What is Unbiased Recruitment?

Anete Vesere (1)

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

a woman looking at the word unbiased and all related words to it

The reality is that human-based screening is extremely biased

As much as 79%* of HR professionals agree that unconscious biases exist when it comes to recruitment-related decisions. This is precisely why unbiased recruitment is more important than ever. 

Whether you’ve been in HR for a long time or just started out, this blog is guaranteed to provide you with insights and valuable information. All with the goal of helping you create a fair, unbiased and inclusive recruitment process.

What is unbiased recruitment?

Unbiased – showing no prejudice for or against something.

/ˌʌnˈbʌɪəst/

An unbiased recruitment (or otherwise also known as objective recruitment) process is a hiring process in which hiring decisions are based on objective facts, rather than subjective observations.

It implies hiring employees without prejudice or discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic background or any other irrelevant characteristics. Instead placing the main focus on a candidate’s skill set and competencies. Aspects that have actually been proven to be indicative of job performance.

Why is unbiased recruitment necessary?

Nearly half of the HR managers admit that their choice of whom to hire is impacted by unconscious bias. Perhaps it doesn’t come across as something terrible at first, yet the statistics around biased hiring practices are alarming and truly indicate the prevalence of discrimination in the recruitment process:

  • In 29% of cases, ethnic minority applicants are discriminated against in favour of white applicants.
  • Resumes with Black-sounding names are 50% less likely to receive a callback for an interview than those with White-sounding names.
  • A candidate with a Turkish-sounding name had to send 4.5x as many applications as an identical applicant with a German-sounding name. All to receive the same number of callbacks for interview.
  • 1 in 5 women experience gender discrimination in recruitment.
a visual showing that 1 in 5 women experience gender discrimination in recruitment
  • 4.7 % is the point advantage women have in the callback rate over men when the recruiter is female.
  • Research there is a slight upward trend when it comes to increasing discrimination in hiring specifically in the Netherlands and the UK..
graphs showing Discrimination ratios over time by country in canada, germany, netherlands, france, great britain and USA
  • Between two identical CVs with the only difference being that of indicated gender,  72% of the time the male candidate was chosen for the job.
  • Discrimination against Middle Eastern and North African groups increased in the 2000s as compared to the 1990s.

This proves that unbiased recruitment practices are necessary to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.

What happens if you don’t have an unbiased recruitment process?

If you don’t have an unbiased recruitment process, it can lead to a number of negative consequences for your organization.

4 main consequences of not having an unbiased recruitment process

Discrimination

An unfair recruitment process can result in discrimination against certain groups of people based on factors such as gender, race, age, religion, or disability. This can lead to legal and reputational issues for the organization.

Reduced diversity

An unfair recruitment process can also limit the diversity of your workforce, as it may exclude qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. This can lead to a less innovative and less inclusive work environment.

Decreased employee morale

When employees perceive that the recruitment process is biased, it can negatively impact their morale and job satisfaction. They may feel that they have been treated unfairly and may be less likely to perform at their best.

Increased turnover

A biased recruitment process may result in hiring employees who are not a good fit for the organization or who do not have the necessary skills and qualifications. This can lead to increased turnover, which can be costly for the organization.

Benefits of unbiased recruitment

As with most things that we invest time and effort in, also unbiased recruitment comes with plenty of benefits. 

a list of 3 main benefits of having an unbiased recruitment process

Enhanced ability to attract and retain top talent

Unbiased recruitment helps to create a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusiveness, which can enhance your ability to attract and retain top talent. By implementing unbiased hiring practices, you can ensure that you are considering a diverse pool of applicants and making decisions based solely on merit. 

Increased diversity in the workforce

By implementing unbiased recruitment practices, organizations can increase the diversity of their workforce. This can help to create a more inclusive and respectful workplace, where everyone feels valued and respected. 

Improved organizational performance and competitiveness

Diverse perspectives and experiences can bring new ideas and approaches to problem-solving, leading to increased creativity and innovation. Additionally, research by McKinsey has shown that diversity in fact, correlates directly with better financial performance.

diagram showing that diversity correlates with better financial performance.

The above mentioned are some of the bigger benefits unbiased recruitment can bring, however, definitely not the only ones:

 

  1. Greater representation of underrepresented groups, including women, people of colour, and people with disabilities.
  2. Enhanced employee engagement by 101% and 68.3% improved employee retention, as individuals feel valued and respected.
  3. Reduced risk of discrimination lawsuits and negative publicity.
  4. Increased productivity and creativity through a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
  5. Improved reputation and public perception of the organization as a fair and equal employer.
  6. Increased creativity and problem-solving through diverse perspectives and experiences.
  7. Companies with high levels of racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to report above-average financial returns. 

How to create an unbiased recruitment process?

Getting started with setting up an unbiased recruitment process can seem daunting, however, it doesn’t have to be. To make it more practical, we’ve split the following chapter into 4 parts: Strategic level, Pre-Screening, During Screening, Post-Screening.

Unbiased recruitment: Strategic level

Analyze each stage of the recruitment process to identify potential biases in hiring.

To start your journey towards avoiding biased hiring practices, it is firs and foremost important to carefully review each step of the current recruitment process. This will allow you to identify where unconscious biases may be present.

You don’t have to assess all of it at once, just make sure you do it properly.

Make unbiased hiring a priority: get buy-in from the top down.

There are no easy answers in working towards unbiased recruitment that prioritizes DE&I, and there is no neutral. But where to start? Listen to the podcast episode on DE&I company strategy: Why and how it should start with management with Ella McCann Tomlin.

Educate yourself and your team about hiring bias.

Awareness is the first step towards reducing bias from the hiring process. That’s why consider educating yourself and others about the various forms of unconscious bias that can occur during the hiring process.

This can be done, for example, by signing up for Unconscious Bias Training.

Unbiased recruitment pre-screening

Set up objective selection & hiring criteria.

Setting objective and unbiased hiring criteria is an overlooked step in unbiased hiring. But how can you set objective criteria that your hiring managers and recruiters stick to until a hiring decision is made and beyond?

Listen to the podcast episode below to learn more.

Use inclusive language in the job description.

This one goes without saying – job descriptions are the very first touch point you have with your candidates. That is precisely why it’s essential to use inclusive language in job descriptions.

Our tip: Try avoiding gender-specific terms, use neutral language, and avoid language that is discriminatory by all means. An extra tip would be to mention your commitment to ensuring equal opportunities in hiring to all.

Create a diverse hiring team.

Having a diverse hiring team in place can help you prevent unconscious bias in hiring by ensuring that multiple perspectives are considered during the recruitment process. As a result increasing the objectivity of the decisions being made.

Unbiased recruitment during screening

Most common biases that can affect your hiring during the screening process: Social Desirability Bias, Self-Report Bias, and Barnum Effect.

Our tip to you: follow and stick to the Objective Hiring Framework below which is based on decades of research and best practices from 250+ organisations from all across the globe.

Objective Hiring Framework

Collect the right insights.

Research has shown that education and work experience both have a very low correlation with job performance (0.10 and 0.16, respectively), in contrast to cognitive abilities (GMA) and behaviour (0.45 and 0.65, respectively). On top of that, education and work experiences are not equally accessible for everyone.

Schmidt, F. L. (2016). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings.

Choose the right pre-employment assessments.

Assessments in a traditional format (questionnaire, logic test), suffer from a numerous of things. Personality questionnaires are very subject to social desirability and culture bias as they rely fully on self-report.

Traditional cognitive tests are endlessly trainable and are perceived as stressful, therefore not always collecting reliable insights on candidate’s capabilities.

For example, you could use a game-based format which resolves these issues.

Introduce the assessments ideally at the begging of the funnel

Collecting the right insights as described in principle 1 only post-screening means that you still based your first impression on subjective insights and most likely wrongfully rejected high-potential candidates.

Collecting the right insights as described in principle 1 pre-screening to all candidates enables you to base your first impression on scientific & predictive insights. On top of that, you can utilise your talent pool much better.

Benchmark these insights against the right criteria

Most companies work with fixed competency profiles linked to certain job families, which are based only on subjective insights rather than performance-related data.

By leveraging the insights into your existing team and top-performers you can define competency profiles more objectively based on data analyses.

Unbiased recruitment post-screening

How can you be unbiased in an interview?


To be unbiased in an interview, it is important to use objective and standardized questions. As well as avoid making assumptions based on personal characteristics such as gender, race, or ethnicity. It is also helpful to have multiple people involved in the interview process and to provide regular training on the bias to all interviewers.


Guide: Setting up a structured interview process.


We all know that structured interviews lead to better hiring decisions. And if you don’t, then after reading this playbook you will.

Guide_ Setting up a structured interview process

Get the guide!

Hold everyone accountable when bias does occur.


When unconscious bias does occur, it is important to hold everyone accountable and to take immediate action to address the situation. This can include providing training and support to those involved, and implementing processes to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Our take on unbiased recruitment

You can’t decide whether to be biased or not. But you can decide whether or not to at upon your unconscious biases during the hiring process. 

Creating a world in which every single person has the exact same chance to get hired for a job is the goal of unbiased recruitment. 

And creating that world begins with you.

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Amsterdam • May 11th 2023 •

The summit on Unbiased hiring and DE&I in Recruitment.