at least they worked at a corporate before, so they must have learned a lot.”

“I know within the first 5 minutes of the initial screening call whether the candidate will be a good fit or not for the role.”

Interview to hire ratio

“I just get the click with this candidate, so I’m certain we should hire them! I trust my gut.”

“I see a lot of myself in this candidate – the drive, the ambition. Let’s hire them!”

“At the end of the day, the hiring manager has the final say in who gets hired.”

Time to Fill

“I’m confident we can fill this role within 14 days no matter what it takes.”

“I think this candidate is a great fit & we need to fill this role ASAP. Let’s hire them!”

Quality of hire

“I’ve been a recruiter for 20+ years so I know what makes a good hire.”

“I know what the research says about evaluating someone based on the information in CV but I have to go with my gut on this one.”

From seemingly neutral to negative final outcome

Candidate Experience

We often think that the recruitment process is all about understanding who is the right fit while it is equally important to show your employer brand and give candidates a good experience with your brand.

However, assuming that the hiring process never needs to be optimised and improved in terms of candidate experience is the biggest mistake you can make. 

The labour market is changing, so are candidate expectations and demands regarding the hiring processes provided by companies. By not making changes, you will end up losing talented candidates to your competition.

For example:

  • Overconfidence effect, this is the tendency to be more confident in your own abilities, such as driving, teaching, or recruiting, than is objectively reasonable. E.g. in a hiring setting, you might feel that understanding who is the right fit is more important than creating a great candidate experience.

 

Consequence: Candidates lose interest in the job and pursue other opportunities instead (the top prospect candidates are off the market in 10 days).

Qualified candidates per open position

You probably think that you know precisely what would make someone successful in your company, what skills they need and what kind of a person they must be. After all, when looking for new employees, we all look for those people that are the most qualified. There is nothing wrong with that, right? Well, actually…

For example:

  •  Stereotyping bias impacts the way you set up the hiring profile (if you do it at all), limiting your talent pool and immediately lowering your chances to gain qualified candidates per open position.
  • Contrast effect is especially prominent during the resume screening process, recruiters who manually sort through CVs may inadvertently assess the qualifications of one applicant against the CV preceding it, rather than in relation to the job description. 

 

Consequence: We think we don’t have the right applicants, when we actually just don’t know who we need to look for or are looking at the wrong things.

Interview to hire ratio

When choosing who to hire based on interviews, you can follow your intuition and hire people who are similar to you, this way you immediately know they’ll be great to work with.

Yet, 85% to 97% of recruitment professionals rely to some degree on their gut to make hiring decisions and our gut feeling is primarily driven by our unconscious rather than conscious thought processes. The interview process is where our unconscious biases tend to cloud our judgement of a candidate the most.

For example:

  • Intuition bias when choosing who to hire based on interviews, you might follow your intuition, even when you shouldn’t. 
  • Projection bias leads to hiring people who the recruiter or hiring managers thinks are similar to them, while in practice they aren’t, hurting both hiring quality and diversity.
  • Authority bias, for example, when being part of an interview panel, one would listen more to the opinion of the hiring manager responsible for making the final hiring decision rather than the opinion of a peer.
  • Affinity/Similarity bias , when screening or interviewing a candidate, you will unconsciously be focused on assessing the similarities (or lack of similarities) you share with the candidate. The more similarities you share, the more likely it will be that you have a positive view of this candidate, regardless of their suitability for the specific role.

 

Consequence: Rejecting the best candidates, wasting time on candidates that are not suitable for the role, making mishires which can cost you 141.66% of this person’s annual salary. Additionally, high degree of sameness within teams might result in groupthink, an intolerance for differences, and a severe reduction in innovation. Ultimately leading to an increased turnover rate.

Time to fill

If we immediately click with one candidate compared to the others and are trying to fill a role as quickly as possible, we trust our instincts and make a hire. Thus, reducing the time to fill a role.

Even though the interference of unconscious biases might seem to initially result in a reduced time to fill, they also imply the potential risk of you making a mishire or overlooking a great candidate, e.g. if you focus on the wrong aspects when hiring or if you prioritize time to hire more than hiring quality.

By focusing on primarily ensuring an open job position is filled as quickly as possible, your focus will shift away from quality to speed. Time to fill is not very indicative of your hiring efficiency if the new hire ends up walking away after 3 months and you’re stuck just where you first began – with an empty job role and tons of sunk costs. 😉

For example:

  • Overconfidence effect – when the recruiter trusts their instinct when hiring someone and think they don’t need any help of for example tooling, which leads to biased and potentially unsuccessful decision-making.
  • Affect heuristics which can lead to decisions being made extremely rapidly and without taking into consideration all the possible factors. E.g. assuming that candidates that have completed higher education in well-known universities are a good fit for the role, so choosing to not interview them for a full hour.

Consequence:  By focusing on time to hire you will easily make mishires and take even longer to fill positions with top performers

Quality of hire

If you take a look at someone’s resume as see that they have amazing education, great qualification and x years of previous work experienced, you are more likely to assume that specifically these are the safest indicators of future job performance.

However, this actually depends on the things that cannot be measured or determined by looking at the things in somebody’s resume. 

In fact, the predictive power of a CV is very low:

  • The correlation between education and job performance is 0.10;
  • The correlation between work experience and job performance is 0.16.

Whereas, the quality of hire and their true future job performance depends on other aspects, such as cognitive abilities and behaviour (source).

 

For example:

  • Cluster illusion, for example, most people think that a candidate must be very smart if they worked at Unilever or Google before, while in fact, their former employee isn’t a guarantee for talent and quality.

 

Consequence: Just because somebody did well in another company does not automatically imply they will also do great at your company. Plus, bad hires can lead to high costs (€59,497), loss in productivity and decrease in employee morale.

To summarize

What to do instead

In order to get the right first impression of a candidate, it’s important to look beyond the resume and to focus on the things we cannot know for sure by reviewing a CV: cognitive abilities and behaviour. (Which by the way have been proven to be more predictive of future job performance than previous experience and education).

One way to do so is by using game-based assessments, which introduced at the start of the hiring funnel allow you to base your first impression science-backed and objective insights. 

Based on science, not bias.

introducing assessments at the start of the funnel

Ready to tackle the unconscious biases impacting your recruitment KPIs? 


You know where to find us!

Our inspirational blogs, podcasts and video’s

Listen to what they say about our product offering right here

internal research equalture Candidates ' reactions from different ages and experience levels to a gamified assessment method
Research

Internal study: Candidate reactions to game-based assessments by age & experience.

Blog

Should You Be Using Gamification for Senior Roles & Senior Candidates?

Podcast

Oops! I’m Biased – Podcast Episode 12: Blind Recruitment Part II