Biases come with the territory of being human. It comes with your individual experience of what you’ve been accustomed to since childhood and how those incidents have shaped your life. Everything from the way we choose our friends to the places we buy things from is consciously or unconsciously based on these biases.
Our biases affect our decision making in many different ways:
- Perception: How we see and perceive what is real
- Attitude: Reaction towards a person or in a situation
- Behaviour: How receptive/friendly we are
- Listening: How actively we listen to what the person is saying
- Attention: What aspects of the person do we pay most attention to
- Micro-affirmations: How we comfort people in certain situations
While such biases are often brushed off, it becomes a make or break situation for human resource personnel. They are often the first to screen candidates who come for an interview. There is a chance you could be writing off a good candidate because of a personal bias. Human resource is also responsible to set the tone for employer branding. Their actions will often speak about the company brand. This is why it becomes essential for HR personnel to not only be aware of their biases but also ways to overcome it.
Here are some things you can try!
Don’t Let Biases Hamper The ‘Objectivity’ In HR Practices!
Here’s how you can avoid letting biases affect the ‘objectivity’ of HR practices.
First, Be Aware Of Your Biases
It is only human to have biases. It is sort of an unconscious self-preservation mechanism where you assimilate your experience and knowledge to make decisions. To overcome this, as a starting point, you start with some introspection to know what kind of biases you may be holding on to.
Here are some common biases you can evaluate yourself against…
- Gender bias and related stereotypes: Our upbringing and social experiences often propel us to hold a bias on what makes a man a man and a woman a woman. This may not necessarily come from bad intent but just a general classification of human behaviour. But, it needs to go!
- Conformity bias: Have you felt the pressure to say ‘yes’ to something when you want to say no but do otherwise because all your peers agree to it? That’s conformity bias. Peer pressure is one thing, but falling to the pressure, without realising it, is more being governed by an unconscious conformity bias, than anything else.
- Personality bias: Our perception of a CEO is that of a middle-aged individual with a tall and commanding personality. Our opinion of an office secretary is that of a beautiful lady. If you too think so, you may have a personality bias.
- Affinity bias: Do you feel more connected with someone who shares your religious beliefs, is of the same caste or same hometown, or has attended the same college as you? Yeah…
- Halo effect: You see one great thing about a person and let that cloud your judgement on everything else the person has done. For example, if a person has worked with a great company or studied at an acclaimed university, we stereotype into a category of individuals with particular talent, all the while ignoring their other shortcomings. Come’on no one’s perfect!
- Horns effect: It is the exact opposite of halo effect where we see one negative aspect of a person and let that take the lead in our judgement, without a correct evaluation of their personality and positives.
- Similarity bias: This happens when we tend to like and choose individuals who share similar traits with us.
- Contrast bias: This bias is prevalent with HR personnel who conduct interviews on a regular basis. As they take on people one after another, they tend to compare them to each other. In reality, you should be looking at the candidate’s skill and experience with relevance to the job
Overcoming the biases….
Now that you’ve crossed the first hurdle of identifying which bias you may have, here are a few ways to overcome them.
1. Consciously Choose To Diversify
Many companies have policies in place to ensure that their staff is from a diverse background. It is great to have an open discussion about possible biases and address them even before you set to look out for a candidate.
Diversity goals are worthwhile, but you need to be careful before implementing the idea in the workplace. You might face a backlash from the traditionally advantaged groups. In such situations, It helps to stress upon the significant advantages to the business, especially an increase in innovation, and how that would, in turn, help with employees’ growth.
Additionally, it is clear that a more diverse workforce resembles your customer base more accurately; it allows for different ideas from different backgrounds.
2. Re-evaluate The Job Application Process
The process of recruitment generally starts with a job description. Avoid simple biases like adding masculine or feminine pronouns to the job and describing it only regarding the role.
Even subtle word choices can have a strong impact on the application pool. According to research, masculine language, including adjectives like “competitive” and “determined,” results in women “perceiving that they would not belong in the work environment.” On the other hand, words like “collaborative” and “cooperative,” tend to draw more women than men.
To avoid the management and HR merely going through the motions without much examination of their choices being made, certain “interrupters” can be implemented. These are pauses or planned reflections throughout a decision process that force the decision maker to step back and assess the situation for any unconscious biases.
Additionally, overall hiring decisions should be based on a variety of different assessments, instead of just depending on the interviews.
3. Involve Multiple People During The Recruiting Process
A personal interview gets a lot of weight during recruitment. It is also the time when biases are actively confirmed.
To avoid this, have multiple people interview the candidate with the same or similar questions so that each can form an informed opinion.
4. Ask A Teammate To Shadow
Shadowing is a great way to evaluate subtle nuances of a candidate which you may miss during an interview process.
You can have a colleague from HR shadow you so that you don’t slip any bias into the way you perceive the candidate.
5. Remove Demographic Information Before You Make Your Final Decision
If you want to make the recruitment decision solely on merit, then remove the demographic information of the candidates involved before deciding on who is fit for the job.
Blind recruitment, the practice of removing personally identifiable information from the resumes of applicants including their name, gender, age, education, and even sometimes the number of years of experience, is gaining popularity.
This will allow the recruiters to focus only on the relevant qualifications and skills, without the risk of stereotyping.
6. Use Technology For More ‘Objective’ Decisions
We know there’s a fear of AI taking over the ‘human’ aspects of recruiting and hiring industry, but sometimes the most objective evaluations can only be performed by things who only know how to be objective.
With the application of AI in matchmaking and use of assessments, no longer would individual views and biases feature as selection criteria. Selection can be made based on scientific algorithms based on past trends, CTQs, and other success data set.
Digital aptitude, skills, and personality tests decrease the likelihood of biased decision-making.
While it is hard to eliminate biases completely, HR professionals can work to reduce them during the process of recruitment. The fact that you are reading this and considering how to incorporate it is in itself a great start to the process.